“Which one is The Mendlesham Mast?” I interrupt the discussion to enquire. “Is it the tall thin one, or the one that looks like The Empire State Building?” Mr. Wendell is momentarily nonplussed. “I always thought it was that one” he waves peremptorily at the gargantuan structure off the port bow. He doesn’t shout “Robots!” though, which is what my son used to do on his way to nursery.
We are on our way back from Fiddly’s, where we have been workshopping the festival set in anticipation of our return to the live arena at the tail end of next month. In terms of social distancing and isolation, we are essentially the poster band for government guidelines in that it is astonishingly rare for us to be able to assemble all seven members of the band in one place at any one time anyway, hence the last-month preparation.
It is doubly egregious then, to receive the news that Turny Winn - our esteemed banjoista and Edinburgh Fringe veteran - has been occupying himself in the garden and has inadvertently pruned an integral part of his left hand. “Is it his whole finger?” someone asks, anxiously. “No, I think it’s the one next to it”. He regards the workshop full of awls and bandsaws cautiously. Fiddly takes the precaution of turning the nearest one off at the wall, first pointing out the scar from when he dragged his own finger across it. I quietly regard the bit where a sliced my knuckle with the sharp bit of the dog food can that morning, feeling a bit like Richard Dreyfuss in that bit on the boat in Jaws.
There have already been a number of less-than sympathetic exchanges on social media regarding the impact that Turny’s mishap might have on his technique - my own contribution is to point out that when Deep Purple’s Tommy Bolin was similarly incapacitated, the guitar roadie simply tuned his guitars to a number of open chords, pushed him out on the stage and told him to get on with it. Mind you, there were 14,000 eager Japanese fans waiting to see that performance, not a small group of teachers eager to celebrate the end of term with some gently applied East Angliacana in Colchester.
Mr. Winn compensates for his banjo-less fortune with some hastily adapted melodeon parts (ie he plays some new arrangements on the squeezebox, not that he uses the bellows to strum a G major on the Appalachian frying pan, that’s much more a Fred Frith kind of turn. Although a lot of our stuff is in G, so it couldn’t hurt). As when we had a bass player who played stand-up string, we are playing the same songs, but a subtle shift in instrumentation means that they now have a more pastoral, Trad. arr. aspect to them.
This is pleasing to us generally, Turny aside, who enjoys playing it and is concerned that this might be part of a greater plot to oust the five string calfskin racquet from the ensemble. I assure him that this is not the case, however someone points out that with the reduction in percussive attack afforded by its absence Young Young Bob is going to have to work a lot harder on the banging and shaking front.
“That’s fine” says Gibbon, over by the bobbin sander. “He is the youngest. Anyway, what did I come in here for..?”