Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Great British Rock & Blues Festival 2023

Butlins, Skegness. Friday 13-January-2023 to Monday 16-January-2023.

Our fifth and final time at this festival. We started going in 2017, there wasn't one in 2021 and we skipped 2022 as we were still a bit cautious about Covid. It turns out that the organisers are no longer going to put on this event.

A quick summary of the weekend:

Music: that’s the whole point of the weekend. The joy of discovering new bands and listening to old favourites discovered at previous events. This year‘s new discoveries were:

  • Terraplanes Blues Band
  • Ten Years After (we are a big fan of Marcus Bonfanti who is now their lead singer / guitarist)
  • The Milk Men (who could be the new Dr Feelgood)
  • Jamiah Rogers
  • Andy Taylor Band 
Full list follows.

Accommodation: forget any mental picture you might have of Hi-De-Hi style chalets. The accommodation is high standard, has a living room / kitchen and bedrooms that wouldn’t be out of place in many a hotel. We had booked gold class accommodation in the hope that some of our friends might be able to join us. As it happened neither couple were able to so we were rattling around in a three bedroom apartment.

Food: as we have done in previous years (other than the first year) we have gone for the inclusive food package - all you can eat in the Deck restaurant, I would describe the food as pub quality food, a reasonable selection to choose from. They always have a carvery, an Oriental / Indian dish, a grill bar, a fish counter, and a variety of others, so you’re never short of something to suit. We usually eat about 6:30 so there is time to finish our meal before the first act at 8 o’clock.

Audience: as previously noted, a large percentage of the audience are corpulent men with straggly beards and long grey hair, many with walking sticks. Where do they all come from? What did they do for a living? We don’t see anyone looking like that wandering around the streets of Penrith. Are they all lorry drivers?

Timetable: in previous years we have flitted around from venue to venue seeing part of an act and moving on or finding a spot and then one of us guarding the chairs while the other went to check out the competition. This year we pretty much stayed put in our chosen venue for each session.

Parkrun: the Skegness Boating Lake parkrun may have been discontinued, but Cleethorpes was only an hour's drive away, so we got up bright and early to drive up the coast. It was the last Parkrun we needed to complete our Pirates challenge: seven C's and an R and, of course, we had packed our pirates costume. We drove up and arrived just in time, throwing our coats off as they set off. 

A cup of coffee with friendly volunteers afterwards and it was back to Skeggy.

Every year I promise myself I will take my camera so I get something better than crappy iPhone pixillated images. Maybe one day.

Friday 13-January-2023.

Rebecca Downes (Centre Stage) ** Good but first act of the festival and early in the evening so lacking a bit of atmosphere. Certainly we did not enjoy her set as much as the first time we saw her in 2018.

Ten Years After ft. Marcus Bonfanti (Reds) **** Great show, especially fabulous guitar playing. The combination of Marcus Bonfanti (39) and Colin Hodgkinson (77) playing together and off each other was sublime - as if they had a joint pact with the devil.

Saturday 14-January-2023, lunchtime.

Alvin Youngblood Hart (Reds) *½ enjoyable even though we did not know any of his music and his voice was not perfect due to some lurgy.

The Stumble (Centre Stage) *** Chicago style blues, great  musicianship and soulful singing. Cannot go wrong with a ZZ Top lookalike as one of the lead guitarists, a cooler than cool dude bassist and a fantastic sax player.

Saturday 14-January-2023, evening.

Rob Tognoni (Centre Stage) * Giving him a second listen. Just like last time, an accomplished musician and band but just not my type of music. 

Terraplanes Blues Band (Hot Shots) *** Delta blues band, very good musicians: lead guitar & vocals, bass, drums and a harmonica player who looks like he has based himself on Coco Robicheaux, great music and atmosphere.

Animals & Friends (Centre Stage) **½ Enjoyed them more than last time. Only one original member now. A bit retro but excellent musicians and a great set with lots of audience participation.

The Milk Men (Centre Stage) *** Excellent energetic rocking blues from a charismatic band. Sounding like a cross between Robert Palmer and Dr. Feelgood. They just look like they are having great fun. Mostly original material but some excellent covers: Oh Well, Pinball Wizard and Doctor Doctor. 

Sunday 15-January-2023, lunchtime.

Blue Nation (Centre Stage) ** Rock. Only heard a bit of one song but liked what I heard. 

Sad Cafe (Centre Stage) * Rock. Good tight band, not sure about the lead singer's voice on the more raucous numbers.

