The weekend started for me when I stopped working at around 5.30-6.00ish on Friday. Some people might have celebrated this by leaving the office, but I had other plans. With my new hiking boots to play with, and some recorded radio shows to listen to, I was happy to make my own entertainment with my headphones on. I was in the office, but I wasn't at work. I was hanging around in town simply to fill in time. I had a rehearsal in North Shields and 7.30pm and there was little point in driving home, only to have to turn the car around and drive in the opposite direction.
Playing with the hiking boots, I observed that, despite being a size smaller than my regular shoe size, they seemed to fit me comfortably. I didn't have my hiking socks to hand, so I had to assume that these boots would do the job. In any case, I was going to find out soon enough, since there was to be hikingage on the weekend and my boots and socks would be used in conjunction with my feet, whether I liked it or not. It's frequently my experience that shoes always fit perfectly in the shop, even if they prove to be cripplingly painful in real life. I thought that trying them on in the office might give me some insight into what sort of anguish might be to follow on the hiking of the weekend. In the office, the shoes felt fine.
I'm having something of a recorded radio programme listening fad at the moment. As I wrote last weekend, I was thrilled to listen to a couple of programs over the internet and had a great day listening to some live radio on the way to Scotland, coupled with episodes 1 and 2 of the latest series of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The recent purchase of the Lee and Herring DVD has provided me with hours of listening to enjoy and I'm working through the world of radio comedy. I had packed the car with episodes 3 to 6 of the aforementioned Hitchhiker's Guide programme, for my listening pleasure of the weekend. So long as the CD player continued to do the job I coerced it back into the practice of doing, I was going to be able to gorge my ears on the recorded fun.
Friday night rehearsal
I was a little worried about the rehearsal for South Pacific. Now I have the dates for the rehearsals of Guys and Dolls I can see that I'm scarcely available between now and 13th February. I do not believe in stringing anyone along and I wanted them to be clear how little of my time I could give them. I also wanted to repeat the message that they could have the rest of my time with pleasure. Despite my attempts to warn them that I might turn into a liability, they still seem to want me to be in the show and I'm still happy to do it. I'm still not certain that they know what they've let themselves in for, but if they're happy, then I'm happy.
Having said that, after a couple of brief exercises and a cup of coffee, they seemed to no longer require my presence (along with much of the rest of the male chorus) in the rehearsal and so I was on the road at 9ish to head to the weekend's festivities - it was for this car journey that I'd packed some of the listening materials. I stopped briefly at a Tesco Petrol station to by some liquid supplies and sandwiches for the journey. Then I was heading off to the Dales.
Coverdale, night 1
My journey to the designated place was conducted with relative ease. I had a map. I had a working vehicle and I had my entertainment. The CD I was listening to ran out when I hit Leyburn, and I was saving the next one for the journey home. With the arts programme playing on radio 2, I negotiated the rather snakish roads that I assumed led to my destination. Every so often, something flashed at me, filling the whole car with light. I wasn't near any speed cameras, nor was I speeding. I felt rather bemused by this until I realised that the flash was being caused by the cabin light of the car. I assumed that something was hitting the loose connection in the boot, which also relates to this light, and causing the flashing. I later discovered that the boot wasn't actually shut firmly, so it was probably the occasional bouncing of the boot lid that was buzzing me. No harm done.
At the moment that I felt that my last turn, from civilisation into some country lanes, had been a foolish one, I saw a 1 mile sign for the village I'd been aiming for. A few minutes later, I breezed into a pub and was presented with a most-welcomed pint of bitter. The weekend had started.
I think it would be foolish to attempt to give too detailed an account of the weekend. This is partly because it wouldn't read well, and partly because it's more interesting and bemusing to simply list the myriad activities that were undertaken by a group of 30-31 year old men, whose principal connection with each other was that they happened to attend the same school at some point 12 or so years ago. Not that this was the first time we'd seen each other since then. We all knew each other pretty well and the group of 5 us, who filled one of our number's family's country cottage, made for a cheerful and stimulating weekend's company.
Here are some of the things we got up to:
- Silly conversations
- Playing Top Trumps with Simpsons Top Trump cards
- Playing "Blind Ignorance", which is just "Who am I?" with card telling you who the one person who doesn't know who they are, is.
- Talking Yiddish - one of our number has become fascinated by this language
- Listening to "Meshuge Music" - a CD compiled by the Yiddish-enthusiast, of crazy tunes
- Re-listening to "Meshuge Music" while some (not me) of the folk act like total Meshugenes - don't ask - it's too hideous to explain
- Drinking wine
- ...or beer
- Hiking around the Dales - we did about three hours on Saturday and an hour or so on Sunday
- Cooking and eating Coq Au Vin with garlic bread - this was quite an exercise in culinary creation
- Eating cooked breakfasts
- Listening to more "Meshuge Music"
- Listening to "The Musical!" - everyone present had seen my show and I provided free CD's - they've got to go somehow
- Cleaning, tidying, washing up, vacuuming
- Videoing or being videoed doing some/all of the above
- Watching videos of previous times that the gang had met up
- Watching video footage of the weekend we were having... including some events which were only a few minutes old when they were watched
- Not videoing ourselves watching the video of what we'd just done... that would have been stupid
All in all, it was a load of fun. The walking was surely good for one's system. The rich food was probably equally bad for it.
The hiking boots should have destroyed my feet, but were very well behaved.
The car CD player lasted the rest of the weekend, playing me the final two episodes of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for my drive home. Following a refuelling session at my local Tesco/Petrol station, I arrived in the house with supplies for an evening meal which I'm off to prepare shortly. It won't involve the effort/artistry of the French cuisine of yesterday, but I know that my kitchen skills haven't totally deteriorated through misuse... which is nice.