On Sunday we - The Neighbourhood Dogs, in our latest iteration – stood four and a half square beneath the shelter of a marquee performing our own brand of East Angliacana before a cricket match, in the rain. And when I say 'before' I mean, quite literally, in front of. The Papworth Everard Village Fete was in full swing, as were the (mostly) outclassed batsmen of the home side, caught fraught in the onslaught of nearby Yelling, who took the match - and the trophy - in a not very closely-fought annual battle of the village rivals. Put it this way – our set lasted very slightly longer than the home side’s innings, although both started with someone shouting “Catch it!”. Personally, I think they should have challenged the slightly less nearby village of Over, but that’s just so I could have included some additional pun-ditry round about here.But this is to dwell unnecessarily on the lamentable. Prior to our performance Sam Inglis had probably out-Englished even us with his doughty selection of traditional folk tunes, including a splendid Reynard the Fox which was obviously written, as he acerbically observed, “…by someone who has never been to Royston” (approximately fifteen miles from where he was sitting, as the crow flies). A good attempt, but despite his best efforts I don’t think we actually reached peak English until shortly after our set, when a vibrantly polka-dot be-frocked scion of the landed gentry went full jolly-hockey sticks in awarding the prizes for the Victoria Sponge competition.
Being pretty much a scratch line-up due to prior holiday and theatrical commitments on the parts of both Producer Andy and Turny Winn, Mr. Wendell, Helen & I were bolstered by the incipient stand-in skills of gods kitchen and SftBH alumnus Mr. Gibbon, on whose behalf our promoter and sound man Steve played an old Goodies single over the PA as our intro music, which was a thoughtful gesture. We were also joined by the ‘half’ mentioned earlier, Steve’s daughter Amelie, who was to play flute on our closing number, Come On#2*.
Due to Gibbon’s familiarity with some of our further back-back catalogue, we had eschewed some of our more recent song writing efforts in favour of tunes that most of us knew all of already and were mostly in G, just to keep things doubly simple. Amelie sat rather nervously through the show and then, at her cue, steadied herself, drew a deep breath and played a lovely octave counter to Helen’s part before sitting rather relievedly back down again, graciously declining the opportunity to jam on our encore despite our entreaties and encouragement that “…it’s in G, like that one”. The twin flute attack - which I have experienced once before, in another lifetime - is something that we might have to look at again. Mellifluous, it is.
As the day’s activities drew to a close, the bouncy castles were deflated, the Pimm’s was reduced to a pound a pint to clear the dregs, the clouds cleared and happened that most English of occurrences at the culmination of any drizzly community event. The sun came out.
*Performed on SftBH ‘Tree’ by Paul Mosley, whose folk opera album The Butcher is out now.