Chicago Blues Legends ***

  • Jamiah Rogers, right (guitar, vocals) - fantastic young man, one to watch
  • John Primer, centre (guitar) - new to us, great old bluesman
  • Billy Branch, right (harp aka harmonica) - as good as ever

Sunday 15-January-2023, evening.

Willie & The Bandits (Centre Stage) *** Accomplished band, good lead singer / guitarist / weissenborn player. Play a variety of styles including blues and rock. 

Climax Blues Band (Centre Stage) **½ Lively, enjoyable but not as impactful as last time. Sound in venue not great and not sure about the sax player they had with them this time. 

Don Martin (Hot Shots) ** Enjoyable singer-songwriter, quite intense, only stayed a short time due to conversation levels.

Andy Taylor Band (Reds) *** Great rock band from Orkney! Strong lead singer / guitarist.

Sadly the last Great British Rock & Blues Festival so next year we may opt for somewhere a little warmer and find ourselves some winter sun. 

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Parkrun Tourism Part 06 - 2022

All over the place. 2022.

A busy year added 14 more venues in 2022 (showing location, date, my time and number of participants) bringing my total to 43 unique locations and Mary's to 37.

  • Rothay Park (Mark only)
  • Talkin Tarn
  • Mura di Lucca
  • Keswick
  • Queen's Glasgow
  • Holyrood (Mary only)
  • Milano Nord
  • Ayr
  • Fell Foot
  • Clapham Common (Mary's first time)
  • Erskine Waterfront
  • Chopwell Wood
  • Carlisle
  • Windy Nook
  • Rothay Park (Mary's first time)

As we are opportunistic parkrun tourists we add new locations on a gradual basis. Spending six months in Italy limits our touristing opportunities unless we make a specific decision to join those more dedicated souls who plan trips specifically to tick off a new parkrun.

Rothay Park. 01/01/2022. 30:10 [67 / 123]

Only my second ever New Year's Day parkrun. We were staying in our timeshare in Ambleside; we have the New Year week in one of the apartments. It was another opportunity to escape the building site that is Penrith Money Pit II.

Came first in my age group which usually means *only one* in my age group but not today, one of four, even though I was just over 30min. My 111th parkrun and 31st different location. And my fastest time this year! No Mary because of a dodgy knee.

A very convoluted course where marshals are essential "Thank you, Marshall!".

Talkin Tarn Country Park. 19/03/2022. 29:43 [72 / 131]

A new local parkrun but we resisted the temptation to go to their inaugural. Instead we waited until Eden Runners nominated this date at Penrith to be one of their championship parkruns. That means lots of speedy runners at Penrith and a sense of courtesy to keep off the path for the benefit of those more competitive spirits. So escape the febrile atmosphere we went off to Talkin Tarn with friends Nigel, Siobhan, Sarah and Andrew (the latter two not pictured).

It is a very lovely venue, one of the most beautiful of all the locations we have done so far.

A mixture of lakeside path, grass paths and woodland.

A two-lapper. The start is a bit congested and over tree roots then it settles down. The home straight is also through woodlands.

The cafe does a parkrun special of a cuppa and a bacon and sausage buttie for a fiver (coffee and bacon-only options available). Excellent!

Conwy. 20/04/2022. 29:40 [98 / 163]

We had a week's walking holiday planned in North Wales walking part of the Wales Coast Path. Of course we checked out the nearest parkrun and Conwy was really close - close enough that we could do the parkrun, got back to the rented cottage for breakfast and still have time to drive down to Surrey for a friend's twice postponed 70th birthday party. 

The course is a scenic out and back along the estuary with a detour on the outbound leg up towards Conwy Castle. A bit wet with puddles from recent rain but only a slight drizzle on the day. 

Mura di Lucca. 25/06/2022. 29:15 [32 / 53]

We finally crossed the line between opportunistic parkrun tourist to intentional tourist. Until this occasion we have only done parkruns when we have been away on a trip and there is a parkrun within reasonable distance (plus some close to home). That has changed. We planned this weekend away specifically to do the unique Mura di Lucca parkrun. It also gave us the chance to visit this unique town and spend time with friends of friends who live there.

Mary volunteered to be Camminatora di Coda. They offered her the English Tail Walker vest but she insisted on the Italian version as she thinks it sounds so much better!

