Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Music in the Midlands

It's early on a sunny morning in Derby, where I'm staying up the road from my friends Helen and Ted, in the lovely home of their friends Irene and Alan who are also shapenote singers and have a dial-up connection. In a small while we are heading to Leicester for the first of two days singing. Coming up by train yesterday I was quite impressed that they name their towns after cheeses around these parts. Why don't we have a Velveeta, Montana, for instance?

But I get ahead of myself, if chronology matters in these travel notes. When I returned to my hotel after my Internet Cafe sojourn on Thursday I found the surprise of my friends Denise and Jim waiting for me, fresh from Paris. Their plans had been to head directly to Warwick to visit with another singing friend, but the friend's plans changed so they stayed in London overnight. We went to dinner and then to a patisserie, walking about London as it were the most natural thing in the world. Then I went off to meet my new friends at Comptons.

My new friends were not at Comptons, but I had the greatest pub evening anyway, far better than I could have hoped for in such an undertaking. The guy from Perth (whom the two club boys had introduced me to the previous night) was there with some friends of his, one of whom made me sit right down with them before buying me a beer and the wild sociability began. It's all a story in itself, with running jokes and alternating serious and frivolous conversations, perhaps to be recounted on my return. Comptons was loud and bright and packed with many many men who were smiling and laughing. Imagine!

Then my boys took me with them to Barcode, with more round-buying (I took a turn as soon as I could) and introductions to many more folks (and self-introductions by others, with no connection to the folks I was with, or at least with whom I started my time there). Barcode eventually got so crowded you couldn't move, but by then it was time for me to head out. I'm still reeling from how much I enjoyed the evening. The key, I believe, was that I didn't start out alone. Once I've got some connection to the community things start to open up.

Friday Jim and Denise and I took the train to Derby, where the pre-convention excitement was filling Helen and Ted's kitchen. We hung around and sang and then we all went to Kettleston, a stately home under the stewardship of the National Trust. It's lambing time, you know, and the vast swaths of sheep and their younguns gamboled most picturesquely for our benefit. The hall, unfortunately, was not open, since evidently National Trust homes are not open on "Thursday or Friday". I put that in quotes because it sounded as if it's a crapshoot as to which day on any particular week the hall is closed. But we wandered the grounds and checked the acoustics of the outbuildings and recited poetry. Well, I recited poetry.

There were 17 for dinner at Helen's, some of whom brought parts of the dinner. We ate and sang until I could barely keep my eyes open, at which point Irene got her car and we came here. Irene and Alan apologized profusely in advance because I'd be staying in a very pink room. Actually it's more peach themed then pink themed, but the curtains are floral chintz and there are stuffed dolls and toys and a quilt. It is decidedly the most frilly feminine room I've ever slept in. This delights me.

I won't be checking back in until I'm home, and this journal entry is quick and perfunctory, but I saw the system in Alan's office and had to sneak in a few words.

Oh, do I wish I had planned more time in London. I will be back as soon as I can arrange it.
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