I have got to admit that I am still reeling from the experience of a sensational performance by the incomparable godfather of grunge Neil Young a few weeks ago at the Hop Farm Open Air Festival in Kent. Verily for over forty years he has written and sung the words between the lines of age. Typically for the Garden of England, and for Neil’s rare outdoor appearances in the Albion, it was raining practically the whole day. Ella and I were attending at the kind invitation of the Davises of Paddock Wood and in the company of various Gardners and more than 30,000 others. Of the also-rans I enjoyed the Guillemots the most but there were several others: Primal Scream (on an ill-advised comeback), Supergrass (OK), My Morning Jacket (rocked), Laura Marling (good, but she kept on apologising for the weather – and she’s from Reading so she ought to know better), Rufus Wainwright (who sang Halleluyah, making me think about how well Jeff Buckley sang it), Everest (a promising LA alt-country band) but frankly everything and everyone paled into insignificance when Neil stalked onto the stage. (Thank goodness he didn’t call out “Hello, Paddock Wood!”). What followed was a roaring, boiling mass of feedback and metal as he raged over a 40-year back catalogue (that I am afraid I knew comprehensively, singing all the words to every song he sang) while the rain and wind lashed the unsponsored stage. He kicked off with a song that had more energy than Primal Scream’s encore half an hour earlier, and two and and a quarter hours later he ended with a version of the Beatles’ A Day in the Life that saw him scraping Old Black, his Les Paul guitar, violently on the floorboards to drag out even more feedback for the famous climax, breaking all the strings before he stormed black-browed off the stage. As one witness put it in a post-concert blog: “Punk still lives! It’s 62 years old and its name is Neil Young!”
Much of the month was disappointing as far as the weather was concerned, and the early weekends were truly dismal, with autumnal rain, flash floods and Biblical storms. By the second half of the month, and we were all contemplating happily our treasured annual family visit to La Hune in profoundest France. Alli, Ella and Gwen left on the 21st to join the Luxembourg Miles family who arrived there on the same day. Jessie and I are due to travel there tomorrow. Jessie has spent most of the month working in a holiday job at my company. She was paid well and by the clock for whatever she did, which somehow seemed to include a lot of Spanish schoolwork. Ella spent some days in England, staying at her grandparents, visiting some of her friends, visiting her old school and buying herself a new guitar and tennis racquet for her 15th birthday on the 20th. Her Middle Years Program Project is now truly under way. She will be reinterpreting songs which are better known for the music than their words. It’s an interesting choice, and she will be performing the reinterpretations (designed to ensure that the words are heard) at the school next year. Her birthday featured a meal on Saturday night at Papa Joe’s in Barfusserplatz and an overnight stay of those of her friends still around to celebrate with her. We then had a family dinner together with her also at Papa Joe’s on the Sunday evening. Basel seems almost emptied these days, especially of the Swiss, whose schools recommence in some areas as early as the second week of August.
We said goodbye to our neighbours Tim and Yvonne and their children Jessie and Clayr as they left Oberwil, Basel for Boulder, Colorado after five years – four as our neighbours with shared garden and, as it sometimes seemed, shared children. They were huge friends to us and the very best of neighbours, always helpful and considerate and tolerant (a particularly important characteristic in the Stanbrook family book of all-time best mates), personifying the phrase “always there for us”, going many measures beyond the proverbial cup of sugar; helping us even on the very weekend they left, as I struggled over the disassembly then re-assembly of furniture that they had bequeathed to us.
with spanners in the works
Grunge Contemplating Disassembly