Toby came over on the Thursday night and we headed off to Brick Lane in search of music and curry. We hit Rough Trade and Toby was like a kid in a sweet shop. I got just as much fun out of digging through the shelves, reading the autographs on the ceiling and watching the other shoppers, as I did watching Toby flit from section to section with glee. The occasional, "Oh yes," and "Oh my god they've got this," gave away his delight. I didn't buy anything and Toby showed great restraint and will power and only bought what he went for which was a 7" single by what he described as a, "Welsh surf rock band."
I pointed out The Big Chill Bar next door which was our ultimate destination that night and we headed off to find Curry. Brick Lane has dozens of fine curry houses. Each proclaiming their superiority to their neighbours with newspaper clippings lovingly laminated and mounted in the windows. Each one has taken its turn to be "best, most popular, voted No1, curry of the year, chef of the year," and variations on the theme. Groups of touts hang around outside drawing your attention to the various special offers and bargaining with you on the street as to how many free drinks they will throw in or how much discount you will get if you choose their restaurant.
We were in no mood to haggle so we struck a lazy deal with what seemed to be a nice cheap place and went in. It was only when we sat down and studied the menu that we realized that the one curry that our tout had shown us at £5.25 was of course the only one priced anywhere near that and all the others were well above the average at £7.95 at least. We got up and left, much to the shock of the now half dozen touts outside. When confronted I pointed out that even with the two free beers the inflated prices were well above what we were prepared to pay and we weren't going to enjoy a meal having been tricked into eating it. I found the surprise and hurt they displayed quite touching and we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and retake our seats.....No of course we didn't. We walked a hundred yards to a place with no touts where the waiter offered us no discounts and no free beer but good food at fair prices. It was delightful food in a lovely atmosphere. We had to wait a little longer than usual for it but that's not a bad thing.
The rest of the night was spent grooving to a lovely eclectic mix of tunes chosen by friends of Mixmaster Morris, while we chatted and drank with more of the gang. The BCB always has a really friendly crowd and Thursday was no exception. I spent some time with the doorman, being entertained by a drunken reveller who was being turned away but who thought that walking round the block and coming straight back would be enough to fool the doorman into letting him in. Needless to say it wasn't.
Eventually we headed off to buy bagels then home. We had a long hard weekend ahead of us. I persuaded Toby to share a taxi rather than spend all night on buses.
In the morning I wasted time by driving to Halfords in Catford for a clutch and brake bleeding kit which they didn't have. Instead we worked out a system of press, release, pump and hold and we got the master cylinder bled with me only having to have one face full of brake fluid. The brakes are now better than they have been for decades. It is such a good feeling when you have nearly 2 tons of van with about a ton of stuff in the back, knowing that you will be able to stop or park on an incline.
Just over two hours later we were on site at Mersea Youth, for the Cosmic Puffin festival. Pip, the head of the unwelcoming committee was on us in seconds with complaints about how I was damaging the grass by driving on it. How I was supposed to get Althea into the position I had been allotted without making contact with the ground I have no idea. It wasn't long before the inevitable issues about our position and timings came up. It wasn't long before the people who were really in charge had been identified and the decision to have us shut down at 6pm had been thrown out. It wasn't much after that that I was talking to the man in charge of the site about how they have used turf that repairs itself remarkably well and the tyre marks and holes left by vehicles will be invisible in no time at all.
A general observation from my years of being involved in a huge number of and very wide variety of events, in all kinds of roles from delivery driver to DJ to lighting designer, sound man, crew boss, client, organizer...you name it, is to stay away from the short, stroppy, stressed, bossy woman with the clip-board. She is more often than not out of her depth and will only bring you grief. No amount of reason or logic will make her see the sense of your solution or indeed the madness of her own. She is not there to make the event work better or to make your part in it run more smoothly. She is there because she is bossy and bad tempered and someone has mistaken this for being able to cope with power. The best thing to do is placate her with your best forelock tugging and go and find the person who is really running things and deal directly with them.
Despite the wind, rain, mud and Toby and Dom (who was waiting for us when we arrived) being drunk as hell on gin by the time I'd got back with the willow poles, we managed to get the tents and the awning up before dark. I was quite pleased that the design for the awning which had so far just been a mental sketch worked so well. I slung ropes over the van and tied them to the chassis and attached willow poles scrounged from Will, a local oyster farmer, who uses them to mark out the oyster beds by sticking them upright in the mud, to the front edge of the huge canvas tarpaulin. When raised into position the poles bend making a nice curved opening and only needed a couple of ropes each to secure them to the floor.
We spent the next two and a half days playing music, eating home cooked Japanese and Watfordese style curry. Ramajac and Himeko came and joined us and we had the Lilac Fur Band's inaugural live jam session on the Sunday.
It wasn't a large event by any means but there were so many really nice people there. We got some great comments about our music and it was worth noting that the owners of two of the other sound systems spent quite a lot of time at ours.
Luckily I was able to take the rest of the week off work which gave me time to clean the tarp and everything else. I also got rid of a lot of junk from the garage and on finding the glass bullet shaped covers for Althea's rear lights, swapped them for the plastic flat ones she had on. The other day I bought enough green fur to finish the green bits and some outrageous, over the top long purple fur which I'm going to try on the dash. Soon I will take her up to John Warden to get the steering and exhaust problems fixed and then she will be (barring anything else turning up) pretty well finished.
Of course there will always be work to be done but the large, essential jobs are coming to an end now. I will renew my search for a bit of land somewhere where we can get together and have a party to celebrate the end of this mammoth task that is my lovely green ambulance.
Here are some photos Dom took
Some photos I took