“I’m so stupid” proclaimed the stupid woman at the car park ticket machine. “Oh no, we are all stupid until we know better” we replied to make her feel less stupid. She finally mastered the art of scanning her National Trust membership card then stupidly left the ticket flapping in the slot of the machine. “Erm, excuse me, that needs to go in your windscreen,” “No love, it’s OK, we are not parking here.”
Our National Trust membership has, to date, been a financial loss, partly because attractions were not too plentiful from our site this last year and partly due to the occasions we would walk up some steep hill and find out the Castle was bloody ‘English Heritage’. Today we get it right and find ourselves at the entrance to Stourhead.
We didn’t really immerse ourselves in the ‘story’ of the family or the house, we never do, we love that these places exist and have a general interest at best. Many of these houses have similar stories and time lines, SPOILER ALERT, Royal bequeath, financial success, lavish balls, war hero, philanthropist, black sheep gambler and party animal, tragic fire, financial difficulties and bequeath to the National Trust. We are the ‘thick’ people you hear saying things like “We had that wallpaper in 1972,” “Who read all these books?” “Imagine polishing that lot” and “Wouldn’t want to pay the heating bills here.”
What we did like however, was the flooring. Feeling guilty about wearing out the well worn floor coverings we noted it had a slight spring to it. Turns out the whole thing is a digital image of the original floor, warts and all, including a dead fly, on a modern ‘EyeMat.’ It impressed us anyway. This distraction probably helped us to achieve a whole fifteen minutes in the house before heading for the real attraction for us, the gardens.
As we walked I impressed The Boss with my knowledge of trees. Clearly very impressed he asked if he could walk closer so the knowledge could rub off on him, he said the same about beauty, he must be after something. We spent the rest of the day saying “Walk closer” if we had anything intelligent to say.
Stourhead Gardens are beautiful and follow a simple route around a central lake. The Autumn colours on display today add to the splendour as does the occasional bright sunlight fighting to penetrate the clouds. Quite breezy so The Boss is disappointed we don’t get the amazing reflective images the lake is famed for on a breathless day… another time maybe.
His belly is complaining so we retreat to the Spread Eagle public house on the estate. As per many food establishments attached to a tourist attraction, not the best, especially when they tried to charge double on the way out.
We leave Stourhead and head for Salisbury, the venue for tonight’s entertainment. Two days ago he lifted his head from his phone, “Fancy watching Glenn Tilbrook on Thursday night?”, neither of us are Squeeze fans but both of us had ‘Up The Junction’ on purple vinyl and a greatest hits album in our collections, now sold.
No matter how hard he tries to arrive at gigs ‘just in time’ he always fails miserably and, yet again, we have hours to kill. We never know if 8pm means doors open, support act or main act start time, so turn up at 7pm ‘just in case’ for a main act that generally hits stage at 9pm. I start to ‘people watch’, my favourite past time, just as my stomach starts doing somersaults, dodgy sausage at lunchtime… who knows.
Normally, when we go to a gig by an ‘ageing’ 80s artist or band the crowd is full of balding, chubby, fifty plus men (any come to mind?). They then turn into seventeen year olds and start pogo-ing and bouncing around as the band starts up. This typically lasts till the second song when they hold their knees coughing and wheezing. Today is different, Squeeze never seemed to attract ‘that’ type of crowd. Tonight it is couples sat nicely in rows. I watch.
Three people two rows ahead, a solo person, Vanessa Feltz’s younger sister, bending the ear of her neighbour, “He point blank refused to come, well I told him, he’s not stopping me, no one stops me, if I wanna go somewhere, I go, no one’s telling me” etc, etc, etc. A grey haired middle aged couple directly to our right. Him wearing double denim with his longish hair, gelled in place. Very early date I inform The Boss, she is hanging on his every word, eyes wide with interest, we try it ourselves and just end up giggling at our mad expressions. The Boss said he also knew they weren’t in a long term relationship, “Why?” I ask, “They haven’t got their arms folded”. I look down, we start giggling again.
Two blokes directly in front of us, both with their respective other halves, start trying to out do each other with tales of what happened when his amp blew up on stage at a gig and how the other had had to use a support acts Yamaha guitar when his broke. I mean, can you imagine anything worse than a Yamaha guitar! They too, could’ve been famous, once. Who knows when in my head all my late seventies and eighties music heroes now all resemble balding, fat old men.
The support act comes on stage, we get ready to applaud politely in case she is rubbish, we are so nice. Charlie Austen, https://www.charlieaustenmusic.com/, was really, I mean ‘Really’, good. Female, singer-songwriter, good voice, no wailing, great guitar player, great songs and witty links. The sort of artist that wouldn’t go on X-Factor because they had to wear a pumpkin suit for ‘Halloween’ week…. and we say “Amen” to that. She is well received, and no pillocks talk all the way through the set. Why do people do that?
The lights go down, Glenn is coming on, just as the two empty seats in front of us become occupied by Hagrid and Madame Maxime, bloody hell. Only being a short arse, I always seem to end up behind the tallest people whenever we go to a gig. The half of the venue that is open is only half full, The Boss spies better seats and we move quickly. Why is it that some ageing artists just don’t know how to dress. Suit trousers and waistcoat fastened tightly across years of good living make him look uncomfortable. Coordinated shoes and spotty shirt, neither really worn for comfort complete the trussed up attire which is guaranteed to make him sweat as the gig kicks off.
Having seen numerous artists from ‘our past’ we still make the same mistake, we expect the 1980s person to walk out. Clearly, ageing is not their fault, it just takes your eyes and ears a while to adjust to the fact your old ‘Uncle Roy’ is up on stage singing Squeeze songs. Close your eyes and you are transported back to the eighties.
The show was at first, very disappointing, almost bad. New song followed new song, ‘Labelled With Love’ the only song we recognised in the first eight. With our favourite bands we actually prefer this approach, but tonight we are neutral fans and, very shallow, want the greatest hits. Glenn always sang with a ‘strained’ vocal style, you wonder how the throat copes. Sometimes this strain went to ’11’ and almost sounded painful, not helped as each song was delivered with closed eyes, he wasn’t quite connecting.
Then the acoustic guitar was swapped for the electric guitar and everything warmed up. The hits started to flow and us neutrals sat up. Highlights, ‘Tempted’ and (Cue our favourite pub quiz question – What time was the baby born in) ‘Up The Junction’. The Boss got to see what he describes as the best ‘Pop’ guitar solo ever in ‘Another Nail in My Heart’, go listen, so he went home happy. Ultimately, even the good stuff had us hankering for the ‘full band’ sound and it ended up a good night, rather than an amazing night. Plus, who knew Uncle Roy was so good with a guitar.
Encore done, lights go up and we get up to leave. Hips have seized, feet don’t want to work and my stomach is still churning at an alarming rate of knots, damn that sausage. We leave the auditorium and into the harsh lights of the foyer. Directly to the right of the door, sitting at the merchandise stall, is Uncle Roy.