After three days of relaxation it was time to get back to some hard graft, as in four gigs in four days. The sheer physical effort required drive down the road, lift a guitar out of its case and sing, chat, bluff our way through ninety minutes of what can loosely be described as entertainment is minimal to be honest. I realise I wouldn’t be fooling anyone if I said otherwise. It can be tiring if you get two or three six hour drives to gigs in consecutive days, but it ain’t like we’re driving a forty ton truck or digging holes in the road. We’ve both done many years on the great hamster wheel of subservience and on several occasions it has served us well, but we would not change what we have now for the world.
The day we did the gig in Upper Lansdowne, the temperature had been up as high as 41°c and on the night it had cooled to a sultry 37°c. Even with several fans running flat out we were still melting on stage. Which in itself isn’t too bad, but sweaty hands do not help when playing the guitar and Kip has similar issues with the flute (again it ain’t digging holes in the road). A tip for guitarist friends for when it’s sweaty – carry some talcum powder and give your hands a dusting before playing. I doubt it helps the tone of your strings but neither does sweat. A lady gave me a bottle of talc when we last played here two years ago and I still carry the same bottle in my gig bag. It doesn’t get a lot of use in Europe.
It was a smashing gig but the definitive highlight of the night was seeing a fruit bat fly past as we sat outside the hall beforehand (closely followed by ice creams during the interval). We’d never seen a fruit bat before and at first glance mistook it for a small kid out hang gliding. They’re impressive creatures.
From Upper Lansdowne we went to Hamilton near Newcastle NSW to play Tradewinds Folk. This took place in Peter and Nicky’s house even though Peter couldn’t be there as he’d gone into hospital for emergency back surgery. Many folk would have cancelled, but they didn’t want to let us down. Nicky, along with the help of her boys, and Carole and Michael set up the room and opened the house to all who wanted to come. Nicky then nipped off to visit Peter in hospital and came back halfway through our first set with the good news that Peter’s operation had gone well and he was hoping to be home the following day.
At the end of the gig, Kip was approached by a tall softly spoken gent (Mark) who asked if we’d be interested in performing for the children at his school. “Of course,” says us. More of that later.
The Michael in the earlier paragraph was Michael Fine of the Troubadour Central Coast Folk Club. We were playing his club the following night and staying with him and his wife Ina for the next three days. Michael’s place was about an hour and a half away and it was an interesting drive back that night as it was dark and pouring rain. The descent down to his sea level house from the hills above was a bit of a white-knuckle ride as it has a few hairpin bends and apparently some spectacular views in daylight. All of which helped maintain my concentration levels that night.
If you walk to the bottom of Michael and Ina’s garden and keep going you get wet. They live on the edge of Brisbane Water in Woy Woy. Spike Milligan once lived in Woy Woy and claimed it to be the largest above-ground cemetery in the world. Not much happened, apparently, during Spike’s stay there. We had a great time, we borrowed Michael’s kayak and managed to paddle around a good stretch of the bay without falling in. We still got soaked mind, such was our highly-skilled, synchronised rowing technique.
The gig at the Troubadour went well and received a very nice review on their Facebook page. Michael and Ina had a couple of friends over from the UK, Kirk and Linda, who also came to the gig and afterwards we sat outside back at the house having a few drinks and sorting the world out. (We clearly didn’t do a very good job as bugger all had changed when we woke up on Sunday morning).
On the Sunday we were playing Petersham Bowling Club. Petersham is a suburb west of Sydney, a bit over an hour’s drive from Woy Woy. We drove down early and parked up near the bowling club and then, using our recently purchased opal cards (we’re practically locals), we caught a train into Sydney to do a bit of sightseeing.
What we saw of Sydney was very nice, quite a mix of the old colonial and new high rise. They do seem to like digging it up though – there was an awful lot of building/remodelling work going on. We had no real plan (no change there then) and just wandered. We found the botanical gardens and then the Anzac war memorial. It has to be one of the best war memorials I’ve ever seen. Very tasteful, not over the top and yet very powerful. Some of the paintings on show were stunning and really hit home.
Back to Petersham. The bowling club is an excellent example of what a community can achieve when they get together. Several years back the bowling club was failing and was going to be bulldozed to make way for seventeen town houses. Some folks that live locally got together to fight the plans. They bought the club and began running it as a community enterprise managed and staffed by volunteers. There are two greens and a club house. They turned over one of the greens for folks to take their kids to play on and kept the other for bowling. They then got rid of the gambling machines and over the years have been establishing a good live music scene as well as a community hub for families to use and they are now at the stage where the club has some paid staff as well as help from volunteers. Our gig was pretty quiet but still a lot of fun, we did three forty five minute sets and sang some songs we’d not done in ages. It was however very special for another reason.
A while ago I received a friend request on Facebook from a lady (Georgia) living in Sydney. This didn’t strike me as odd as I was working on setting up this tour at the time and had been contacting people and venues via Facebook. When I looked at Georgia’s Facebook page I saw she’d posted some of late great Sandy Denny’s music on her timeline. That’s a coincidence thought I as we had performed a Sandy song with Fairport Convention at last year’s Cropredy Festival. So I posted a link to the video of the Cropredy performance onto Georgia’s time line saying “I see you’re a Sandy fan. If you get the chance please come and see us when we get to Sydney”. Georgia was very complimentary and said she’d try and make it. A couple of days later a friend messaged me asking if I knew that Georgia was actually Sandy Denny’s daughter. I had no idea.
Anyhow Georgia was true to her word and she came along to Petersham. We got on great and had quite a chat about her life, what she’s been doing and where she is now. Georgia has had a tough deal by anyone’s standards. She lost her mum before she was a year old and her dad (musician Trevor Lucas) before she’d reached her teens, she’s had cancer and is the mother of three kids. You don’t get through all of that without a few scars and one comment she made really hit home. She said that so many people have great memories of her mum but she doesn’t have any. She was so young when Sandy died that there was no chance to form any memories of their time together. Something we all have is Sandy’s music, much of which Trevor performed on and that is a legacy that Georgia is rightly proud of.
We said our goodbyes at the end of the gig and vowed to meet up again back in the UK in August at Cropredy festival. Now there’s something to look forward to.