Week fifteen -Food & Music

Happy belated Record Store Day to everyone!

This week’s post is actually about two of my most favourite things (if I was at all musically-minded, I could rework the Sound of Music classic right about there). Food is good. Music is good. Together, we have a magical, beautiful combination.

Record Store Day, which happened yesterday, is a fun day and a special occasion where musicians release special editions of vinyl for our listening pleasure. It’s also a great opportunity to see live music, especially music that you wouldn’t necessarily choose to go see off your own back.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before Saturday, came Friday. And Friday means Free Music Fridays at The Alex in Southampton. This week’s offerings were a few musicians including Patrick Craig http://www.pcraiguk.com, and Tim OT who I’ve seen play a few times. Special mention to Tim for being the first ‘doubler’ for this year’s Live Music Mission – three and he’ll get a badge. http://www.timot1.bandcamp.com

Tim’s music is an inspiring mix of heart-break, politics and the intensity of life. It’s well worth a listen and he’s definitely worth going to see live. One of my new favourite songs is “Let It Rain” (don’t get confused with the David Duchovny version – who knew?!)

Anyway, you might be wondering when the food side of things is entering this story. Well, I convinced my dear, impressionable friend Jemma to come join me in my quest for live music. I met her from work and she needed food. As The Alex wasn’t serving food, we grabbed a burrito to go and headed back to the corner to enjoy the music. It was actually a really lovely way to hangout Jemma and spend a Friday evening. The band on at that time were performing their own version of “The Bad Touch” by The Bloodhound gang. Random, I know.

Have you experienced Burrito & Bad Touch? Free Music Fridays definitely bring the unexpected.

Saturday brought another dish to the menu. Record Store Day was all about Pie & Vinyl.

Pie & Vinyl is a record cafe in Southsea. It’s one of my favourite places, not least because they serve cordial out of tea-pots. http://www.pieandvinyl.co.uk

If you haven’t been, you should visit at your nearest opportunity.

Pie & Vinyl were running a market and music celebration down the closed off Castle Road. I dragged my brother down the M27 on the promise of music, pies and cakes (always cakes at a market) to head to the musical mecca.

We browsed the racks of records, we stuffed delicious pies in our faces and stood in the rain to watch random bands play. It was pretty damn fun. We were short on time but we managed to see a few bands. My favourite was a band I’d never heard of before this weekend.

Emptifish. Ring any bells? Me neither. Apparently they started in the 80s as a punk, surf band.

I first clocked one of them carrying the equipment to the stage through the crowd between bands. He was sharply dressed in a black suit, black sunglasses, had a 50s quiff and the fag hanging from the side of his lip never seemed to move despite his physical exertions. He was cool personified (kids, don’t smoke, it’s not cool).

They played some energetic, punk songs with great riffs and the sunglasses stayed on in spite of the onslaught of rain. Yet their demeanour stayed cool and unmoved, even when they did their ZZ Top style synchronised leg dips. I’d never heard of them, but I’d wager they have some influence on the new bands of today; I definitely was reminded of watching Slaves.

With Record Store Day done, I hope that it’s not another year before people make another trip to Pie & Vinyl. I know I’ll be back for my tipple of choice soon. And I know that I’ll be back to The Alex for some more music and food on their Free Music Fridays.

There is no excuse not to get out and support the musicians who travel around the country trying to make a living and flogging their CDs every day of the year. Patrick Craig has a money-box tin with a mouth for the slot saying “Feed me money, get a CD” (was that right? I think you have to say it with a certain rhythm – I forget, I was drunk on burrito and cordial).

Music is for life, not just for Record Store Day.

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Week fourteen – Underneath Auspicious Stars

Music is wonderful. Music is magical. Music has that unique ability to stir your heart and uplift you in ways that nothing else comes close to.

However, this emotional manipulation is is a double edged sword. Music can also drive a red-hot poker of pain through that same heart and transport you to times, memories and people that, for whatever reason, bring hidden emotions bubbling to the surface. How certain songs, riffs or even a single note can be so inextricably linked to these emotions is a mystery. Sometimes I have to ban myself from listening to certain music for my own good. And I know that I’m not alone.

This week has released the whole spectrum of musical emotions.

