Pedants read on. Most of my HMHB journeys take in this particular spot, so I can't really begin without making a few comments about the new-look Wakefield "Westgate" station. The parenthesis result from an anomaly following the recent investment. The platforms have been moved about fifty yards up the track, which is no problem. But more importantly the station entrance has been re-located. It is now, without doubt, no longer on Westgate, but is now on Mulberry Way. I look forward to this amendment being noted on national timetables, and station announcers up and down the land should be notified. In addition, they now have ticket barriers which do not appear to be used. If the movements of the general populace are to be controlled, then these tools of the trade need to be in operation. Otherwise you have a free for all with people going about their business as they please. I'll be surprised if there hasn't already been a letter in the Daily Mail about this obvious waste of public expenditure. One final point. There is nothing in the Costa/Subway/Greggs triumvirate that is going to keep me away from the bacon/sausage combo at Hofmanns in the middle of town. And you get a proper tea-pot and cups at The Conservatory.
Anyway, from there it was off to Birmingham. I met up with Tony at New Street station, and he drove us to Ilminster. We had a clear run on the M5, plenty of time to contemplate the relative fortunes of Birmingham City and Doncaster Rovers, flood damage, and Tony's revelation that Cow And Gate had premises in Ilminster where Cow And Gate kept their bulls, which were to play their part in the process of artificial insemination.
We arrived in Ilminster late in the afternoon, leaving enough time for a quick browse before the shops closed. Tony asked when did Optometrists replace Opticians on the high street. And why? As we tucked into fish and chips from the shop on West Street, I was unable to help him on either point. But I am happy to be informed by anyone who knows. I also took the opportunity to purchase a copy of the Chard And Ilminster News. Total silence on the gig, which is what you come to expect. But it was good to see that Sam Clark was now recovered from his ankle injury and was expected to be back in the Chard Town team against Wells City.
It didn't seem right describing the location as "Ilminster" as that is a few miles away. Ashill appears to be the nearest village. But the country lane on which The Square And Compass is located, appears to be in the hamlet of Windmill Hill. There is a windmill and a hill nearby. That was good enough for us. Tony parked partly on the road, and partly in a hedge, which is the way things are done in rural parts. The venue was a barn at the back of the pub. I would imagine they get a bit of trade with weddings, twenty-firsts, bar mitzvahs and ceilidhs. But there was also a plentiful list of bands appearing in the future, according to their listing board. Admittedly, not a lot of it was to my taste (Focus, for example), and I noticed the lack of apostrophe in Martin Turners Wishbone Ash. I would also have chosen different music on the PA. The Cotton Fields Back Home? I stopped listening.
Unusually there were two support acts. First up was a guy whose name was Oscar (although Tony thought it might have been Oliver). He started off with Fulsom Prison Blues. Did he really mean all those words? He also had a go at Dirty Old Town and then did some slide guitar. Good luck to him, but it's not quite my kind of thing.
Then it was JD Meatyard, who seem to alternate with Roja as HMHB's support. "We're a Probe Plus band," announced John to general approval. The same approval met the set as a whole. Much of it was from the excellent Northern Songs CD, such as Come Take The Ride, Standing On The Shoulders and the one about St Peter. I also picked up a bit of the lyric from HMHB's Let's Not. I would go and see this band in their own right. Tony reckoned the guitarist is a Chris Patten lookalike, and I reckon that John's glasses are going to fall off the end of his nose one day. He needs an appointment with an Optometrist.
When HMHB arrived, Nigel said "This is where I realise I've forgotten the set list." He found it eventually, and before opening up with Shit Arm, he announced "This was written by Newton Faulkner." Usual hearing problems, I'm afraid. I couldn't tell the name of the place (possibly a petrol station) mentioned in the "That's when I first said..." bit at the end of Mountain Bikes. None of the people around me could help either. The band had called at The Temple Of Harmony in Bridgwater, but they had had a row there. Nigel informed us that Ilminster had been the scene of a skirmish in the Civil War (but of course everything is relative). Ahead of Bottleneck, he said "This song is about the wettest place in Britain. Ironically it is not round here," making reference to the recent floods. Bradley Dredge was spotted in the crowd. Ilminster was the birthplace of Charles Moore, the geologist. I think he might have Googled that one. "It's not just a series of songs, is it?" he pointed out. It's difficult enough trying to pick up all the quips, but it was more difficult than usual with having a guy next to me constantly shouting for National Shite Day. He got his wish in the end, but it was worse than the Rotherham Postie with his What Did God Give Us, Neil? They must be related. Plenty of water got thrown around. Maybe there was a Christening, to add to the other ceremonials in the barn. Although I think it was one of the punters who was getting a bit tired and emotional. There were requests for Jean Genie and Eat Y'Self Fitter. That prompted Nigel to play a bit of The Fall's Fiery Jack and to talk about their legendary (my description) bassist Steve Hanley. "It needs the Hanley touch," explained Nigel, before realising that the Crossley touch would also be adequate. Ah, The Fall. For me, they have never been better than in the first half of the 1980s. Nigel described HMHB's route to the show, using the M6 Toll. They had stopped at Norton Canes services, expecting to get a complimentary coffee or something, because they had already paid at the toll booth. It never quite works like that, does it. Nigel gave us some hovercraft history. Apparently the first ever regular service was between Wallasey and Rhyl. This prompted a noisy response from Nigel/Exford who pointed out that this had a direct effect on the wading bird population in the locality. As long as we know. And there was even time for a quiz question. What is the only team in the football league which, when you write their name in capitals, does not have any curly bits on any of the letters? MILLWALL. It's always useful to know these things. Set list as follows.Shit Arm Bad Tattoo
And in the encoreFor What Is Chatteris?
There are some splendid place names down Ilminster way. Beer. Long Load. Curry Mallet. Kingsbury Episcopi. And we gave a lift to Graham and his mate to Hatch Beauchamp. This was definitely a gig to go in the same file as Roadwater. There are not many in there, admittedly. Not yet.