I popped over to Welwyn Garden City today – just fancied a different Sainsburys in a different town. The sun was shining, and I hadn’t been for a while, so off I span down Coopers Green Lane. Various road closures led me to choose a parking spot opposite The Doctor’s Tonic – venue for many wild and crazy gigs (though sadly not so much in recent years). Mark (Astronaut) was there immediately, grinning and plotting and shooting the breeze. It’s weird to think of Welwyn Garden City without Mark in it – so strange, in fact, that I still very much find him there, despite the truth of his untimely demise. All the charity shops are still there of course – the old vinyl awaiting Mark’s perusal. I saunter around a couple of these before deciding it’s coffee time.
The several tables and chairs that once sat outside the Waterstone’s Café are absent – which throws me for a moment, but then I spot a new café across the green with abundant outdoor seating and a cosmopolitan air – so there I stride. This new establishment is named Megan’s and seems a nice addition to the smattering of new cafes and restaurants that have popped up around Howardsgate in recent years. I take a seat in the sun and ask the magically appearing waitress for a coconut milk cortado. ‘What’s one of those?’ she replies, ‘I’m not sure we do those’. I explain the premise and she assures me she will ask their barista if she is familiar with the concoction. I steel myself for the arrival of a double macchiato or perhaps small cappuccino, but minutes later she reappears – beaming with pride – with a perfectly made cortado, complete with little foamy fern atop. It’s moments such as these that inject me with a small dose of wellbeing – all, at this moment, is just fine.
A couple of nights back Rico and I dropped by The Leslie Tate show on Radio Dacorum for a chat and a few songs. On route I stopped for a cheeky cider on Redbourn Common, just watching the swooping kite and the early evening dog-walkers – breathing in life ahead of our transmission. Mark came up in conversation that night, as well as dear Andy (our long-time friend and fiddle player), who we lost just a while before the covid world order. These folks with whom we create, debate and buzz leave something in our DNA that remains somewhere within our writing, our composition, our living – it’s a thing to cherish really. We have an interesting chat on the show and play some pretty tight duo versions of tracks we have honed on our recent Catalunya adventure. You can have a listen here.
It's been a year since we unleashed the Skull Puppets’ Hammer Man video to the world. Nick, the director, producer, camera operator (along with Ruth!), great mate, scary Hammer Man and all-round wonderful bloke has also thrown off this mortal coil in that time, which still seems somewhat unbelievable. Nick was our first audience for the Puppets as we rattled through our emerging garage-noise paeans back in Bruce’s garage and he will forever be at our shoulder. We have some new tracks on the way, and will no doubt mull another video – the bar has been set implausibly high.
There are so many sparkling stars with whom we have crafted and concocted along this meandering uncharted path, extinguished without warning or shooting out beyond sight. The dust of these heavenly souls remains in my veins – their laughter, wisdom and comfort an enduring and enlivening elixir, their presence both my melancholy and my muse – just there, stage left.