Unbelievably, Friday marked a year since we lost our dear friend Nick. Nick was a muso through and through. And it seems that wherever he hangs out now, he’s still looking after our musical enjoyment. On Friday, some of the greatest musicians I’ve ever seen were playing at a local pub. I’ve spoken about Willie Austen and Paul Stenton before, so I won’t go on about them too much again. Suffice it to say, they give you a god damn good night out, and a better version of ‘Hotel California’, you’d be lucky to find anywhere. (They bloody played it!)

Check them out here: http://www.willieausten.com

and here:

As we listened to this on Friday, we reminisced about Nick, how he had to sit on his hands during the guitar solo and how the fates conspired to bring us together for this occasion on this day. I’m pretty sure Nick was there, quietly air-guitarring away in the corner. Although he probably turned up half an hour later than the rest of us. But I’ll let him off this time.

Saturday brought a new day and a new hope. I was headed up to the big smoke to see a guy I’d heard of last year, JD McPherson. http://www.jdmcpherson.com

This guy’s music had me, hook, line and sinker the first time I heard “Let the Good Times Roll”. I heard it on the radio. That very moment, I remember so clearly. It was like a lightening bolt of discovery. I thought it must’ve been an old song, so I looked it up and then was surprised to find it wasn’t.

I love it when that sort of thing happens. You’re introduced to music through one song and then that one song opens up to a whole world of Rock n Roll goodness as you fall deeper down the rabbit hole. I searched out the rest of his music and loved it.

You MUST listen to at least this one song. Don’t just skip past the link; I promise you it’ll be worth it.

 

But when I saw him and his amazing band play live, I was taken to a whole new level. Man alive, that’s how you do it. They gave the Electric Ballroom in Camden a master-class in Rock n Roll. From the first note of “Bossy”, it was like I was under a musical spell. I couldn’t stop dancing (apologies to those around me that I probably knocked into, but hey, it was rammed and you couldn’t not dance, right?).

That’s the beauty of live music. That inherent need to share emotions of the moment through the music. For that moment in time, all you need to do is dance or sing along to the double bass (yes, I did that).

I might not have been in the mood to “Let the Good Times Roll” at the start of the weekend, and to be honest, the mood has long since dissipated, but for the duration of that show, I felt the boost of that positive energy.

As he sings, “I drift away, underneath auspicious stars,” you’ve got to believe that the universe has plans and ways. There must be a positive future for us all. Something good is out there, despite us not always being able to see it.

Week thirteen -Listening rather than watching

Sometimes the phrase ‘going to see’ live music is rather misleading. It always troubles me when I say I’m going to ‘see’ a band. Realistically, I’m not actually that bothered what sight reaches my eyes (unless I can travel back in time and appreciate the aesthetic pleasures of 1980s Bruce Springsteen’s arms). Gratuitous picture alert:

In fact, the majority of the shows I go to, I’m not able to see the acts anyway, such is the curse of being slight in stature. Nonetheless, I have grown to be quite adept at peeking through moving gaps in a crowd to catch flashes of a guitar or a brief glimpse of a haircut. I’m quite happy with that; it’s all about the atmosphere and music, man. If I want to watch an act in perfect vision, I can pull up YouTube in the comfort of my own home. Live music is all about the bits that you don’t ‘see’.

This week I didn’t go somewhere with a massive crowd that I had to peek through, but my vision was impaired just as much. A Saturday night at The Platform Tavern in Southampton is always a good place for live music. http://www.platformtavern.com

Saturday evening, my friend Jemma and I wandered in on a random whim. The place was busy and we snuck through to the bar area to order our blackcurrant cordials (yes, that’s how we roll at the weekend). We had no idea who the band playing were, nor did it matter. We knew that we could be assured of some quality music, no matter who was playing.

We found ourselves two tiny stools to perch on set back from the stage. We could hear the wail of the blues harmonica accompanying the requisite guitars, drums and gravelly voice. All was good in the world.

Despite our positioning towards the performance area, we couldn’t see any of the musicians. Occasionally the dancing woman in front would lean towards her partner and I’d catch a glimpse of a blazer-clad body behind the mic stand. But it really didn’t matter. We chatted, we sung along, we tapped our toes. It was familiar, warm and comforting, much like the Platform in general. The ethnic décor, the red walls, the glowing candles all combine to give me a feeling of being in a warm cocoon. With drink. And blues music.

By the time we swapped our stools for the recently vacated red Chesterfield sofa, the music and atmosphere was starting to hypnotise us. We sunk deeper into the upholstery and could see even less of the musicians. But still, the familiar blues and rock riffs kept coming.

