With Mr. Wendell safely returned from Iceland, rehearsals for the never-ending tour resume at what is fast becoming home-from-home for the nascent Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs. We have a set list sketched out and decide to work backwards through it, all the better to pay attention to the material which generally gets bashed out at the end of a session when we’ve just noticed that it’s gone eleven on a school night and some of us have got homes to go to.
We are well into the latter stages of Tuckman’s model of group development now, and songs have been added, taken out and re-arranged according to whether they are perceived to be working or not – a melodica, some maracas, an electric bass, some slide guitar – all of these have been suggested in order to complement some arrangement or another and whilst many have got past the committee stage and been incorporated into the working versions, the only thing that can be guaranteed is that if I’m playing bouzouki, the chords are D, G, A and E minor. There are a couple of covers, some old things from The Blue House days, a few items which previously existed only as rarely-performed demos, and some bespoke new material written to fulfil the Folk Opera remit which we initially sat down to sketch out. We think we’ve pretty much got a collection of songs we can work with and so we get down to work with them.At a convenient point toward the end of scheduled proceedings a couple of us take the opportunity to step out to take the night air and to replenish our mugs of tea. Upon our return we are greeted by the sight and sound of Turny and La Mulley harmonising through the sweetest-sounding country torch ballad you could imagine. Wendell and I subtly arm ourselves with appropriate instrumentation and ease ourselves into the narrative, delicately conducting ourselves around the spellbinding melody. At its conclusion we are both astounded. “What’s that?” asks someone. “Just something I’ve been messing about with” says Tony. “It’s called The Ruin of Me”. Even the title is perfect.
“And you only thought to bring this up now?” asks Wendell.