Scarborough 2010: A Picaresque Weekend
Midmorning, sat at my laptop in the bay window. It is chucking it down and Albion Square is bleak and grey. The thaw has arrived and I am here again, five days following New Mill’s annual rehearsal weekend. Clive wants e-articles for the newsletter which are not three months old.
He’d caught my attention at coffee time.
‘Could you do us a piece about the weekend, by next weekend. I’ll do a swap with the drawings.’
‘Okay,’ I said. It’s a fair trade. I need his cricket drawings for an anthology due out in March.
Jeff Gill was then told me off. ‘Where’s your camera? You’re the official choir photographer. You could have got some good shots in The Highlander last night.’ I am now firmly on the back foot, to use a cricketing term for being confused. And it’s true, I’d been preoccupied by shopping and cooking which invariably includes one of Mr Gibson’s fabulous pies. His is the butcher’s up on Thundercliffe with the delicatessen next door. You have to know what you want, otherwise the patient Mr Gibson will take you down an long algorhythm involving five or six sorts of meat, prepared by five or six different techniques, additional ingredients like potato or leek, normal or wholemeal pastry, and finally size, accompanied by much sighing in the queue.
Nice of Jeff to mention my photography, but I doubt I am official.
Rupert didn’t attend. There were plenty of volunteers to ask questions.
The weekend coincided with the worst winter for many years. The cold ice and snow were bad enough for some to think our jaunt might be scuppered. Not so. I think the bus had rather the best of it. Car travellers scraped along, taking much longer than the usual hour and 50 minutes. Train travel was interrupted at York, but all who tried, arrived eventually. The roads and pavements were rough sheets of ice. Walking was further impeded by a bitter wind sweeping down The Esplanade. Unsurprisingly, the high tide was dramatic. Allan Dalghetty told me he’d spotted a surfer on his Friday afternoon travels with Stephen Dufton and others, in and out of the waterholes along the foreshore. They finished in The Highlander and attempted to make a serious dent in the whisky collection. Steve succeeded in looking pale and shaky the morning after. Someone told me the collection is worth £100k and is part of any sale.
I didn’t venture beyond flat, hotel and the shops. Bob Carrick didn’t even leave the hotel.
Allan Hicks and Charlie Turner were my sidemen. I now know where all the galleries are in Scarborough, how much they charge and who is the new captain of Yorkshire CCC. The Rotunda sounds the least value, unless you are a devoted rockhound.
There were 5 new pieces, heavily influenced by Morriston Orpheus. One had no music, which is a novel way to learn a new piece. The George Mitchell composition raised eyebrows. We would be in breach of politically correctness if we sang the 17th century ‘n-word’ for a black person. I understand the Afrocaribbean community use it all the time. A further contribution from Ann, from whom nothing can be taken away.
The entertainments were all of a high standard. Humerous songs from schooldays, university days, blue joke days and alternative Dylan Thomas days. Les Miserables as well and something about homicide in a Mexican/Spanish hat.
5.30pm to 6ish on a Saturday is a funny time for old rugby players. There is an irrational desire to kickstart the evening with a gallon of ale. I’m no longer able to perform these herculean feats, but I do like a couple. I went to The Highlander and didn’t solve The Telegraph crossword, sharing a hot red coal fire with half a dozen other hardy winter drinkers. One was still there, looking decidedly rough, when I returned at 9.30pm for the informal sing which sounded better than some I’ve heard recently. But maybe my tympanic membranes, acoustic nerves and auditory cortex were as intoxicated as the rest of me.
You need as much information as you possible before embarking on a conversation, or you will disappoint. Take the new Rotchell grandchild. Mackie wanted to tell the choir about the happy event, but I had to forewarn him that I did not know those crucial bits about gender and weight, getting my retaliation in first so to speak. He raised a cheer when he dutifully passed on the information; without the answers to those inevitable questions. I didn’t get away with it completely however. At coffee on Sunday I enquired as to the status of the trains that afternoon. ‘They are all cancelled sir,’ replied the lady at the desk. Innocently, I shared this intelligence. Imagine my discomfort as everyone asked me, why? ‘I don’t know, it’s a computer screen,’ was all I could manage.
‘There’s plenty of room on the coach,’ said Donald, which was nice.
Throughout the journey home, Bob sang Balm of Ghilead in my right ear. He could only remember the opening line. Soft and in tune, but just a tad repetitive.
My final draft is about ready. The sun has appeared and I’ve turned off the gas fire. As I’m not connected in the flat, I need to walk down to the station to check out the trains. Maybe I’ll take the long way back, via The Highlander.