Light drizzle accompanies us out of Giant Wafer studios, down the gentle hill and across the tiny stone bridge of Llanbadarn Fynydd into the real world once more. I have just spent the last five days recording a new album, the first since 2015 and I feel equal measure of jubilation that it is finished and pure exhaustion. Paul is with me and two months ago it didn’t seem a bad decision to tag two dates in Newport and Glastonbury onto the end of the recording. We follow the road through densely green fields and enter valleys of equally verdant nature, the drizzle enhancing the fresh loam smell you get this time of year. We’re hanging out for a coffee and we drive through the picturesque towns of Llandrindod Wells and Builth Wells, a local butcher offering a home kill butchering service, the roads busy enough to be considered bustling in this part of the world, sleepy in most others. We don’t want to leave the guitars in the car and it barely takes a few minutes to drive through each town. On the road to Abergavenny we buckle and stop in the road side tea room of Mynydd Ddu. The café turns in unison when we enter and we instantly feel under scrutiny, the kind you get in places where they don’t see much through traffic. The ladies behind the till are friendly and refilled with coffee and the sweetest of brownies we skirt the boundaries of Abergavenny into Newport.
The show is lightly attended, Chelsea are playing Arsenal in a football final and it seems to have everyone’s attention. The Tiny Rebel tap room where we eat pizza is gearing up for the big game and it’s testament to Paul’s professionalism that as a Chelsea fan he’s happy to be away from it. It’s great to see our friends at the show and Matt from Diverse Records always puts on a nice gig. A few technical difficulties and we don’t overplay. Back at our friends Tim and Dawn’s house we eat more Pizza and I sleep the best I have slept for a week.
Tim, ever the host takes us to Tredegar House the next day and we mooch about the grounds. We hear how this used to be the estate of the Morgans, one of whom was a famous pirate. The motorways drone in the near distance. We have coffee and browse a second hand bookshop. We leave Tim and Dawn and head for the Severn Bridge and it’s a pleasant and sunny drive to Glastonbury. It feels like we’re returning to an old friend as we take the back route through sleepy hamlets and straight country roads towards the Tor which stands proud on the skyline.
We are soon crashing out in the family room the Hawthorns Hotel have provided. I feel empty and shattered and for once, in a long time, I crave to go home to my flat and shuffle about the kitchen making my own coffee and have my schedule to myself. It feels like an endurance test. We walk around Glastonbury just before sound check looking for a sausage roll for Paul. He’s got a craving but it’s late afternoon and we struggle to get a vegan pastry slice and an ice cream, which we eat outside the ruins of the abbey. It’s hot and sunny and a young girl walks past with a cheap guitar we watched her trying in the music shop further up the road. A young Indian man was trying to buy an electric guitar too using £50 notes, the owners being particularly suspect about their legitimacy. I detect their accusatory questions suggesting it’s fake money. The man is polite and I wonder if their hostility is even being picked up by him. We have coffee, it’s overpriced.
Back at the hotel we fall into talking with a man who calls himself ‘Sean of the Shed’ because he lives in a woman’s shed, which is a step from his former dodgy crime ridden campsite on the Mendips. He talks about the listed mansion house he is renovating including all the extra work they have to do because they have found a rare breed of bats in the barn. We’re soon joined by another guy who has recently returned from Rwanda. We talk briefly of the genocide there and having just read a recent article about the country I’m interested to hear if the Hutus have returned and there is a more acceptable peace there but he can’t really comment. He talks about fishermen singing in the dawn light but nothing of the horrors. Talk eventually, inevitably moves onto the earth’s chakras and we take our leave.
The gig goes well with a small but attentive audience. It’s good to see the regulars and catch up with Steve the butcher, who has now become a local parish councillor. We retire early for Glastonbury (by midnight) and are watching quiz shows on TV not soon after. We’re out on the road by 10am the next morning and it takes a gruelling six hours to drive home.