Dear friends far and wide,
This morning I was lucky enough to wake up with the birds, who are definitely starting to smell spring in the air around these parts, and was treated to the most spectacular dawn. The whole valley was filled like a basin with morning mist, but where we’re parked in the van is high enough up the slope to catch the first pool of sunshine oozing over the foothills, the mist lapping around my feet, and a short jaunt across the dew-drenched grass (my boots are still a little soggy, I must admit) revealed the most spectacular view of Mont Valier’s crisp white crags against the morning sky.
It’s been raining pretty solidly for days which can make van-life a little trying, and it’s more than refreshing to be able to sit outside typing, never mind the chilly fingers, and listen to the world wake up.
To those of you in Taiwan, New Zealand and a select few other places, I must admit I’m a little envious of humans being able to hang out and even sing together, but well done all round. I trust that the rest of you are managing to make the most of this seemingly endless period of isolation, and find yourself at least warm and comfortable.
To all of the dear souls who’ve pre-ordered the new album, sorry to keep you waiting, but they are most certainly on the way now. I’m told they should be delivered from the factory in the first week of March, then they’ll be sent out just as quickly as can be.
Everything got a little set back, when a few days before Christmas one of the rear suspension springs snapped on Bella The Great White Hope, thankfully at very low speed and within a mercifully short distance of a safe and welcoming park-up, but it was quite dramatic, and did leave us rather stuck, halfway up a mountain, just as the winter weather began to settle onto the Pyrenees.
After finding no spares in the locality, I ordered some brand new leaf springs from Sanderson Leaf Springs near Birmingham, who are marvellous, but the Brexmas madness at Dover swallowed them up, and they spent a couple of weeks at Manston Airport in Kent, not flying anywhere, just sitting in a lorry at the world’s least popular Christmas Party, and a couple more in Toulouse, before they finally made it through.
In the final week of this prolonged waiting period, on the third day of religiously sitting on the roadside in a deckchair in order not to miss the delivery, then inevitably receiving an email telling me I had been out when the driver arrived (?!), we were delighted to be invited to stay in a gite with my brother and family, who’d come down from their own lockdown in Bretagne, choosing a place way up a mountainside just as the most monumental blizzard descended, so we spent the week mostly snowed in, stoking the fire, cooking and getting to know our host, Tom, while they went out to buy snow-chains and go exploring.
I must say that a little time in a house, with a bath and three fireplaces was an absolute luxury and much appreciated after so long in a stationary van, trying to stop our clothes from going mouldy, and a chance to hang out with my niece and nephew was an absolute treat, but all good things come to an end.
When the snow finally started to recede, we got a lift back to the van from the ever beneficent Tom and then with the incredible talents of Wayne, Ferroniere d’Art and all-round mechanical wonder, we managed to get Bella jacked-up, dismantled and reassembled in a matter of days. Thanks to Sonik and G for putting up with us for so long.
Since then, I’ve been able to communicate with Sue in Priston enough to complete all the album artwork, she has wrestled templates and facebook communication lag to create an truly beautiful thing, and it’s now in the capable hands of Ackent Media, being turned into objects.
All this has been accomplished on a pair of computers whose rapidly approaching senility and obstinate tendency to just switch themselves off for no apparent reason has made the process interesting, to say the least. Deepest thanks to Carl Folker for all the help keeping them going.
With any luck, now that it’s been sent off, I will find the time and clement conditions to come out of hibernation and be a little more communicative, record and video or two, make a long promised appearance at Falkirk’s Cyber Folk Session and work out how and when we might be able to perform to human people again one of these days.
Thanks for your patience. I can’t wait for you to hear it.
Sadly, as seems increasingly to be the way in recent times, two more dear friends have passed away in the last couple of weeks, both remarkable musicians, leaving me humbled at their courage and bereft that I’ll never again get to hear them light up a room.
Alan Moorhouse, who Nye, Sascha and I somewhat desperately busked our way down to visit in Cornwall two Januaries ago finally lost his valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. He was an inimitable busker, ranter, raver, and crafter of incredible comic songs, with a wicked twinkle in his eye. Thankfully, with the help of the great Salossi, he managed to make it to Germany one more time last year to record some of these gems for posterity. So for anyone who needs a chuckle from an ex-busker, get in touch with Sascha for a copy of the album.
Omer Makessa was one of the warmest, gentlest individuals with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a stage. His passing last week came as a complete surprise and is particularly hard to swallow. Originally from Martinique, he made his home in Bristol and for many years has brought sunshine into the hearts and dancing feet of countless Bristolians and many a festival field. It’s hard to get to grips with the fact that we won’t be able to make the music we’d meant to. Yet another reminder that it’s best to just get on with it while we can. So much love to the both of you, and all of those who are trying to come to terms with your absence.
A beautiful serenade from a couple of years ago...
For any of you who’ve yet to get your hands on a copy of Scott Cook’s new book/CD, I just stumbled across my copy the other day, trying to work out what the seemingly endless red thread which had tied itself around my legs was coming from, and finally tracing it back to the unravelling cloth bookmark in the aforementioned hardcover chunk of soul. After a couple of pages of classic, folksy Scott Cook schtick to get you started it really is a bloody good read. He pulls no punches, and delves into the darkness of both himself and our dysfunctional world, but it’s really worth it, and comes with some fine songs to tap your feet to as you go along.
For those of you who know Scott’s music, or have caught him live, you’ll know a little of the depth and scope of his wit and wisdom. He’s one of the clearest and most rigorous thinkers I’ve encountered in many years on the road and there’s definitely a lot to be gained from this beautiful book.
For those of you interested in an honest appraisal of how we’ve ended up in such strange times (Scott included), and with a gap in your binge-watching schedule, I thoroughly recommend Adam Curtis’ new series of films, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. Any of you who saw his Century of the Self series in the early 2000s or his more recent Bitter Lake, and Hypernormalisation, will know what to expect. He’s a remarkable journalist, with a style that always takes me back to the days when television documentaries were less sensationalist and rather more sober.
It’s not exactly your normal light-entertainment comfort TV, but he has some fascinating insights, and though he reveals dark truths, rather like Naomi Klein, he manages to find inspiration, courage and creative potential amongst the chaos.
Any of you who fancy getting in touch to let me know what’s been keeping you sane, I’m all ears.
I’m so looking forward to seeing you all one of these days when us troubadours are once more allowed to roam. Any of you who’ve yet to pre-order the new album, we still have about £1500 worth of bills to cover, and would love you, your friends and anyone else you can think of to hear it. With any luck, it’ll bring you a bit of solace and even the odd chuckle.
With much love from the sunny patch in front of the van!