On a rather icy Saturday afternoon, Nicola and I pulled up to a drive in Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, a picturesque area of the world that I’ve often driven through on my way to my parent’s house in Herefordshire but have rarely had an excuse to stop in. We slipped and slid our way down the path to the front door of Cleo Carruthers, our host for the evening’s gig. When I first received an email from Cleo about playing in her living room last October, she was getting ready to move house from Buckinghamshire (my most visited county on this tour!) to Gloucestershire at the end of December and she had warned me that things may be slightly chaotic, but when we arrived, the house had nothing but a homely feel to it and the odd lack of carpet in places, which seemed acceptable for a house just moved in to. No chaos at all! Nic and I set up in the living room and slowly but surely Cleo’s friends arrived, mainly also from Buckinghamshire, until we had a good house full!
With a myriad of different chairs of shapes and sizes crammed into every available space in the living room and a warm fire crackling happily in the hearth, I sat down with my guitar and got playing! Whilst chatting to a few people beforehand, I had established that there were quite a few members of a choir in the audience but I had also heard murmurings of singers ‘not singing tonight’ batted about here and there, which spurred me on: I was determined that I would get them singing. If I could get the crew of a nuclear submarine singing (who in actual fact didn’t need that much encouragement, in the end), then I would get that room alight with the sounds of ‘Go’! I like a challenge.
When it came to it however, my audience took only a little encouragement to get singing and they actually became very competitive when I introduced to them the idea of scoring! They were very keen to beat the highest mark scored so far (straight 9/10s in Prestwood, Bucks) and made a really impressive sound – as such, they definitely pushed themselves into the high end of the score range, but can they beat 27/30? Let’s see…
So close! They just weren’t quite loud enough to rival Prestwood! However, 26/30 is still pretty damn good, and this group certainly had the accuracy and enthusiasm to get the top marks! Nicely done all – I really enjoyed that ‘Go’ sing-a-long.
During the interval, Cleo laid at an amazing food spread, which included the best ham both Nic and I have ever eaten (which reminds me of Liz Lemon’s ‘Ham’ song in 30 Rock… anyone?). I’m not usually a big meat fan, but this was something else. She gave us the recipe so that we could try it ourselves, but anyone who knows me will know that I am an appalling cook (except for sandwiches: I make mind-blowing sandwiches), so it’s probably best that I don’t try it unless I’m hatching a plot to poison someone I don’t like. Be warned if I ever feed you glazed ham…
After my set, the music wasn’t over! Cleo’s friend Ronnie had brought his keyboard with him and played some great covers like ‘On my way to Georgia’ whilst a friend (who annoyingly I’ve forgotten the name of, even though I’m sure he introduced himself to me – sorry!) played some sort of conga drum (my knowledge of drum names is limited) alongside him. It was a really relaxed and friendly evening! I especially enjoyed coming up with innovative new dance moves with Cleo’s younger son Chris, which were then taught to everyone who passed, whether they wanted to dance or not, before Nic and I had to leave to get to our accommodation for the night.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone there for being so friendly and enthusiastic, to Ronnie for his set and to Serena for her tambourine skills, and to Nicola once again for her backing vocal skills! Massive thanks go to Cleo and her sons, Chris and Keiran for hosting and making us feel so welcome! It was also Cleo’s birthday, so happy birthday again! Glad I could be a part of it.
To finish off, here’s ‘The Archives’ from the evening:
Cleo Carruthers (host): Thank you and Nicola again hugely for entertaining us on Saturday night. I have had fantastic feedback about the party and there have been so many positive comments about your gig. It was a very special and amazing evening.