I’ve seen some pubs advertise ‘St Patrick’s Week’ in the last couple of years. While I’d certainly be minded to dismiss that as a cynical bid to raise English Guinness sales, it seems to be already-embedded tradition to not confine Ireland’s patron saint to one day – on the other side of the Irish Sea at least; especially if his actual saint’s day falls inconveniently on a school night.
Elaine and I played effectively St Patrick’s themed – certainly overtly Irish – nights as the Kindred Spirit Duo on not one, not two but three evenings running last weekend (the last, Sunday, being St Patrick’s Day itself).
Rather appropriately, the cash fees rose as we worked towards the actual date (which I would guess is the one musicians are most booked out for, adjusting the usual supply and demand disproportion); although this bizarrely meant I was paid the most for the gig with the lowest travel expenses. Credit to our Friday night client, West Surrey Golf Club, for being the only one to think of feeding us though, as well as having the most people dancing before our last number. Interestingly, we accommodatingly started off playing quietly and slower numbers as most people were still eating; but our music must have been more interesting than a lot of the golfers’ conversation as half the nearest few tables were turned round to watch us within a few notes!
Not so much credit to the relevant train operator for cancelling the train I had carefully timed my departure to catch, leaving me waiting a little over an hour on Milford station platform. For your information, there is nothing else at Milford station. Nor for the delay to my train to Woking en route to Saturday’s gig in Ottershaw, apparently down to high winds (which I think must be this year’s wrong kind of snow), which meant I waited 40 minutes in a bus shelter for the bus after the one I had meant to get.
Ottershaw saw the classic pattern of some stationary approval through most of the set and then several people getting up to dance when we struck up Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ as our ‘last’ number (we ended up doing a La Bamba/Twist and Shout mashup as an encore, which kept most of them on the floor). I sometimes wonder what would happen if we put that song earlier, say second in the second set. Would all those over-60s who clearly remember it first time round dance for longer, or sit down again?
This gig also produced a most unusual testimonial to my fiddle playing (presumably directed chiefly at the speeding-up reel and hornpipe in the set and/or the group of jigs I take at a fairly no-prisoners pace, since I do very little ‘rocky’ soloing in this sort of folk-heavy covers gig):
‘I just couldn’t take my eyes off your fingers. They were going like maggots on a hot shovel!’
Clearly I’ll be using that on my next order of business cards.
Apparently there weren’t any high winds between Lee and Streatham Vale on Sunday, as the trains were undelayed. (Between ourselves, I’m not sure there’s anything between Lee and Streatham except houses, fried chicken shops and buses full of MLE-speaking teenagers. But maybe I’m wrong.) This gig was notable for two ‘firsts’, both by the same very vocal audience member, who had a battery-powered fan somewhat larger than the usual hand-held plastic device and the endearing habit of singing along into it a la stereotyped hairbrush:
+ I think the first time I’ve heard someone publicly admit to liking the Corrs (at least since I left school).
+ Definitely the first time I’ve seen someone reduced to tears by Molly Malone’s death in the song of the same name, even if assisted by substantial volumes of Guinness or, I suspect, Jameson. Clearly those hot-footed maggots have powerful emotional expressiveness.
I carp but I shouldn’t. In three days, using more or less the same set list and without doing any actual rehearsal (this must be at least the third year we’ve done St Patrick’s together, as well as an Irish social club one New Year’s Eve), those jobs brought in … well, I’m not going to name figures out of professional prudence, but let’s say about as much money as all the orchestral concerts I’ve so far played through my diary service.
Like all good Englishmen, I just hope the trains run on time next year.