Ok, TBC update first.
Well, it’s been a busy old time for The Boxwood Chessmen. We have started the second album, are rehearsing regularly at Penni’s Pink Palace, and generally having a really marvellous time together. But here’s the exciting thing. It’s been ‘Broadcast the Boxwoods’ fortnight with appearances on BBC Radio Shropshire with the terrifically gorgeous Genevieve Tudor, West Norfolk Radio with the absolutely lovely Jane Clayton and Cambridge 105 Radio with Les Ray. It was general election night before the polls had closed when we appeared on Les’s show, so we were warned not to mention the ‘elephant in the room’. I can only assume that was the reason we were moved from studio ‘B’ to studio ‘A’, but despite, or perhaps because of the blacked out windows and sound proofing, I must admit I don’t believe there really was an elephant at all, and if there was, I wonder which party it was standing for? As for Norfolk, was it us or the rainstorm that broke the internet? Thanks to Jane and the crew, and The Baroness and the Bear, with whom we shared the bill (I still say I didn’t order the extra rice) and to BBC Radio Shropshire. Genevieve, Alan and Megan were perfect hosts on the night and thanks also to one enterprising John Campbell Armer who won us the honour of playing at Shrewsbury Folk Festival on the August bank holiday weekend by contacting one of the organisers pre-broadcast. Looking forward to that one.
So, to my thought of the day.
I’ve been here in your country for some time now, and am settling into the routine at Hector’s House. It’s a far cry from my days on Whicker Island of course, where the only wireless was ‘Radio Static’ and most of the venues were within walking distance of ‘Too Many Whickers’ base camp at Alan Quay. No, here it is often a few hours drive between ‘gigs’, as I’m learning to call them, and that’s by motor vehicle for goodness sake. Still, some of the sights we see. Last fortnight, on the way to Shrewsbury with my packed lunch and the electronic tag supplied by my staff in case I become lost (they do so look after me) I spied a field full of giant moving cauliflowers, or ‘sheep’ as I believe you call them.
Anyway, last time out I promised you a potted history of The Whicker Island Republic, but I’ve realised that is not as easy as it sounds to the linear mind, for time is a flexible concept in the Isles, due to the nature of the ‘creation event’ in the South Pacific atomic tests of the 1950s at which point time, space, perception and sense of humour were all severely warped. Suffice to say Whicker Island meanders throughout the warmer regions of the world’s oceans during the day, with the odd sojourn to the Sea of Tranquillity at night, and no-one on the islands owns a wristwatch.
So really that’s about it as far as history goes. There was the ‘Great Temperate Storm’ of 1973 when the undampening field surrounding the islands developed a fault, but we don’t talk about that, it is just too traumatic. Oh, and we did have one uncivil event, ‘The Date Palm War’. Luckily the then recently agreed ban on the use of weapons grade coconuts was observed by both sides so, although it was a messy affair, especially when the dates were over ripe, it was largely casualty free. There was one unfortunate fatality, when someone fell out of a tree whilst looking for ammunition, or possibly a snack. After that we came to our senses, signed a treaty with ourselves and elected Alan Whicker lifetime El Presidente.
It was a good decision, as we knew he would have such a calming influence on us with his urbane manners and his benign but intimately probing line of questioning. He is, of course, still El Presidente, but more on that another time. Such was his influence, especially on fashion and mode of speech that in the 1960s it was hard to distinguish El Presidente from the rest of the population, and this prompted a hard hitting documentary by the infamous Monty Python team, who gave us a rare and candid glimpse into Whicker Island life at the time. Subsequently many of the islanders have moved on from the ‘Alan’ look of the ‘60s firmly forward into the ‘50s, with some of the more progressive citizens in the ‘anti-creationist’ camp even adopting an earlier ‘pseudo colonial’ style to promote the view that Whicker Island existed before the ‘Big Bang’ but was considered so ordinary that no-one noticed its existence. So, The Whicker Island Republic. ‘Created’ in the 1950s – largely still in the 1950s. And the rest is history.
Next time? Well, we’re looking forward to some ‘Carnac’ gigs in June with the big band and regrouping as the Boxwoods for a very busy July, with performances in Waltham Abbey, Ely, Hertford, Tintern, Bishop’s Stortford and Cambridge, so I will be reporting on those, and, as I’m far from my beloved home in Moonlight Bay, I shall be describing some of the places and people I have known from childhood and am missing so much. Until then…