Sometimes, it really doesn’t matter if you can see the music, only that you hear it.

So, this week, I didn’t actually see any music (only when the band passed us on the way to the bar during the break), but I heard some bloody good songs being played by some very talented musicians in a place that has atmosphere seeping out of the walls.

Who did you ‘see’ this week?

 

Week twelve – More than music

What can music do?

I’ve talked a lot during this mission about the power of music. The power music has on individuals. This week I took part, in a small way, in a project that used music for something more than just enjoyment, leisure and personal therapy.

A guy called Tom Harvey set up a project called Concert to Calais. His vision was to create a music tour from London to Calais, via some other venues. Along the way, they would collect donations to take directly to the refugee camps in Calais, and keep people’s awareness of what’s going on fresh in our collective mind. Once the pictures are relegated to the bottom of the news pile, it’s easy to forget that people are still stuck there, homeless and in need of help. Tom and his team reached Calais on Friday and did a fantastic job. Take a look at the project here:

http://www.concerttocalais.wordpress.com

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/concert-to-calais

One of the acts playing the Southampton leg was my friend Jim Chorley. http://www.jimchorley.com

He plays acoustic folk songs and is a jolly nice bloke, so of course he’d be playing and making his voice heard. He has many wonderful songs including this one that puts into words that feeling of solidarity and that drive to help those people who need it.

Jim was joined by Steve Lowis (who I’m afraid I missed) and Jess Vincent. Jess had been part of the Concert to Calais team for the whole journey. She had a very endearing manner and sang some beautiful songs including a promising folk song (alas, more verses are needed for full folk affiliation!).

It was an interesting evening. I was very tired and arrived late. The soothing, melodic music almost lulled me to sleep at points. But I was always brought back to reality by the pictures that sat behind the performers. The pictures of the camps in Calais. The pictures of the people not knowing what their future holds. One particular man stared through the camera at me. Every time I caught his gaze, I felt the tears forming. And that swelling feeling of helplessness.

I’m sat writing this on a cold, wet, windy Easter Sunday evening. I’ve got family around, I’m warm and dry and I’ve got a full belly. And all I can think of are the people who are sat in the camps in Calais, or anywhere else for that matter, where they’ve been displaced from their homes. These people are still there, every single moment we enjoy in comfort.

The Concert to Calais team did a great job, and everyone who attended and donated did something positive.

But there must be something else that we can do.

Right now, I don’t know what that is, but I have to believe there’s something.

Week eleven – Hairforce 5

Challenge: name the most entertaining band you have ever seen.

Who’ve you got? Whoever it is, I bet they’re not a patch on the band I saw last night at The Brook. http://www.the-brook.com

Yes, I’m throwing the rock gauntlet down. If you want the best night out, I suggest you channel your inner rock god and get down the front at the next Hairforce 5 show.

http://hairforce5.wix.com/dangerous-mp

Hairforce 5 are a force of nature. They explode onto the stage in a whirlwind of spandex and hairspray and power through every 80s rock song of note – and a few more gems. They have the energy of a naughty toddler.

On speed.

In a toy shop.

On Christmas Eve.

They also have the musical goods to back up their bravado. The lead guitarist more than does justice to many of the guitar solos required. I also particularly like the keyboardist.

But the main draw is Stevie Viper – the lead singer and ringmaster of this rock circus. His crazy eyes dart around the room daring you to rock harder than you ever thought possible. His links between songs are the most contrived and well-spoken and they’re a complete treat. We, the crowd, are in the palm of his hand as he calls out more and more ridiculous sounds and phrases for us to copy. And like lambs to the slaughter, we do. Because we are invested in the show and the fun of the fair. And we all bloody love him.

My dear friend Kev, a husband, a father, a professional, an upstanding member of the community, repeatedly screamed towards the stage, “I LOVE YOU!”.

That’s the power this man, and Hairforce 5 in general have over us.

Last night, I sung until my throat was raw and busted out some of my best dance moves until I sweated more than a lady should. I did all of this with some of my best friends and with a soundtrack of face-meltingly awesome music. I was ridiculously excited before they came on stage and the smile has still not left my face in their wake. You could say it was a pretty good night.

So, back to my original challenge. When was the last time you were entertained that much at a live show?

A band like Hairforce 5 appear as a jokey, tribute band on first impression, but they are, without doubt, the purveyors of the best musical night out one can imagine. You cannot fail to have a good time.

