From the hotel, we drove down into the city again, to The Greystones pub and, behind it, "The Backroom", the music venue.
Here, the Maidens performed to a full house. the audience enthusiastic and very appreciative. The venue has hosted many famous acts, and Judie Tzuke - one of my all-time favourites - is scheduled to play there in February. Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys, too - folky friends of StM. It's a lovely place.
Just a few days later, we were in Westcliff-on-Sea for another Said the Maiden gig. We took Jess as far as Chelmsford, home of BBC Essex where she joined Hannah and Cathy to be interviewed and to play songs from their new album, "Here's a Health".
Grace and I drove on, and listened to their radio spot sitting in a car-park in Southend. We went there in particular hoping to find somewhere to eat, but were much disappointed. And it was late November, so Southend didn't really have anything else to offer, either, apart from a gloomy view of a receding tide in the Thames estuary.
We drove on, found a decent-looking restaurant, but couldn't for the life of us find anywhere to park, drove on, found a lovely-looking pub, but found that it wasn't serving food, drove on again and found a Marston's pub that fulfilled all of our search criteria. We ate gratefully. But when we'd finished, we had a problem.
It was about 4 o'clock. We had thought that the doors would be open at the "Hoy at anchor" folk club at 7:00, but now we were told that it would be 7:30, and this added an hour to our "what to do in and around Southend for more than three hours" problem. We knew that parking might be a problem near the gig, so we drove to Westcliff and found the venue, parking almost right outside. Now what? Sit in the car for hours? See the sights of Westcliff? (almost non-existent, I'm told) Sleep?
We opted for a pub, but since I was going to be driving later, we only allowed ourselves one pint. And how long can you make one pint last? Not long. Back to the car.
Shortly after that, however, the Maidens arrived, later than they'd expected because of a coil failure in Hannah's car, but their arrival got us into the venue, which was warm and comfortable and sold decent tea and coffee. We were happy to wait. Michelle arrived not long afterwards, having had a near-death experience courtesy of an overtaking, oncoming car that forced her off the road. She needed some music to take her mind off it!
The evening was excellent, of course. It was Jess' birthday, and there was cake for all, a huge rendition of "Happy birthday to you", and a lot of fun was had by all.
The final gig of the "Here's a Health" tour was at Uxbridge Folk Club. The place was packed, the support band, "Threaded" were superb. Steve was with us again. Like us, he'd been at the Maidens' album launch gig in Camden, and was interested to see the subtle ways in which their performances had changed over the weeks. And they had!
|(Note the guest appearance of Her Majesty on the right!)|
StM were as great as always. I was amazed that they weren't all exhausted from the tour - the driving, performing, doing their day-jobs sometimes between performances. If there was any exhaustion, they didn't show it, and the audience loved them.
|The final bow of the tour!|
Now they're back to normal, whatever normal is for them! And we're back on Kantara. In the next couple of days we'll be preparing her for a winter without us, and we'll be back in St Albans for Christmas and January. While we're there, we'll be outlining our plans for 2018 - cruising alone (together!), and with friends, and with family; day trips for other friends, and zinc coating on the hull. It's a lot to hope for. This has been a very strange year, and our boating has been greatly curtailed for several reasons, but we're optimistic for the future!
Watch this space!