Wednesday 3 September 2008


On Saturday evening John and I and friend Hilary, who we met in Morocco in June, went to the Winchester Discovery Centre to watch these three acts. The place was absolutely packed and there were loads of people sitting on the stairs and at the side, which tells you something of the popularity of these artists.

It was quite a nippy evening when we went to the previous concert there, a few months ago, so I was quite togged up, but it would have to be the hottest evening of what I loosely term our summer, and very humid so it felt like a sauna to me. However, I was the one laughing when we went outside during the interval because all those ladies in sleeveless dresses looked frozen. Strange what silly things seem to stick in my mind!

However, the music was, yet again, excellent.

The first act was Mr James Bright,a sort of folk singer/guitarist accompanied by a super tabla player, who wore a ring on one of his toes.

The second act was a group called Stornoway, from Oxford, and they presented a very different style of music using lots of different instruments and sounds and occasionally featuring two excellent violinists. The lead singer, Brian, a skeleton of a man with an enormous voice and dressed straight out of Oxfam, with a jaunty Bob Dylan cap, was most charismatic in an unusual sort of way, with plenty of funny stories about his time with the RSPCA. They produced a very exciting sound and are about to release an album, which I hope does well.

And then, after the break, we had Polly and the Billet Doux.

Half of Winchester appear to have had some kind of virus that leaves an unpleasant cough (I am coughing, myself as I write although Corvonia seems to be helping a lot) and Polly was suffering similarly. Although hidden from sight, she had an array of medicinal aids in front of her which her group were keen to point out and joke about: an enormous piece of root ginger, lozenges, cough mixture, a liquid which looked like pee and a glass of red wine (which Polly claimed was helping her the most).

If it had been me, I would have cancelled and curled up in bed, but Polly is a real pro (in the nicest possible way) and the show went on. How she managed, I do not know, but apart from a couple of times when she opened her mouth and nothing came out, she belted out her numbers with an alarming and spine-tingling strength.

Boy, does that girl have a voice and a half!

This group not only sounds good but they look good, too. Polly was wearing her customary red dress, black cut-off tights, little black top and a red flower in her long, brown hair and she just looks special. They all do. When I get back form Italy, where I shall collapse onto the beach and stay there apart form eating, drinking and sleeping, I intend to send a sample of her music to Jules Holland and Loose Ends (Radio 4 (I am a radio 4 devotee)) because they would be great on both shows.

This is a group with a sparkling future.

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Talking of which, John was in San Jose a few weeks ago on business and his hotel just happened to be opposite the San Jose Jazz Festival. He had taken his camcorder (his most treasured possession) to make some recordings for his work but he took the opportunity to record some of the gigs and they are pretty damn good.

You know, I'm thinking this about my writing as well as the music John records. I'm not so sure that I want to get involved with the big, commercial money-making, cynical business people in publishing/recording. It's much more fun to play/write direct to an audience. Might not make mega-bucks but it does mean that you can maintain integrity and not be bullied and bossed about by the guys in grey.

Answers on a postcard! (Sorry, Polly, I've stolen your idea but I did tell you on Saturday Night that it was a great saying that I'd like to pinch for my writing!)

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