Bob kayak boB in Widdington.
The Lodge Porter hosted a packed press conference on Saturday morning. Brevity being his by-word, he opened with “Any questions?”
Anne tennA (Audley End Gazelle) asked if it was true that ElkFest 2015 was cancelled to allow the land to recover. “No, it was for tacks reasons”, replied the Lodge. There was a global blu-tack shortage last year, he explained, and ElkFest can’t rely on cardboard, sellotape and string alone to ensure health and safety.
Nigel legiN (Newport Gnus) was keen to find out if there had been any improvements since 2014. “It’s the year of the gazebo”, retorted the Lodge, pointing to the renovated and relocated refreshments area, and the impressively enhanced technical zone.
Noskir eriksoN (foreign correspondent for the Scandinavian Smorgasbord of Newts) said his readers wanted to know how many roadies it takes to change a light bulb. “None,” said the Lodge, “it’s the responsibility of the lighting engineer.”
“What are you looking forward to most, Lodge?” I asked. He pondered for a while, gazed into space, and simply said: “Watch the sky”.
As the rest of the press entourage retired to the revitalised refreshments room, I followed the Lodge’s wise words, looked skywards, and witnessed the setting of twin suns. This is going to be a good Elk, I thought.
Resplendent in his traditional white coat and cat flap, the Lodge kicked off proceedings with a rousing speech, welcoming festal virgins and veterans with equal measure; a fifth of a gill each, if I recall correctly. As the Lodge rested on Hannibal the Lectern, I wondered if he’d mention that Hannibal had been given listed status, but he didn’t. I asked him later if he’d forgotten to mention it, but he simply commented that Hannibal had been leaning to one side for years – it’s what he does, he shrugged.
BAT CARE TIME
With the Mitchell, the traditional MC, unavoidably elsewhere, Clive and Phil were invited to fill his shoes and oversee the cabaret. It was fortunate that the Mitchell had forgotten to take his shoes home after ElkFest 2014 and even more fortuitous that they fitted both of the MCs. However, with four feet and only one pair of shoes, the constant change of footwear did slow down the proceedings somewhat.
Clive kicked off his MC’s shoes and the cabaret, delivering what can only be described as a tribute to the much missed Doctor Philip Bailey lectures. I must confess that a great deal of the details, regarding hitherto unknown scientific evidence of Elk ancestry, went over my head, but I did spot the archaeologists in the audience taking copious notes throughout.
Colin was forced to go solo this year, when Anne tested positive for having nothing to say in the routine. Despite this setback, Colin performed a master class in the use of post-it notes and page turning. He even found time to inject some of his special thoughts into the act.
Sean, a Festal Virgin from Leeds (via St Albans), introduced us into the art of multi-tasking. Armed with only an iPhone and a modicum of ale, he demonstrated how it’s possible to text, send and receive emails, and simultaneously recite poetry; the latter being a finely honed and touching poem about his grandmother.
Alfa and 3 others cajoled the Lodge to provide a fifth voice to their barber shop quintet. (Not sure why – they already had four highly tuned vocalists to perform the act, so why introduce a fifth, which all four of the three goatees would no doubt question). But it was brief, to the point and suitably absurd; a piece of ElkFest cabaret magic. I do believe they may have found the missing chord.
Malcolm the Minstrel made light of only having twenty minutes to prepare for his debut at the ElkFest cabaret. (Gary had fallen into the same trap in 2011, when Lorraine convinced him he could only attend ElkFest if he agreed to perform. Perform he did, only to find himself banned from future ElkFests for overrunning his sound check). No such problems for Malcolm, who waved the sound check and sang with aplomb – not sure what a plomb is, but it sounded good to me.
Then Alfa was back on the stage to regale us with his “Tales from the Asylum”, but this proved to be an act of deception, as he heart-warmingly thanked the Lodge for staging this epic event. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, despite the lack of rain.
As has become tradition, it fell to the Three Goatees to close the cabaret. I am often confused as to how many goatees there are. Sometimes it’s two, sometimes three, and sometimes four. On this occasion it was three, as the fourth goatee, Chris, was still recovering from ElkFest 2014. Their rendition of “Walking in the rain”, didn’t steal the show, but borrowed it. The Lodge is hoping they will give it back before 2017.
PLAYTIME AT THE LODGE
This year’s radio play was entitled “The Elk Files”; an intriguing tale concerning what might be hidden in Area 51. The Elk Files, now owned by the British, were despatched to find out, but would the CIA and the President stop them?
