The Smith's Journal - September 2006

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Vitae Drum Circle play at Steve's Barn Party

Steve had invited folk over to his amazing barn for a party, not for any special occasion, but just to have a party. When you have a place like this, there really is no excuse not to have parties frequently. It's a 10m-long wooden barn that he has built himself over the past few years, using all traditional methods and a cruck frame made from trees he's grown himself. He has even made all his own wooden dowels to use instead of metal bolts/nails, so the whole thing is totally organic/free range, although I do hope he at least used some power tools and didn't saw everything by hand!

[ Steve's barn | Steve's barn at night | Vitae Drummers playing in Steve's barn | The lovely loft in Steve's barn | Drums in Steve's barn | Justine singing and playing in Steve's barn ]

Steve had created a pleasant space to welcome people, with a large covered dining area opposite the barn, and nice touches like a circular firepit in the meadow surrounded by a ring of mown grass and benches to sit on while pondering the flames. After supper, friends and neighbours gathered to watch Vitae Drum Circle get the timbers resonating nicely, and Steve's son, a talented guitarist, gave a well-received performance of his own songs. Finally Justine sang some of her fine songs accompanied by her guitar; she looked a picture strumming away with a host of farm implements hanging rustically on the wall behind her.


The Spider and The Worm

A slow day/month, I find myself watching a curious battle outside my window between a spider and a worm. Goodness only knows how the worm ended up caught in a spider's web on the outside of my window?! I didn't know that worms could fly, nor that spiders would eat them. ("Never eat anything bigger than your head!" - Nurse With Wound) However it happened, the tiny 1cm spider came wandering over to devour its prey, a 3cm-long pink worm writhing for its life, but held fast. My attention was no doubt aroused by their tiny shrieks of fear and terror, and I was compelled to watch this real-time wildlife documentary unfolding before me. The spider approached but suddenly shrank back in fear at the worm's no doubt hostile reaction, and ran back to the top of its web. Gathering courage, the arachnid returned to the attack, this time fending off the worm's biting jaws and making its way to attack the middle of its body. It seemed to have the better of the worm in the ensuing struggle until all the commotion and swaying about suddenly broke part of the web, causing the worm to freefall 30cm, only to be left hanging by one strong strand of silk, like some miniature bungee-jump. The spider fled to safety and eventually the dangling worm was blown onto the window frame and luckily managed to get a sucker-hold* while unhooking itself, only to then start again climbing up the window frame for another go...

* [OK, maybe if it had suckers, that implies feet/legs, so perhaps it was actually a caterpillar after all - I never was much of a naturalist.]

Stop Smoking

Slightly less trivial, I heard a very moving radio play by the late, great Ronnie Barker called "Mum", as I drove home coincidentally from the town of his birth. The play included a fine idea (I'm not sure if it was Ronnie's own, though he certainly had the genius required) to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes by one year every year. This way, anyone currently younger than fifteen now would never be allowed to get hooked on nicotine, leaving current addicts to either give up or get old, ill and increasingly more uncool, thus gradually freeing up valuable NHS resources that we all pay for in taxes. I'm pretty sure that not even tobacco tycoons would want to see their children smoking, and most smokers say they wish they'd never started.

This is a good meme - spread it widely.


Vitae Drum Circle play at The Drawing Room

The tedium was lifted slightly by another Vitae gig at The Drawing Room, an art gallery in Chesham. The event was held outdoors in the fine medieval courtyard, but the stage was only 7ft square and suspended 5ft high reachable by a ladder. After much scratching of heads I realised we'd never get our large dun duns up there, and there was barely enough room for drummers, let alone dancers. Rain threatened so we had to stay undercover somehow, and the audience was already starting to arrive, all crowding under the one gazebo where my drums were sheltering. Luckily the rain ceased, allowing us to place the duns in front of the stage, below where the djembe players were seated. For the two songs that featured dancing, Justine, Annie and Gaye had to shimmy down the ladder and strut out front, trying to stay upright on the hectic cobbled floor as they effortlessly spun through their dazzling routines. No problem! We got a good response from the packed audience, and warmed the atmosphere up nicely for the next group Zoox, who were very cool, a folk trio and then some. This was the first time I'd seen a contrabassoon being utilised anywhere outside an orchestra, and they employed it to great effect, underpinning violin, voice and drum with some nifty basslines. Top marks.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2006-09-28 - last updated 2007-06-20