The course is around the town walls which are only 4.5 km round so the course starts clockwise with a short out and back around the first bastion and then does a single anti-clockwise circuit of the walls. It is a very scenic parkrun with beautiful views of the city and countryside with lots of shade from the trees lining the path.

For a full report see Mura di Lucca parkrun #116.

Keswick. 06/08/2022. 28:57 [179 / 278]

Originally Mary had thought of spending Friday in York doing the tourist thing followed by York parkrun on the Saturday morning. When she investigated the cost of accommodation the prices were ludicrous, presumably because it was still peak holiday season. Decided to save York for an off-season visit and devised an alternative plan. Ran our NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet) at Keswick, event #355.  

A level, scenic, out-and-back along a disused railway track starting from the old railway station. It goes through a train tunnel both ways and a "Whoo-Whoo!" is de rigueur. Then back home for a shower and the long trek south for a lovely evening with our friends Christine and Paul in Letchworth. For the full story see Bingley Weekender. 2022

Queens, Glasgow. 13/08/2022. 31:05 [93 / 123]

Bagged a "Q" and some good hill training this week. Despite Sandra claiming to be out of practice, Mary couldn't keep up with her wee sister!

A very Scottish notice:

The course has three hills and it is a three-lapper so that is a lot of ascent!

Saturday night was a meal with Sandra and George. On Sunday we met up with old friends Geraldine and Alisdair for a leisurely Sunday lunch in central Glasgow then home by train.

Holyrood. 20/08/2022. Mary’s result: 46:25 [483 / 497]

We had tickets for a dance performance of Hamlet narrated by Sir Ian McKellen as part of the Edinburgh fringe. Naturally a hotel was booked for two nights so we could do a parkrun. Then on the Monday before feeling a bit rough I tested positive for Covid. "Oh, bugger!" Banished to the top floor as an impromptu isolation ward. Not to waste the non-refundable hotel booking and theatre ticket Mary went up to Edinburgh on her own.

Waiting for Hamlet.

A new-ish parkrun, only at event number 6. A large crowd, probably due to the time of year, and an impressive number of volunteers.

Lovely one lap course starting with one long uphill and a couple of brutal wind tunnels and then great views over Edinburgh and a long downhill.

Salento. 24/09/2022. 30:15 [16 / 26]

Not a tourist event but worthy of inclusion because it was Mary's 100th parkwalk, Salento's 150th event, two regulars' 50th's and my first as VM70-74. It was a good turn out for the occasion.

A number of friends were over from Penrith and we made sure we all packed our Eden Runners vests for "ER on Tour".

There was lots of cake and prosecco!

Salento parkwalk. 01/10/2022.

Again not a tourist event but a notable occasion. Mary is a keen parkwalker and was delighted to get to wear the blue tabard on October 1st, the first day of the parkwalk promotion.

Milano Nord. 08/10/2022. 29:07 [65 / 100]

The motivation to visit Milan wasn't just to do parkrun tourism but visit my nephew, Lorenzo, his mother, Francesca, and his nonna, Carla. Also my cyber-friend Roberta who I originally met online through our mutual liking for Marc Bolan and T.Rex but since met several times in real life. 

Saturday morning it was a short Metro ride north to the Parco Nord Milano where we picked up a couple of lost English parkrun tourists and guided them in thanks to the CityMapper app which now includes a number of important cities as well as London. There were a fair number of visitors from various parts of the globe.

A two lap flat course through a lovely wooded park. Really friendly volunteers and a lovely cafe for coffee and cake afterwards.

For a full report of the weekend see Milano October 2022.

Ayr. 22/10/2022. 32:05 [40 / 87]

We went to Glasgow to see Ben Monteith at Room 2 so made a weekend by staying with Mary's sister, Sandra. Obviously an opportunity for some parkrun tourism. We set an alarm a little bit earlier so we could drive down to the coast for Ayr parkrun this helping us with a number of parkrun challenges, most notably the alphabet as we were missing an A. 

Usually on the 22nd, aka two-two, a number of parkrunners wear tu-tu’s. The people at Ayr hadn't got the memo so we three were the only ones participating however we did get a lot of compliments.

The course is very much a trail course and very wet and muddy it was too as it rained non-stop. Afterwards it was back to Sandra and George's for a much needed shower and lunch. Then a drive home to Penrith followed by a short siesta and then out for a Mexican meal at Salsa to catch up with all our friends.

Gig report: Ben Monteith at Room 2.