As ever, the Lodge Porter provided a masterful narration, with his strict adherence to the script and his perfect comic timing. Alas, he’d not been given anything funny to say, so the latter failed to make any lasting resonance.
Mike, as Sven on the sound effects, was the consummate professional, pressing nearly all the right buttons at nearly all the right times. Unfortunately, some of the buttons didn’t work, so other members of the cast were called upon to improvise and fill in the gaps; notably an interesting “warehouse door” from Clive and an impressively elongated “crank” from Jemma.
Doctor Philip Bailey, buoyed by his recent success as the cabaret’s co-host, excelled with a dual role as a snarling car rental salesman and as George Cowley (head of CI5 and now the Elk Files as well). The former role was truly scary and his Scottish accent, as George, transported us to the Glens in an instant.
Sue and Dave played agents Scully and Mulder, respectively and respectfully, (although there was some doubt as to Mulder’s real name during the unfolding tale; indeed, Mulder seemed to be confused as to his true identity). It was a fine performance from Sue, particularly during the car door slamming scene. I’m fairly sure that car door slamming after 9 pm is a criminal offence in the UK, so it’s just as well that the scene was set in America.
Jemma, as Sam (head of the CIA), raised a laugh when she explained that the President (played by Clive) didn’t have nuclear launch codes – he had lunch codes. But the biggest laugh of the evening was when Sam suggested that people didn’t think that the President spoke the same language as them. “To which I always reply ‘Au contraire’, said the President”. President Obama did actually say that, so maybe fact is not only stranger than fiction, but funnier too.
So, what was hidden in Area 51, you might ask? I’m still not sure: A cover up of the first moon landing being a fake, a cover up of the first moon landing being real, or an elaborate double-pronged conspiracy to throw people off the scent – that Area 51 does indeed contain evidence of alien life? I’ve no idea, but I could hazard a guess as to what Mulder might say: “I spy with my little eye ... something beginning with A L.”
WASH DON’S MICRO
Over the years we’ve grown accustomed to line-up changes in Crimson Shadow. Vocalists, guitarists and keyboard players come and go, but the band keeps on going and keeps on coming back.
With the previous lead vocalist, Kate, relocating to Liverpool, where I hear there’s a vibrant music scene, filled with modern beat combos, Cathy stepped up to the microphone. The rest of the line-up remained unchanged.
Richie on bass and Paul on drums laid down some groovy rhythms, notably on Shove Lack, Richard and Mark interweaved guitar riffs and chords with aplomb, particularly on Flay that Punky Music (although it could have been with plectrums, rather than plombs), and Ursula added some fine keyboards, including a killer Hammond solo in one of the Broody Bothers tracks.
The invigorating set was not without incident however. In very Keith Moon style, Paul decided to trash his bass drum skin early in proceedings. The drum roadie rushed to make repairs. He obviously has Blue Peter experience, as his use of sticky-backed plastic was par excellence, as the President might say. (I must admit that Paul’s drum roadie bears an uncanny likeness to Paul and both of them bear an uncanny likeness to the Lodge Porter).
I mentioned this to the off-stage sound engineer, Clive, who has an uncanny likeness to the senior lighting engineer (Clive), but he simply referred me to his twin brother, also called Clive, who referred me to Clive (designation – classified), who referred me to the official secrets act (called Clive). Fearing extraordinary rendition, I signed the documents and can say no more on the subject.
In the meantime (or “meanwhile” as the Lodge would say), Crimson Shadow were playing encores. I particularly enjoyed 500 miles, although if they walked 500 miles and 500 more and headed south, that would place them somewhere in Spain.
The surreal breakfast is not to be missed and Doctor Philip Bailey was on hand to provide food for thought. If you had an old camera, he mused, would it take pictures of the past?
And with that hanging in the air, the Lodge Porter dusted off his old box brownie and took a few snaps. The negatives haven’t been developed yet, but I’m guessing they’ll show pictures from the 1960’s. There was a lot of peace and love in that decade and there was certainly a whole lot of peace and love at ElkFest 2016.
“I remember when this was all fields,” said Phil. “It still is,” said the Lodge, pointing to the empty fields.
The camp site was bereft of tents; no evidence of the throngs remained. Was it a good Elk, I asked. It was the best of Elks, Lodge replied. Can’t argue with that, I said ... see you next year.
ElkFest 2016 will probably go down as the best ever ElkFest 2016 of all time.