To Durham

Just three of us sit in the little van taking us south from dreich Glasgow to (possibly) sunny Durham. I disconsolately cast my eyes over the bleak landscape of southern Scotland and wonder what makes it so different from similar American terrain. I realise the main missing visual element is the billboard. You can be in the middle of seemingly endless wilderness in the States but there will always be a billboard along in a few minutes trying to drag you off the interstate into a one horse stop with some gas pumps and a shelf full of poisonous snacks. That’s why Hawaii feels so un-American. They banned billboards there. You should visit. The greens are different too, of course. The grasses of Northern Europe are just that bit more vivid. Their brightnesses always surprises you after a month across the pond. America at its most verdant is just that little bit darker, more brown. It’s like there’s more dust nearby. Here, it’s like there’s more sea.

After eating little since my return I realise I am suddenly hungry and regret not making van sandwiches. I will have to take my chances at a pit stop. We turn off the motorway to head southeast on the A road to Durham. You can see emerald meadows, some spotted with radiant yellow, buttercups or rape I can’t tell. The terrain is pretty flat broken by mature copses struggling into leaf. Lambs huddle close to their mothers in the drizzle enclosed by low lying drystone walls. Everything looks mossy and furred with new growth. It’s an English idyll. If you can keep from your mind the certain fact that most of the badgers, hedgehogs and voles around here voted Brexit you could call it Avalon.

We drive straight onto site without a stop and survey the tattered battlefield of Northern Kin Festival. The site has seen better days, namely yesterday, when the sun shone and the kinfolk surely revelled in comfort and celebration. Today we bring the mizzle from the further north and crowd and crew alike look a tad weather beaten and hungover. Our dressing room is a marquee sort of arrangement and we all suddenly realise we’re going to be cold. We layer up as best we can and prepare ourselves for manipulating our instruments with cold digits. The charming Bernie Marsden pops in for a chat. He tries to encourage me that it’s warmer on stage but I’m not entirely convinced. Either way, it is a beautiful rarity to meet such a gentleman.

Suddenly we’re on. Into the unknown, into the breach. If there was not a breach before we’ll make one. We lose 25 members of the room around half way through. Those that remain I’m profusely grateful for. I tell them. Thank you for remaining. Thank you for your faith.

Thank you for bothering to try to understand.

They’re fabulous.