Fell Foot. 05/11/2022. 32:03 [122 / 161]

Mary's aunt Avril had signed up for parkrun but she had not yet done her inaugural run. As she lives in Kendal it was easy enough to drive down, pick her up and drive across to Fell Foot. It was a bit of a damp day so Mary's new trail shoes bought after the quagmire that was Ayr were getting a good test run.

It is a bit of a convoluted two-and-a-half lap course but, as always, the marshals kept us on track. This was the last occasion when they use their summer course. If we had come a week later it would have been the winter course, a five-lapper - not my idea of fun.

Clapham Common. 12/11/2022. 30:44 [553 / 712]

Mary's first time at this event as part of synchronising our locations (I did this event in 2019). A real treat to have a dry parkrun. Another C for her Pirates challenge (7 C's and an R). . 

A very simple two-lapper on paths.

Erskine Waterfront. 19/11/2022. 29:16 [159 / 267]

Mary's sister Sandra was persuaded to sign up for parkrun and has now got the bug. Her home parkrun was Linwood but when perusing the map to decide which local event to go to she spotted that a new Erksine Waterfront parkrun even closer to her home was due to start that week. 

We could not miss the chance to get an inaugural run so we dumped our previous plan and went to visit Sandra. A nice meal the night before and an easy five minute drive. Unsurprisingly, despite the lack of advertising that is normal for inaugurals to prevent overcrowding, there was a fair turnout.

A beautiful setting along the riverfront. Sandra coming in for the finish.

The course is an out and back back, twice which means at some points there are four sets of people running along a fairly narrow path. It was definitely a case of keep left. I guess following parkruns will not be as busy and it won’t be such a problem. 

Chopwell Wood. 26/11/2022. 31:32 [36 / 54]

We had tickets to see Martin Harley at Cluny 2 in Newcastle on the Sunday so naturally we made a weekend of it and squeezed in another C for our pirates challenge.

A lovely, woodland, single lap course but with some uphills.

Carlisle. 03/12/2022. 31:24 [110 / 175]

The original plan had been to complete our Pirates challenge at our NENDY of Carlisle on Christmas Day but with a friend visiting we decided to bring Carlisle forward and make this our Penultimate "C" with our friend Andrea completing her first ever parkrun.  

All on tarmac with a bit of a hill, now on their winter course of 5 laps. Nice park, very friendly, great cafe for coffee and bacon rolls afterwards.

Windy Nook. 10/12/2022. 32:27 [36 / 47]

The original plan had been to do some Christmas shopping at Gateshead Metro, stay overnight, do Gateshead parkrun on the Saturday and then head back home. The weather had other ideas as the icy conditions meant that large numbers of parkrun is in the north-east were cancelling; the map look like an outbreak of measles. 

We had resigned ourselves to no parkrun but Windy Nook continued to show as going ahead. It was pretty close so we checked again over breakfast and headed off to this small and very friendly course.

Basically a two-lapper with a small side branch on the first lap to make up the full 5K. It was mostly grass or gravel which were runnable despite the frost. Some of the most friendly and entheusiastic volunteers so we intend to go back.

Cheltenham. 17/12/2022. Cancelled

We were on our way to Cheltenham breaking our journey with friends Grant and Helen in the South Lakes. We had our pirates outfits all ready packed. We foolishly followed the sat-nav down some icy minor country lanes and got stuck. Fortunately we were almost at our friends' place so Grant came out in his four-wheel drive car and rescued us with a bucket of grit. We made it back to more major roads for a night with them. However we decided to abandon the rest of the trip and go home the next morning. Just as well as our friends' village was very icy and the Cheltenham parkrun was cancelled. 

Rothay Park. 31/12/2022. 30:42 [91 / 131]

How satisfyingly tidy and symmetrical to have done both New Year's Day and New Year's Eve at the same parkrun in the same year. We were at Rothay Park for New Year's Eve which is walking distance from our timeshare in Ambleside. It will be Mary's first visit but I did it on New Year's Day while Mary was resting with injury. 

I was hoping for first in my age group but they have a local runner who beat me by just over a minute to push me into second place of five in VM70-74. My 157th parkrun and ending the year on 43 different locations.

Three and a bit laps, flat and very muddy but fun! Lots of tourists, great crowd of volunteers, coffee and cake afterwards from the Hairy Collie van, complete with the eponymous dog!

In Conclusion

That is it for 2022. 

Bring on 2023 which will see completion of our Pirates, more of the Alphabet and who knows what else?