Through last week there were a series of peaks and troughs and all relating to love. The peaks were events of happiness that were a privilege and honour to be invited to share. The troughs were the saddening effects of love and loss; of losing a love. It began with a trough when my darling wife Chrissie and I heard the devastating news that a dear friend, a kind, caring and considerate woman had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and might have only weeks left in this life. This devastating news was made all the more tragic because diagnosis had taken so long that the dear lady had now become much too weak to be considered safe for urgent and radical surgery. I was angered and appalled to think that cuts in the Health Care Budget had perhaps now forced G.P.s to carefully consider the costs involved when ordering tests such as X-Rays or M.R.I. Scans. Perhaps due to this financial consideration the illness had been allowed to develop into a much more malevolent form and the lady had become weaker and weaker due to her inability to take sufficient nourishment. Her husband with whom she has shared over 60 years of marriage was to lose his loving partner, to be left to cope without the one person he so clearly cherished and loved and there had not been nearly enough time to accept and prepare for this catastrophe even though the family were magnificent in their efforts to support them both. My wife, Chrissie, and I were of course determined to help in any way we could but how could we ever address the deep pain and suffering that was to be his and hers in the days ahead?
Then a few days later there came a peak when an dear old friend ‘way down St Just, announced she and her long term loving partner were getting married later in the year. Would I be the Entertainments Manager for this event, and sort musicians who could add their special magic to the proceedings? Yes indeed I could and I felt that this was a pleasure, a privilege and an honour to be selected as a chap who had the abilities not to say experience to manage such an event. Plus there was that life affirming declaration of love intrinsic and integral to the life-long commitment in the marriage ceremony. Nice, and it brought a warming rush of happiness to my work day. I began to ask around all the likely musical candidates while we waited for confirmation of the times and dates.
Later that same day this warming glow of happiness was quietly snuffed out when my dear wife Chrissie and I attended a funeral. The ceremony was for a beautiful, loving young woman, a mother of two young children and the soul mate of her husband, who had succumbed to another devastating illness. This all the more tragic because she’d suffered through the distressing effects of treatments and gained two remissions in her illness only for the tumours to return and take her away from her family and friends. It was harrowing to witness the tears and pain of the young children, to hear the hurt and grief in the eulogies spoken with such sincerity, from friends and her deeply grieving husband. His courage to stand before the congregation and to do right by his dearly beloved wife was heart warming, uplifting even but it was also so very, very tragic and sad. The service itself was uncomplicated and easy and the atmosphere of love and the loss so evident in gathered mourners was almost palpable. The young wife was interred in a wicker coffin, in the dunes behind the church in a graveyard overlooking the sea and beach she loved so well and the town she’d loved and lived in. A beautiful spot certainly, enhanced too with the copious family flowers, but occupied much too early . . .
Two fine people, both musicians, who found love at the most unlikeliest times of their lives. Alan perhaps resigned to a solitary life and Chris scanning new horizons and opportunities. They met at rehearsals with the musical group Poachers Moon up in Dorset where Chris was living with her two daughters Heather and Briony, and with a mutual, and passionate, interest in music they found these common factors brought them ever closer. Work led to laughter, laughter led to love and things just clicked as they sometimes do, into a fairy tale romance and a bunch of dreams came true.
They were married on Saturday 02nd April in the church at Paul and held a wedding reception in the Station House pub at Marazion in the company of friends and family and where Heather and Briony made such beautiful bridesmaids too! It was a privilege and an honour to be invited to take part in their celebrations and my wife Chrissie and I give thanks to all from our glad hearts.
We wished them both the very best of everything for their mutual futures, that they’d share a fantastic, long and luxurious honeymoon away up in the mountain glens and lochs of the majestic Scottish Highlands but also urged them to: “Hurry back – won’t you? There’s a lot of music to make and fun to be had in this developing year!“
From this happy occasion we made our way home via the hill top cemetery in the dunes to lay our flowers along with all the rest which were now carpeting the grave, beautiful, poignant and still. A sad and sobering reality . . .
Then . . .
The second occasion in which I felt privileged and honoured this week end was last night at the musical celebrations for my old friend Tony Franklin’s birthday.