If you don’t need nothin’ but a good time, get yourself to their next show.

 

Week ten – Impromptu in-store

Today I woke up not entirely sure what the day would bring. I had to play tennis, I had to vacuum and I had to do some shopping (I know, I can hardly keep up with this fast-paced lifestyle I lead). I checked Twitter – the 21st century equivalent of perusing the papers, listening to the town crier and eavesdropping on a juicy argument all rolled into one.

One of my favourite record shops, Hundred Records in Romsey http://www.hundredrecords.com, tweeted about an in-store they had lined up for the early afternoon. They were hosting a Scottish folk group called Breabach. I’d never heard of them. A swift Google later and I had a rough idea. I decided to lessen the pain of the shopping by stopping off for a spot of folk music after tennis. The plan for the day was filling up.

I was a little late getting into Romsey and so sidled into the shop after they had begun. The five of them in the band were stood by the window and had an array of instruments between them. To be honest, being the musical ignoramus I am, I had no idea what some of the instruments were. They definitely had a spread of woodwind and string though. And boy, did that make a beautiful sound with those instruments.

I’d never really counted myself as being a Folk music fan (Mumford & Sons don’t really count do they?), but their music was like an enticing dream. They veered between foot-stomping beats that made me want to hitch up my imaginary floral skirt and swirl around to and ethereal, haunting lullabies. And the lady’s voice was so sweet, pure and full of emotion that I believed every word she sang. The fact that she sang in Gaelic and I didn’t understand the words didn’t matter.

Maybe I do like folk?

By the last song, they reckoned we were ready to face the big one. Now, what’s the closest you’ve even been to a bagpiper? Because, in that tiny shop, we were all pretty close. And it was very loud. I had no idea. The bagpiper’s cheeks kept puffing and producing this incredible sound. I’m not sure if I could listen to a whole concert of just bagpipes, but it worked well in this context. I know my limits.

I bloody love Hundred Records and I love that on any particular day, I can call in and maybe discover a new band, a new style of music or a new appreciation of the bagpipes (other Scottish instruments are available).

I wonder what the next in-store will bring?

Week nine – Unheard Voices

So, a little background. The point of this mission, when I began at the start of the year was to see more live music – at least once a week. Technically, this is not difficult. Even living in Southampton – there are lots of live music options out there. Logistically though, it sometimes proves problematic. I have things to do and people to see (is anyone buying the idea that I actually have a social life? Anyone?). And realistically, my friends and family have more commitments than I do. This means that often, alas, I am unable to find a companion to accompany me on my musical meanderings.

Now, I don’t mind going to shows on my own; sometimes I prefer it so you don’t have someone inanely chatting whist you’re trying to listen to the music – there needs to be a code of conduct (am I right?). But company is often preferable, especially if it means using the time between acts wisely to catch up with friends. These friends however, are often hard to pin down. It has progressed to the point where I throw the net as far and wide as I can. A scatter-gun approach if you will. Sometimes this approach throws up some exciting hits.

This week I was heading down to Portsmouth to The Fat Fox (good pub – strong blackcurrant cordial FYI). My friend Alistair replied to my request despite living in another country (Wales). Albeit he was down South to visit, but I’ll take that as a win. My second catch came with my cousin Karen.

I cannot express how excited I was that she was coming along with us. I love Karen. She’s lovely and we have lots in common. However, music was not necessarily one of those things (except our amazing home-made dance routines to Take That in the early 90s when she got tipsy on low alcohol wine – long story). The only bands or singers Karen had been to see all had dance routines and a shitload of sequins.

The fact that she was keen on coming to a dingy (sorry Fat Fox) pub in Pompey to see some guys playing beat up guitars made my week, nay, my year. Her new ad hoc attitude is a winner.

And she loved it.

We were there to see Tim OT http://www.timotmusic.com and Thom Worth http://www.thomworth.com. I had seen Tim twice before, so I knew he’d be good and I knew some of his songs. In fact one of his songs sums up part of the driving force behind my mission – it’s important to support those people and places that are independent. Sometimes the best places you find are those that you’d never previously heard of. And sometimes those voices that you hadn’t previously heard are the ones that ring true and strike a chord that perhaps you hadn’t even realised was there. Take a listen.

We enjoyed Thom’s music as well. Personally, I would’ve preferred a little more harmonica – one song is never enough. They were both so good that I purchased EPs from both. Support the music.

