Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 2
From Shindig, we made our way in bright sunshine and blustery headwinds North East. Our original booking in Shepton Mallet had fallen through, so an alternative had been found at short notice. Fortunately, we have an insider at The Three Swans in Frome and they were happy to have us play in their upstairs room (not a euphemism).
The Mendips Keep On Dipping
The journey there was 39 miles, back across the Mendips. This took us through some beautiful scenery. And across a fair few hills. Whilst the Mendips are undeniably picturesque, you never quite feel you’ve conquered them. The problem is they just keep… dipping.
A notable example of this is around Bruton. This historic market town has a high street that’s really quite a challenge to scale by fully-laden bicycle. And the surrounding sharp hills and valleys are impossible to avoid if you want to get there.
The weather remained fair and many of the fields we passed were, once again, full of wild flowers. In addition to buzzards and kestrels, we saw our first red kite of the journey: always a thing of majesty and wonder. The farms, however, were of an industrial scale – something hard to sustain as we plunge ever further into environmental catastrophe.
Stopping to eat at a farm shop (oh, the hypocrisy!) we took shelter from the sun beneath some trees by a neighbouring driveway. Not wanting to repeat last year’s inadvertent trespass on my way to Shindig, we quickly moved on once we realised we were being observed. But the sandwiches were good and the shade welcome.
Cosy & Intimate
Avoiding the main road into Frome meant pedaling through the picturesque environs of Nunney. This entailed another steep descent and grueling long climb back up again. But soon we were at our overnight stopover, conveniently situated a short walk from the venue. Our hosts were very accommodating and cooked us a hearty meal before we set off.
As mentioned, this gig had been convened at short notice and was in a small room above the pub. So, the only audience were people that had been contacted directly (as opposed to captive in the bar). This made for a cosy and intimate evening. And a good opportunity to try our material unplugged.
Thought-Provoking & Melodic
Before Rob and I took the floor (to call it a stage would be something of an exaggeration), my friend and Rivers of England bandmate Rob Spalding aired a few of his latest songs. These were characteristically thoughtful, thought-provoking and melodic – and well received by all. He and Rob (the other one) spent a goodly while discussing the merits of John Martyn and alternative tunings… as the rest of us waited patiently for another song!
Meanwhile, downstairs it was kicking off. Whereas the Three Swans is normally a convivial hangout for locals, it turns out somebody from out of town was camped at the bar and had had a few too many. He was evidently holding forth in a way that was deemed unwelcome and provocative.
Blissfully unaware, we got on with singing songs about love and magic upstairs (also not a euphemism).