This was held at The Punchbowl & Ladle, in Feock near Truro and I was truly surprised, but delighted, to be invited to host or M.C. the evening by Tony and Angela. Can’t think why they picked me but I suspect it was to divert any criticism or complaint away from themselves in case anything went awry, I was their (willing) sacrificial lamb or scapegoat I think. It didn’t matter anyway because the mood of the attendees was cheery, beery, happy and leery as is the case at most folk music events and I was not made aware of any complaints during the whole of the evening. There was a plethora of talents on display too. All the time served musicians, singers, poets, jig doll dancers were there in their numbers and all eager to honour the occasion with a performance. First up was Tony & Angela with Tony’s son David providing guitar accompaniment to Tony’s ukulele and Angela’s shakers. They soon had the room singing along with their rendition of “3 Little Birds” and that set the tenor of the night pretty well. John Langford aka The Fish, described as the King Folker, of the West Country scene (which description was rather hastily amended to Folker King) was on next and recited his latest poem before singing his own composition “Please Mr. St. Christopher” aided and abetted by myself and Adrian O’Reilly on guitars and harmony. We managed this in the key of ‘E’ but some time later John informed me he’d now remembered it was supposed to be sung in ‘G’ ! Thorn & Roses followed on and as usual gave a beautiful flavour to the evening’s festivities with their distinctive style and harmonies. I can’t remember the running order precisely because there was very little precision about it as some people arrived later than others and I had to juggle things to keep the light and shade, the flavours and the contrasts flowing smoothly (so I thought anyway!) I can tell you that, in no particular order, Kay Tanner sang “Can’t Help Loving That Man Of Mine” with style and panache. Tony Shaw overcame his recent hand surgery’s debilitation and sang as well as he ever did, even if he did feel his guitar playing wasn’t up to his own benchmark, no one else uttered complaint. I can state without exaggeration that Keith Marshall’s percussive skills awed the assembled audience and absolutely astonished me as he partnered the guitar genius of Pete Berryman. Di, stalwart of Dreamers Folk at Fourlanes (never say Di – she told me) sang us a fine song, Mike Smith brought us all into a rousing chorus with his version “Follow The Plough”. There was a break for a pasty supper and a chance for folk to catch up on news (and gossip no doubt) then an assembly of dancing dolls, all hand made by Tony Franklin were lined up to dance with music from Mike Smith and Mike O’Connor. This was to have been a photo opportunity too; it was hoped we could get one photo that would include all the dancing dolls and their owners but space prevented this and for this failure I do offer sincere apologies to both Tony and Angela: it was just impossible on this occasion. The second half was opened with a song from Robbie and Maureen Tatlow then Adrian O’Reilly and I were well received as we performed my own composition “Over There”. Nigel Morson gave us an hilarious Les Barker monologue and performed this with beautifully impeccable timing too. Mike Kessell brought us back to that well known and loved traditional resource with an old Scottish song, his son Toby had the place open mouthed in sheer admiration and maybe sheer disbelief as he skilfully manoeuvred his fingers around his accordion keys and had the place in an uproar of accord and appreciation (accordion to my mind anyway!) Pete Hunt sang a lovely Tony Deane song in memory of his late friend, Pete Reynolds reminded us how we all “Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside”, Jon Heslop had us all in voice, Mike O’Connor with his concertina sang two beautiful songs, David Franklin played some of his own compositions accompanied by none other than Keith Marshall and I reckon there might be a future meet for those two somehow. Then the lads from Rum and Shrub lined the bar so the folk who’d been stuck in the middle of the room could hear some music up close and they did their own inimitable thing in beautiful harmonic close order singing before Tony Franklin took the stage for the final phase to sing his own “Walking Round Cornwall” with the whole pub, even some of the bar staff, joining in with the chorus and Mike O’Connor adding to the proceedings with fiddle accompaniment. After this Roger Bryant – song-smith extraordinaire – led off with his own “Cornish Lads” and then, after Tony had thanked all and sundry, the evening then slowly descended into a general sing-a-round. It was a beautiful night, a rare event, a hark back to the days when pubs were the hubs for communities, news, assistance fun and socialising and I feel I can confidently state without fear of contradiction that it was thoroughly enjoyed by all who came and also all those who just happened to be using their local on that particular night (like my old bass playing band mate from “Big Dick & The Deviants”, David George.)
All that in the course of one week!