We were also there to support them in their fundraising. They were reaching the end of a tour across the whole country from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for Overcoming MS. Last time I checked, they had raised over £1,600.

http://www.justgiving.com/leapyeartour

It’s not the only time that Tim has used a guitar for the powers of good. His new video shows his 24 hour busk to raise money for Syria Relief.

A fantastic job from Tim and Thom. And a fantastic job from all the people who came out to watch them and donated. Imagine though, if more people took the chance to leave their warm, cosy living rooms and wander into a pub on a Sunday night just to see who was playing and to tap their toes. You never know what you might discover.

On our drive home after the show, Karen was so excited to have seen something different. She was already planning her next trip out with me. Maybe if I can drag one person at a time out with me, I can help to spread the joy that live music can bring.

Week eight -Amazingstoke

Take yourself back to December time. Christmas is looming.

What do you buy your nearest and dearest to celebrate the birth of Christ?

Why, music tickets of course.

I’ve taken a new route in gift-giving. Whenever possible, I give tickets to shows. After all, there are only so many jumpers and boxes of chocolates you can give. Tickets provide enjoyment way into the new year. This week was a prime example of this.

On Thursday evening, the Isham clan headed up the M3 on a group outing. We were heading to Basingstoke (Amazingstoke) http://www.anvilarts.org.uk to see The Johnny Cash Roadshow. http://www.johnnycashroadshow.com

My dad is a huge fan of The Man in Black. My uncle and my brother are partial to his dulcet tones. I too have a soft spot for the great man. There’s something about his voice and the effortless cool that he injected into every performance that I love.

So I decided to treat the gang to a trip out to see one of the best tributes to him that you can see. The Johnny Cash Roadshow had great reviews and are endorsed by the Cash family. They were certainly a fantastic show. There are so many classic songs and you can’t sit still. It was a little formal sat in effectively a lecture theatre, but I did my best seat dancing. One of my favourites was “Get Rhythm”. It is impossible to sit still during this.

 

Alas, this version of the song has more crowd participation than we saw, but nonetheless, I had a fantastic time. More importantly, the receivers of my gift tickets seemed to enjoy themselves.

I knew my dad was on form when we first took our seats. He pointed to the double bass resting on the empty stage and said “Woooah, look at the size of that guitar. Who’s big enough to play that?” My father ladies and gentlemen.

He loved the Johnny Cash part of the show. In our post-show review, he did comment that he would’ve liked a few more prison songs. He likes to think he walks on the wild side – he’s living vicariously through the former San Quentin inmate. I’ll indulge him just this once.

Dad also took an (unjustified) dislike to the lady taking on the role of the formidable June Carter Cash. I thought she was pretty good (and she had some lovely dresses) but Dad was not keen. Maybe I’ve unearthed a long standing crush on the real woman and no one can live up to her.

I, for one, loved the whole show. It was good to experience such classic music with my nearest and dearest. It was a toe-tapping spectacle. The hits kept coming. There were even a few obscurities. Any heard of a song called “Brain transplant”? No, me neither, but we were treated to it. And it was amazing!

Johnny Cash was a musical genius, a tortured soul but also a randomly funny, ironic man who never took himself too seriously. He was fantastic at whatever he did. I could listen to whatever he sings.

Watch this video, but be warned, you’ll never un-see it.

Week seven -The other club scene

Don’t get too excited. It’s not the ‘glo-sticks, whistles, neon tutus and raving it up until your chemical enhancement wears off’ clubbing scene. This scene is much more important.

This week’s post is a tad late, so apologies, but I was away from technology. I was in deepest, darkest Devon.

Well, I don’t think Plymouth quite counts as the back of beyond (they have a a drive-through Costa for heaven’s sake) but I had an enjoyable WiFi free weekend.

I was visiting my friend Holley and her husband Paul. We mooched about, we visited the ponies on Dartmoor and generally got drizzled on in Tavistock. Saturday night arrived and Holley and I were escorted into the suburb of Plympton, by Paul and his friend Phil, for our night on the tiles. After popping into the curry house for sustenance, we ventured into the Plympton Conservative Club. Paul and Phil usually use it as a starting point for their Saturday night shenanigans. A swift (cheap) pint then on to the next stop. But we were there for a longer stop to enjoy the live music.

Now, it would be very easy for me to be judgemental about this place.  Yes, the average age of the clientèle was way above pension age. Yes, despite the new refurb, it still looked very dated. And yes, clubs like these are the butt of many a joke. They’re not “cool”. But what is “cool”, especially in terms of live music?

