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2000 February 6th Car Broke Down

The reason I’ve put ‘home at last’ is cos ‘Swish’.

‘There go the Fairports mum. I’m sure it was them.’

‘Yes, it was.’

I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘br’. Bridge. Yes. I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘m’. Motorway. Yes. I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘tr’. Tree. Yes … do you get it yet?

Correct. My car broke on the way home from Croydon Fairfield Halls last night. Me and my kid Oonagh had a lovely time at the gig and then broke down just past J8 of the M25.


What is it with me and cars????

It was a red flashing light saying we were overheating which we obviously were. I had to stop. Checked the water. Checked the oil. Checked the fan.Checked the chocolate rations. Stood with arms folded accusingly looking into the engine. 

‘I’m going to stand here till one of you owns up.’No answer.

‘Okay. That’s it. The AA Man vill not be so sympathetic as me and you will regret this breaking down thing you’ve done……’

‘Where am I? Ermmm. Well I can see a sign in front of me saying Leatherhead 7. I’m definitely on the M25.’

‘Yes. I’m in the Emergency Vehicles Only part of the hard shoulder. Just before a bridge.’

Here are few incredibly boring games to play when you are trapped in a broken down car on the M25.

1. I spy (boring unless you do things like beginning with M.B.W.T.P.O. Motor bike with two people on. Or C.C.B. Cows crossing bridge.)

2. Alphabet thing. Find things beginning with every letter of the alphabet. NB an ‘ibble’ is one of those things which is on an air vent which opens and shuts it. Honestly.

3. Discover the amazing world of the motorway hard shoulder by looking out of the window onto the ground and seeing if you can spot the wildlife of this extraordinary habitat. For instance, the Burst-tyre beatle, a swarm of Windscreen crabs, the Hubcap turtle, Stobart’s Green-Tie snake, many different species of snails which mimic pieces of plastic, the Common cigarette-stub caterpillar and the less common Cigar caterpillar which, if you’re there long enough, you may witness their miraculous transformation into the Carrier-bag butterfly and Dustbin-bag moth. You may also be lucky enough to spot the increasingly rare Ropesnake. (Unfortunately since the introduction of the Blue-nylon snake from Indonesia, the native Ropesnake has declined in numbers.)

‘No I’m not leaving my child to find out where I am exactly. I am a woman alone with a child. We are very cold. We have been waiting an hour already. Please send someone now.’

‘Where exactly did you say you were?’ Head beating against steering wheel.

5am. Winch winch. Clang. Rev rev. Winch winch.

‘Thankyou. Yes you’re a very nice man. Yes thankyou for stopping on the hard shoulder to let us have a pee. Yes thankyou for bringing us all the way back to Warwick. Yes thankyou for phoning up my mobile for me so I could find it down the side of the carseat. Yes thankyou for finding my necklace which I had dropped on the hard shoulder somehow. (Lucky that cos I may’ve seen it but probly would’ve mistaken it for a Necklace-dropped-on-the-hard-shoulder centipede.) Thankyou. Thankyou. Say hello to Crawley for me.’ (The AA Man’s home)

‘Well car I hope you are proud of yourself. I can’t go out to lunch with my friend Alex now. Lots of nice people were going to be there.’


Anyway. The gig was fantastic. Some of the boys wore suits. They looked glam. Particularly Simon.

They played brilliantly. Kind of relaxedly slick. The sound was beautiful. (Rob). Their voices were very blendy and Gerry did his sitting crossed-legged again. At Leicester he really impressed me by getting up by himself from sitting on the floor. Last night Peggy and Simon hauled him up with one arm each. Oonagh really enjoyed it – they played some of her favourite songs like ‘Still A Mystery’ and ‘Dangerous’. The gig had a very good vibe. The crowd were buzzy.

I was asked on again to sing ‘Meet’ which was really wonderful as I did this gig last year. I took a photo of the audience from the stage then.

Swarb was on. With Kevin Dempsey. In the dressing room before the gig Swarb told us some stories about the olden days. Swarb, tell us about the olden days. What was it like? Well, young things, it was like this …..

Oonagh loved it. He told us how Fairport were once banned from the Fairfield Halls cos they accidently blew up the stage. This was in the 70s. They were winding some bloke up on stage who always did a joke where he tapped the mic and said ‘Tap tap’. They’d rigged up some things to go bang when he did this only they overdid the explosives and made three huge holes in the stage. He also told us how they spread marmite on someone’s sax reed.

Swarb’s set was wonderful especially his beautiful tune My Heart’s In New South Wales which had all 3 fiddles. Oonagh being a young fiddler herself pointed out that all three had different bowing to the same tune. This is one of the reasons why Ric Chris and Swarb are very different players. Kevin sang ‘Pride Of Kildare’ which I first heard when he, Swarb and Chris were Whippersnapper with Martin Jenkins. I think Kevin’s voice is so listenable to. It sounds like blue sky and chocolate mixed together. Very optimistic but calm. I’m going to be really cheesey and say that Swarb’s playing was like a bird.

Talking of birds, Swarb played a tune for his wives and said we’d be able to hear them arguing in it. And we could.

We had a great time and then afterwards there was a little party. Some nice people who always bring some special beer at some point on the tour had come and quite a few other people came including Leon who brought his vegetarian food. Lucky that cos there was nothing backstage at all. Not even any custard. He has a food stall at Cropredy and came to Tunbridge last year with some lovely food for us all.

Also Ralph McTell. His name had been put on all the tickets for some reason so I think he must’ve thought he better come along in case anyone asked questions. We had a chat about my album. He thinks it’s wonderful and says what you should do with albums is kind of float them out into the world and let them find their way.

That reminds me of when you make one of those paper boats and send it off down the stream by itself. You’ve spent time making it and making sure it’ll float, making adjustments to it and naming it, then off it goes. Maybe it’ll sink. Maybe someone will pick it up out of the water.Maybe it’ll float right out to sea. Or maybe a duck’ll eat it.

Anyway I’m really pleased that Ralph thinks my stuff’s great. I’ve always listened to his stuff since I was a kid. I ruined one of his records which my mum gave me for my birthday. It was a live album called Albert and Sydney. I was doing out my open fire but had left the record on the turntable. Ash got all over it and I never could get it off so it’s always scratchy. I was annoyed cos it was about the only new record I had.

By the way Ric told us during the set last night that Fairport was described by The Birmingham Post as being ‘desperately unfashionable’ which he said was probably coming back into fashion.

So… there were some other people and some beer and some chocolate stuff. Then we said goodbye to everyone. Goodbye and then went off to break down on the M25.