The Shed (http://www.theshed.co.uk/). It’s an unlikely name for an entertainment venue - especially one sited in an elegant stone-built village like Hovingham, North Yorkshire. But Simon Thackray, whose brainchild it is, has spent his career doing unlikely things. Like bringing culture to the heart of the countryside. Not that everyone would utter the words ‘culture’ and ‘Hank Wangford’ in the same sentence - and I’m not sure that the 72-year-old medic would encourage it.
Hank and the Lost Cowboys (http://www.hankwangford.co.uk/cowboys.html)
put on a couple of shows, back-to-back, every year around this time, and every year we try to get along to see one of them. I’m not sure you even have to like country music to enjoy this band. While C&W is certainly their genre, the tunes they play - great foot-tappers all - are laced with wicked humour and irony; and Hank is a wonderfully droll front man, talking up the joys of misery, pain and divorce, as portrayed in his own songs and the covers they perform: songs like “Let’s Be Lonely Together Tonight”, “Mr & Mrs Teardrops” and the soulful alcoholic’s lament, “There Stands The Glass” - to which the we all sing along with gusto.
The line-up was a little different this year, the big miss from my standpoint being their superb guitar-player Martin Belmont. He’s on tour, Stateside, with Graham Parker and the Rumours. His replacement was Brad (not his real name) Breath. Different style, great technique - and he adds the thing Martin lacks, a superb singing voice. He also delivered the night’s killer line, when referring to his history with the band thirty years ago: “back when our moustaches were brown and our teeth were white”.
I should mention the charms of the venue itself. With mellow Shed bitter on tap, with mince pies, Christmas cake and cheese handed around in the interval, a half-time raffle, and bowls of pistachio nuts scattered about the candle-lit tables, it has a proper village-hall feel to it. Long may it flourish.
Back in the world of work, I have a feeling that December is doing what it always does: disintegrating around me. Every year I add up how many days I have, and plan my work accordingly, and every year unexpected commitments arise to eat into my time. Tomorrow I’m in Leeds being a Grandad; Wednesday I’m around North Yorkshire researching the book on Mike Pannett’s childhood. Throw in a primary school show, a pantomime, a football match in Leeds (they’re playing Chelsea), a Christmas dinner in an old folks’ home and you can see the problem.