Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cambridge 2018


by Occasional Reader


     So for the fourth year running the Occasional family behaved like superannuated hippies and attended the Cambridge Folk Festival along with 14,000 others. Last year it rained. This year it didn’t. The sun blazed down and we baked, cooked, roasted…

     As always the festival for us started with a queue. The gates to the main center and campsite opened at 10 am – we got up at some unearthly hour to be in the queue from around 7 am to get our key spot, somewhere with shade but not too far from the rest rooms... So I sat on my camp chair in the queue for three hours and read my Times newspaper. There was an article on the front page that said that drinking four and half bottles of wine a week (about three times the recommended UK limit) will mean you are less likely to go down with Alzheimer’s disease than if you were teetotal. I read that again. It really did say that. So looking at the necessary provisions my fellow queuees had, it seems they were really taking that to heart, although the weather was more suitable for iced beer than red wine. Of course it could just mean that if you downed four and half bottles of wine each week, you might just die of something else before Alzheimer’s got you. Still it was a thought.

     What do we want?
     Better memory.
     When do we want it?
     Want what?

     Or as no doubt I have said many times before; when you get to my age three things start to happen. First your memory starts to go. And the other two I can’t remember…

     I always determine when I go away that I am going to catch up on so many things. So I took away a number of volumes that I had started, but not finished.

     There was the detailed report of a conference on a religious group in which I have an interest. I assisted two of the authors with their chapters, but my particular interest was in what can only be called the lunatic-fringe. I did read some of that, shook my head slowly, laughed (sort of) before having another beer.

     There was the latest biography of Jerome K Jerome. It was rather nice to find myself referenced in it, as I have written on this author on a number of occasions and supplied several chapters for a 150th anniversary celebration book. (Pause to look smug). One of the first articles I ever wrote on this blog was about a school teacher, Mr V, in what the UK calls the juniors, who tried to read Three Men in a Boat and went red in the face and guffawed most of the time in front of a large class of bemused eight year olds. But that is how I started. There was a special second hand bookshop that I used to visit when returning to London and they put Jerome books away for me. Alas, like so many others, long gone. But I read a little.

     What I really planned to do was to complete an article for a history blog on a fascinating character named John Adam Bohnet. He spanned crucial decades of a certain group’s history and whenever they (collectively or through individual members) found themselves in court, he would invariably turn up as a witness. But I lost my notes. When I am home they will turn up no doubt, but they didn’t turn up before we left for Cambridge, so John Adam is going to have to wait a bit longer.

     What I did read at length, because it was on my eReader was Lying for Money by Dan Davies, subtitled How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of our World. It was both hilarious and sad in equal measures; from people being sold not-existent land in South America in the 19th century, to the failed attempt of notorious London gangsters, the Kray Twins, to liquidate their book-keeper, to Ponzi schemes and huge business frauds of recent decades. One highlight was the American fraudster who used huge vats of salad oil as collateral for his wheeling and dealing. He was known as the salad oil king. However, since oil floats on water, the vats were actually full of sea water with about two inches of salad oil on the top. He got away with it for years. News of its crash and exposure was overshadowed by the assassination of John F Kennedy which happened on the same day. The subject matter was to be taken as “A WARNING” - or as a guide for future fraudsters.  Take your pick. I enjoyed it immensely.

     Of course we came to listen to music and make music. As always, some was good, some was execrable. Perhaps the worst (and I won’t give a name) was someone who decades ago was a real wild child. More punk than folk, she used to cuss at the audience and spit. When you see the same person as a lady in her seventies with matted white hair, still cussing the audience and spitting – er, as the Sunday papers used to say when exposing “VICE” – we all made our excuses and left.

     Of the good guys, we saw Darlingside again, who sing four part harmony with full instruments around just one mike – the technique for getting the balance spot on was amazing. Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny Cash) was a revelation. I knew her work because one of her biggest hits in the eighties was Runaway Train, written by John Stewart, although she didn’t include it in her set. But with one accompanying guitarist and harmony singer (her husband of 23 years) she made a fantastic sound. The CD tent was cleared of all her merchandise before I could get there, which tells its own story.

     On a personal level I found myself roped in to sing on two different stages with Amy Goddard, and also to do a live interview and sing on Radio Cambridge 105 with her. I don’t know how many people actually tune in to Radio Cambridge, probably miniscule, but the program was to be beamed around the folk world on mix-cloud. One weekend I am speaking to thousands in another context, the next weekend I am warbling folk songs into a radio mike. Weird. Positively weird. Ten years ago I would never have dreamed of singing at all. It is what is known as growing old (dis)gracefully.

     So then it was “home James, and don’t spare the horses” which in our case was a five hour motorway drive with no air-con in tropical conditions for which the dehydrated Occasionals were just not prepared. Back to work, back to catch-up, and back to nearly keel over. I really must pace myself better. While carefully following the Times’ advice to ward off Alzheimer’s of course.


1 comment:

  1. A very very hot Cambridge Folk Festival! I actually poured cold water on my feet every time I refilled the water bottles! Yes the weather was more suitable for chilled cider but red wine has wonderful health benefits. Maybe you forget about Alzheimer’s after enough glasses!

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