Wednesday, 21 September 2016

He who dares!

"Today's flights are at risk, so we're advising you to get the Scillonian III to be sure of getting out here!" said the lady at Tresco Island Office. Outside the fog was slowly swallowing up the world and it had started to spit. We hung up and sighed in unison. "I can't face that boat again!" I said pleading with the bass player. "There's gotta be another way?". He called Land's End Airport but their answer was just as unhelpful. It was a flight by flight basis, they may cancel at any minute. The risk was too great. We had a gig that night for a wedding, if we didn't make it we'd let a lot of people down. Solemnly we walked to the ferry port, dreading the thought of spending 4+ hours on the 'barf bucket'. The wind had picked up and the rain splashed off the rim of my hat. We hunched our shoulders, as though that somehow makes you drier, but really it just makes you ache. "When I was on that boat the last time, if somebody had said for £250 I can make all this go away, I would have paid it!" I said as we loaded the gear into the containers. Yet here I was about to board the same boat, in a similar storm, for the
Solemn. Sombre. Soaking wet.
very same amount of money.
"Call Tresco Island one last time!" I pleaded.
The bass player wiped the rain drops off his iphone and dialed again but the message was just as urgent, 'please take the boat, the chances are your flight will be canceled!'. It was no use, we rolled our eyes and sank our soggy shoulders. Hunching them had clearly made no difference, we were as damp as a church. We sat in silence, the three of us, like schoolboys in the headmasters office. Solemn. Sombre. Soaking wet. "I'm calling Land's End one last time" I said and grabbed the phone 

"Hello, is the 11.50 flight still going ahead?"

"It is scheduled to, but it's touch and go." came the reply.
"We are playing a gig you see and we need to guarantee it!?"
"We can't guarantee at this stage. May I suggest taking the boat?"

"We get terribly sea sick, Sir, and there's white horses in the bay!"
"Yes, it'll be a rough crossing" came the reply. And then a very long pause.
"If you come now, we'll hopefully fly you out."
"Hopefully?" I said.
"Come now!" was the reply and the line went dead

What do we do? Stick or twist? This was a huge decision. If we drive to Land's End and it doesn't fly, we loose a sack of money and let down an entire wedding. We'd ruin the good rep we've built up with Tresco Island and it's a dirty black mark on our name. We'd lose friendships. We'd make a lot of people very angry. All for the sake of a tummy ache! The boat was about to sail, it was our only guaranteed passage over. Our instruments were on the boat, why weren't we!? I was bent double with indecision. I knew if we took the boat we'd see the plane fly over our heads mocking us as we wretched into our little sick bags. The plane that left 2 hours after the boat and still got there 3 hours before it! I sighed and sucked my teeth. The bass player looked like a rabbit in the headlights. The piano player laughed hysterically, and then: "He who dares, boys!". And that was that, we were running up through town towards my car, running away from the boat, recklessly, like naughty school boys from the headmaster!
'we ran recklessly!'
We piled in and drove off. Bruce Spingsteen was singing born to run on the radio. Was it a sign? And then another song with the lyrics, 'come to me, come to me', certainly that was a sign! We laughed. High on adrenaline. Carefree. We sped along the empty roads, into the deepening fog, zipping down the final hill to Land's End Airport. Needless to say, we caught the flight, he who dares, wins. Flippantly I told the nice man at reception I didn't really fancy paying the car parking charge for 3 days and so he waived it. Just like that. "He who dares boys!"

The plane took off, it wasn't full, it was quite conceivable that they were flying it just for us. The fog was so thick that we flew just above the water the whole way, getting lower and lower as it descended
upon us. We landed with a bump, skidding across the airstrip
, hearts in mouths. "We were lucky" said the bass player as we gave the pilot a round of applause. "I'm not flying back!" he shouted from the cockpit. We really were lucky. The remainder of the weekend was full of peeks and troughs. Two gigs; one to an empty room. A chauffeur driven golf-cart. Island hopping in a speedboat. A glimpse at how the 'other side' live. A party. A hangover. A skinnydip. Flight delays and I missed my dental appointment.

Back on the mainland, no rest for the wicked, we had three gigs in three days and welcomed back the guitar player and the drummer. With open arms I may add. First up; Little Orchard Festival on the BBC Introducing Stage, was a very windy affair. Nice rig, good sound but any attempts to erect a tent would result in hand-gliding into the Atlantic! The wind made the sturdy big top rattle like a snare drum. Raising a little tent would have been as much use as a ashtray on a motorbike! The next day was billed as our Farewell to Arms, our final hurrah! But it's become increasingly apparent this is no longer the case. We have a further 7 gigs booked in October, idea's for to record a homemade EP and we're in advance talks about an return to Europe in the new year. Even so, not all the fans new this, and so they apprehensively packed into the Acorn's old chapel to bid us goodnight. "Umm... we're not actually stopping anymore!" was met with loud cheers and applause and a great deal of whooping. We played to a capacity crowd and made merry long into the shoulder of the night. The next day we announced a secret gig at The Old Coastguard, we'd been billed as 'special guests' so as not to harm ticket sales the night before and the ploy had worked a treat. As we packed the gear up for a final time that weekend, we paused to reflect on the crossroads we are currently tiptoeing across. Yes, it seems this ship will continue. For now. In some form. As nice as it was to welcome back the guitar player, my oldest friend and with me, the founder of this band, it is unlikely he will commit to all of the up-coming engagements, if any. And just how available he will be in the future is unknown. Even to him. The drummer, who you may remember left the band in the summer, has returned, in some capacity at least. Warmly embraced he is too. It's been an hectic summer; despite all the uncertainty we've played 14 times since May in 4 totally different formations. 'We are the odd folk and it's true, we see green, you see blue' as the chorus begins in one of our best but least used songs. What other band calls a leaving party only to tell people there not leaving? Re-strings a mandolin with guitar strings only for them to break mid song? Risks their finances and reputation because of a tummy ache? Books a tour of The Lake District even though everyone is unavailable? Leaves a thousand pound instrument on the side of the road overnight?

Yes, myself and the bass player had loaded the gear into our separate car
s. The piano player was nowhere to be seen.
We decided to leave his keyboard and numerous plastic bags containing all his velvet jackets, food for the week and
his leads neatly on the roadside. He lived nearby. We explained what we'd done and slipped off home. The next day I bumped into the piano player on his way to work. "You'll never guess what!?" he said with a glint in his eye. "I only went and left my piano on the street last night!" My face screwed up in bewilderment. "He who dares, boys!" he said and skipped off down the road.

"He who dares, boys!"