Welcome back folks and we have made it to winter depending on which definition you use. The first day of November and with weather appropriate to the new season, it was a bit dismal to say the least.
Paul and I got up early or more properly I got up early s Paul is a habitually early riser. Why did I drag myself from my lovely comfy bed? A couple of hours later I asked myself much the same question having watched the losers match aka the third / fourth place playoff in the Rugby World Cup between Wales and New Zealand which The All Blacks won at a canter (40 – 17) and it really wasn’t much of a watch.
I have never understood the reason for having these playoffs as the teams certainly don’t want to be there. Time and again you hear professional sportsmen saying that it is worse to lose in a semi-final than a final and how they can motivate themselves for this nothing event is beyond me. It used to be that winning the playoff guaranteed automatic qualification for the next tournament but that has long gone by the board. It wouldn’t be merely a revenue generating exercise for the IRFB or World Rugby or whatever they are calling themselves these days would it or am I just being cynical?
With my rugby duties fulfilled it was a couple of hours getting stuck into the excellent local history book Sue had lent me and which I have spoken of before. I didn’t go out anywhere as I was under orders for the afternoon to do something that is about as infrequent as Halley’s Comet and which I alluded to as the R word in the last post. R stands for Rehearsal and I just don’t do it which I fully appreciate may be pretty obvious when you see me onstage. In truth, most of the gigs I play are sessions which don’t require much on the way of preparation and even when I was playing in the band we had been doing it for so long that we knew our stuff inside out. Paul had very kindly given me a copy of the band’s CD in Broadstairs and I knew there were a few “arrangements” to be learnt so I had a quick practice in Paul’s front room playing along with the disc. I happen to know that the next door neighbours were away which was probably fortunate for them.
Ged and Martin live in Hebburn where we had played in the Iona Club on my first night and we drove over there in Paul’s car. I know Paul normally uses the Metro but the poor sod had to leave early for dental appointment. We rattled through the set pretty quickly with occasional vocal accompaniment from their utterly adorable and completely soppy dog. Paul took off for his appointment with the drill and we ran through another few numbers that Ged said we might or might not do at our next gig. It’s always good to have a few in the locker in case of requests.
When we were happy that I had mastered everything required Ged suggested a pint in the Iona which is literally five minutes walk away and that sounded like a plan even with me on short rations. We went into the bar as opposed to the function room we had played in with the Fireside Session as the Singers Night is called. Sadly I have heard that there is a new bar manager there since I played and the Fireside Session has hd to move which is a shame as it was a great venue. I was a little surprised to see the sign above the bar which said “Men’s Bar”, I didn’t think such things were allowed in these politically correct times. I was introduced to some of the lad’s frinds and made to feel most welcome as I was becoming accustomed to. They really are a very sociable bunch these Geordies.
I had a pint of my usual nonsense and then it was time to make tracks back to Jesmond as I had arranged to meet Paul and Sue for drink in the Punch Bowl and then Sue had promised to make paella for supper which I was looking forward to. I had more than the measure of the Metro by now, not to mention the local geography and so it was a breeze to get to the rendezvous in good time. I took the image above just to show you how appalling hte traffic is on that Jesmond bypass that I have spoken of before, it really is busy.
I decided to check out the other bar by way of a change and fell into conversation with the wonderfully friendly bar manager who was slightly oddly ttired in a brown stock coat and flat cap, quite a look. Apart from my garrulous nature the conversation was initiated by the fact that he was playing vinyl LP’s on the twin decks on the bar. I cannot remember exactly what the record was now but I do recall that I had in my own collection the first four that he played! It was right up my street. A quick look at the image here shows a Rolling Stones Greatest Hits and a Band album which gives you some sort of an idea.
If you have read my previous entry about the Punch Bowl you will remember that it is an unusual place to say the least and that is true of the smaller bar here. The record decks are adorned with a Russian doll in the form of a cosmonaut, in keeping with the Russian and space themes and, totally incongruously, a framed photo of the Golden Girls from the TV series. At least I think tht is who they are, I never watched it myself. They cut their own ham in the Spanish style and they have the most eclectic selection of pickled eggs. I love the things but I was of the opinion that a pickled egg was a pickled egg. Certainly some are a little spicier than others but they are all much of a muchness. Here they have such wonders as beetroot eggs, “effin hot” eggs (their term), smoky Russian death eggs (don’t ask me) and the one that I could not get my head round – watermelon tea eggs, I kid you not. Look at the image if you do not believe me.
Paul and Sue turned up after a while and we had a lovely time chatting amongst ourselves and with the staff who really have got customer relations down to an art. It is an absolutely cracking boozer in every way. Utterly bonkers but great. After a while Sue took off to get the supper going and left us in no doubt as to what would happen if we were not back in time. She need not have worried as I love paella and Sue is a brilliant cook. I shall let the image give you an idea and, believe me, it was every bit as good as it looks. There was not a single grain of rice left in that pan by the time we had finished!
After our excellent meal it was time for a fairly early night as there was a proper rugby match on the next morning – the Final.
Apart from the most important rugby match in the previous four years I cross the “great divide” and travel to play a gig in Sunderland on my great Northeastern Tour so stay tuned and spread the word.