18 November 2008

Road to Kingdom Come

An overnight flight from Miami via Dulles, landing at about 0620, is not the best preparation for a morning spent visiting the Renault F1 factory and an evening at Nettlebed Folk Club. Still, sometimes it has to be done.

To see F1 cars being laid down in carbon fibre and aluminium honeycomb, and to see the way in which the components are created and the whole thing put together, is fascinating. A look at the 1980s cars on display in the factory's collection (not though the 1977 car, whose debut I saw at Silverstone, Renault's first grand prix since about 1904) shows the difference: they are made from sheets of metal held together by rivets, like the BRM P160 and other cars of the same vintage that I saw close-up at Silverstone at a historic race meeting a couple of years ago. I prefer to think of F1 cars as being artisan-built, and was pleased to see that the modern examples of the breed are still hand-built to a degree, for instance the exhaust systems we saw being assembled, and welded together, from lengths of pipe made from metal the thickness of a Coca Cola can (but rather stronger, and able to withstand red hot conditions).

I survived that challenge to my jet-lagged condition, even though the coffee machine was happiest pumping out untainted steamed milk rather than cappuccini (something ironic about a machine in such a temple of engineering excellence failing to do its job - Ferrari might not be able to get fuel into a car at a pitstop without running into trouble, but I bet they have the coffee supply in the factory sorted.)

Then, after an afternoon dozing over work that needed to be done, to Nettlebed, to see The Gathering: Ray Jackson, Jerry Donahue (and his daughter, Kathryn), Clive Bunker, not Rick Kemp but Matt Pegg instead (and his father, playing the same venue next Monday, in the audience), and Doug Morter. Four Lindisfarne classics - a grey-haired, moustache-less Jacka was very much the front man - which I never thought I'd hear performed again: Meet me on the Corner, Road to Kingdom Come, Lady Eleanor, and Rabbie Noakes's Together Forever. Perhaps some later Lindisfarne material too, but if so I didn't know it. A Fotheringay piece, Gypsy Davey, and one from one of Sandy's solo albums ("I Wish I Was a Fool For You (For Shame of Doing Wrong)", written by RT). Then there was Jacka's medley of north-eastern folk tunes, the sort of thing he would have incorporated in We Can Swing Together when Lindisfarne were at their height, and his rendition of the Newcastle Brown Ale song that he said he'd had to do every night years ago as part of the band's sponsorship deal (a crate of beer to drink in the van after the gig). Several other excellent things, too, which were newer to me. I dozed off while the support act was on (though I did enjoy what I heard), but nothing could have made my attention drop while The Gathering ("Legends of Folk Rock") were playing.

The jetlag seems to have passed today, too.

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