That evening, a band called Java were playing. (https://www.facebook.com/JavaDuo.UK/?fref=ts) They are a duo who play covers of pop, rock and soul songs. They’re not a duo you’d expect to see together. The singer is a young lady who looks a little like Adele and has lungs that do justice to her lookalike. Her partner in crime is an older man on the guitar. Despite, the venue being a small social club in an English suburb, this fella played the guitar like he was channelling Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, and his shirt kept opening further down his chest the more effort he put in. And effort was certainly not in short supply. I think he enjoyed the act of playing as much as the crowd loved hearing them.

Everyone at the club Saturday night enjoyed themselves. As Java played the first note, the dance-floor started to fill. One particular older lady only left the dance floor for one song (a slower one didn’t suit her energetic dance style). The dance floor was full for most of the set. Everyone was there to have a good time on a Saturday night. Ladies had dressed in their finest and despite the high heels, the dancing continued.

Music is about enjoyment. As Java rolled through the classic ‘wedding band’ material of Phil Collins, Gloria Gaynor and the Motown medley, everyone was enjoying themselves. I particularly enjoyed the music.

It took me back to many Saturday nights of my youth where I, along with my brother and cousins, set up a table away from our designated adults in various social clubs. We’d slowly guzzle our lemonades, play pool and learn about the history of music from the carousel of wedding bands that would entertain the club crowd. I never really questioned how I got to know the music of the 80s, 70s and even earlier. It just seemed to be there in my conscious. But now I realise it must’ve been implanted, in part, by hearing these same songs week in and week out in the club scene.

I remember dancing on the sticky wooden floor to all these classics and dodging the dancing elbows of middle-aged women enjoying their Saturday night freedom. This is the only live music that many people enjoy. But that’s no bad thing. This is quality entertainment for all. This Saturday, as I shimmied to Queen’s “I Want To Break Free”, and watched a dance floor of people doing the same thing in front of two true entertainers putting their heart into their performance, I was reminded how important live music is. Music is vital for life.

Even if we don’t break free, just for a few hours, we can be afforded a release. And in social clubs up and down the country, hard-working bands such as Java are providing that much needed magic to set us all free.

I love clubbing.

Week six – The Art of Saturday Afternoon

Sometimes you just need a huge slab of chocolate cake, a pot of tea and a white-haired wizard noodling away on a guitar on a Saturday afternoon. Are you with me?

A few tasks to complete forced me to venture into the heaving heart of Southampton city centre this afternoon. I fought my way through crowds and dodged the increasingly icy rain.

It was not enjoyable.

Jobs done, I decided to reward myself the best way I know how: baked goods. I opted to take refuge from the winter weather in a warm cafe of some description. A conversation I had at work this week rang in my memory where a friend of mine had visited The Art House. This is a place I had been to once before many years ago. I remembered liking it and not really having any reason why I hadn’t returned.

So The Art House soon became my destination. And as soon as I entered, a warm glow took over. It’s a busy, colourful nest. Beautiful art, posters and numerous chalk boards adorn the walls. And most warmingly, there was a man singing and playing the guitar in the corner next to the shed (I love that it’s the type of establishment to have a shed – with fake grass and flowers on the roof). http://www.thearthousesouthampton.org

I ordered my tea and cake and took a seat. It was most enjoyable to just sit and not ‘have’ to do anything. All I had to do at that particular moment was enjoy the music on offer. The gentleman with the guitar was entertaining the small, yet full cafe with a range of songs. He worked his way through some old classics and some I’d never heard before. One of my favourites was when his fingers plucked at the strings in such a speedy way to create a Spanish sounding strain.

The musician had a kindly face and smiled happily between songs as the smattering of applause rang around the room. I have to admit that on a few occasions I got distracted by his shirt. He wore a stripy orange, pink, red, white and grey number that in no small part reminded me of the table cloth that forever laid on the kitchen table of my late nan and granddad’s house. And I don’t mean that to sound like a negative; I bloody loved that table cloth. And I have such strong memories connected to such a small detail.

Maybe this association is one of the reasons I felt so warm and comforted by being in The Art House. Or maybe it was the cake. Or maybe the cluttered décor surrounding me. Or maybe the soothing guitar sound.

Or most probably, it was a combination of it all. And I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon. I mustn’t leave it so long next time.