To The Middle of Nowhere and Back

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

It’s a bit of a laugh when you go to an online mileage calculator in UK, and they give you an estimate of both the miles to travel on their recommended route, as well as approximate time of the journey. A laugh because the estimated time seems to be calculated for if you’re leaving at midnight! There’s no seeming acknowledgement that if a travel route involves this UK road monstrosity known as the M25, all bets are off, except how far off their estimate will be. The M25, for you American readers, is also known as The London Orbital, and the 117-mile circular route goes almost entirely around the perimeter of Greater London. Some parts of it were constructed in the early 1970’s, but the full circle was not completed until 1986. Who knows where motorists were able to congregate before then if they wanted to be stationary for hours at a time!

Yesterday, I was playing a wedding reception in the microscopic farm village of Kings Stag, Dorset, but first had to navigate to my lodging in Child Okeford (never found out if it was pronounced “child” or “chilled”), about 7 miles away from K-Stag. That ride from North London to Chokeford was calculated at 127 miles, travel time about 2 hours, 33 minutes.  Hold me, my sides are splitting! How about FOUR hours and 45 minutes, and that’s only because I realized after only going about 15 miles on M25 in 90 minutes that I needed an alternate plan. I ditched M25 when it appeared there was no let-up, and I’d have to avoid another route called the A303 because it appeared that everyone and their uncle was going to Stonehenge that day, and A303 is the only road that passes it.

When I’d reached the town of Salisbury (just like the steak in the TV dinners), about 30 miles away from Chiloke, I had to contend with the usual British sign-posting, which seems to assume we all know where we’re going at all times, thus the nearly total lack of any directional signs. I needed to find a road called A354 to Blandford Forum (that’s a town, not a concert hall). Just as I was consigning myself to trusting my instincts, a police vehicle turned up at the petrol station I had stopped at, and the cop was able to give me succinct directions. He did say the journey would take about an hour and a half, that the road was totally jammed. By now it was almost 4:00, so at this point nothing was going to surprise me. Nothing except he was entirely wrong, and I made that trek in 35 minutes. Thank god for small favors, huh?

I got into Chilford at 4:45, checked in, and the B&B was not a hotel but a mansion with spare rooms, owned and run by a young couple with two primary school age children.  I really felt as though I was intruding on their family life, especially since the young daughter was in a pissy mood. I only stayed for about 45 minutes before navigating to the gig.

This gig was offered to me late last year by a young couple who saw me in London and agreed I was just what they wanted for their wedding. They remembered my name and found my website, then e-mailed me to ask if I was available. Of course I was, since I usually don’t usually book more than two months ahead.  I met up with the couple back in May, and a more perfect match I could not imagine. I’ve met a few couples like that in my time (and just maybe I was part of such a couple this last time around), and it floored me that they’d only known each other two years!

I managed to convince them in our meeting to allow me to DJ after my performance for an additional fee, and I’m absolutely positive I’d told them I played vinyl 45’s and would need a turntable along with a CD deck. Somehow that part of the message never completely got across, as there was no turntable at the gig. Seeing as how we were about 20 miles from anything that could even be called a TOWN, my box of 45’s that I’d painstakingly picked out for this gig, many at the bride’s request, were just going to remain in the box. I was forced to move again into the 21st Century, and learn how to use an IPod! I would more or less have to learn on the job how to move back and forth from CD to Ipod, but I did figure it out. I still prefer watching the beautiful labels spin around, but I’m of a dying breed I guess.

OK, could anything else possibly go wrong? Well, I’d already been paid earlier in the week, so that part was sorted. How about a minor accident with my car, running over something unexpected and ripping out the rubber support under my front bumper. No catastrophe, the car can function without it, but I was not a happy camper. One of the first positives of the day was about to happen, though, as I was invited to enjoy dinner with the rest of the group, and the guy I was seated next to just happened to be a mechanic.  He looked at the car, said it was no biggie, that the replacement part is relatively cheap. Yay! But briefly let’s go back to dumb: The main dish at the dinner was Pulled Pork, and guess what I’d had the night before for the first time in about a year.

Then there was the gig itself, which you have to assume that when it’s a family affair like this one, and there’s little girls and their parents and THEIR parents, this is not going to be a regular comedy club gig. The groom assured me I could be as sick as I wanted. Maybe so, but I didn’t want to be the one the little girls learned the word “fuck” from, so I edited as I went along. I still got away with quite a bit, but at one point looked at this darling little girl probably about seven, and apologized for even THINKING about the f-word, even though I was bypassing the u and c, continually putting a “rea” in there. I did a fairly solid 30-35 minutes, didn’t storm it but didn’t die either, then went to DJ-ing, and the rest of the evening went fine. Through my years of working clubs in UK where they always had a disco after the comedy, I got to know pretty well what the “floor-fillers” were, and they all worked with this group.

Got back to Chi-Oke at about 12:30, very wired and could NOT get to sleep; at least not until it was almost daylight. It wasn’t until I got back home, only a THREE AND A HALF hour journey this time, because even on a Sunday morning, M25 could still have its gridlock moments, that I realized one more blight on this trip: I had left behind, in my haste to leave the party, my trainers (sneakers), and four of the CD’s I’d brought. Given the petrol costs of getting there, the cost of printing up business cards that I thought I might need (gave out exactly ONE!), the replacement of the forgotten items in case no one sends them back to me, and what it may cost to replace that rubber thingy on my car, the profit margin on this trip is, well, marginal. Thank god I got the gig myself, and don’t have to pay agent’s fees!

One other thought about this couple was brought up in the passing yesterday of singer Eydie Gorme, who had been married to her singer-husband Steve Lawrence since 1957. I can’t think of a show biz marriage that lasted longer than that one, can you?  Especially one where they WORKED together all that time. This couple yesterday is just young enough (mid 30’s) and such a solid unit that they could probably make it to the 56-year mark that Steve & Eydie achieved.



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