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Huddersfield and the North

  Wed 26th November 2014

It is November and so time for Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. As usual, the clothes rival the music for one's attention: a man who is at every HCMF, appears in a a thick grey top with large buttons, a long yellow and green kilt, and red sandals. A woman I spent a couple of short evenings with four years ago looks exactly the same -- long, unkempt greying hair, and an old red floor-length coat that a character in a Lynne Reid Banks novel might wear to buy records from Camden Market.

In the Commercial Hotel, where a pint of bitter costs £1.80, I wrote a postcard to Kim which ended "Anyway must go, I'm off to a concert of Catalan music for solo double bass." It turned out to be my highlight of the two days, two aggressive, impatient and scrapy pieces by Joan Arnau Pàmie which made full use of the entire range of percussive and melodic possibilities of the double bass except those of pure tone and held notes.

Tom, the loose-bottomed lodger who treats us to a solo performance of his own percussive techniques every morning, was there in Huddersfield too and we last saw him chatting animatedly to a couple of young women at the end of a dire electronic noodle on a sine wave by Eliane Radigue.

That night in the hotel, Trina is snoring again so I take the quilt from my bed and fold it round me in the bathroom, shutting the door on her bellowing. The next morning, there's something wrong. "Are you in a mood?" I ask her. After a rhetorical womanly denial, she starts sniffing and weeping. "You had to sleep in the bathroom! On the floor in the bathroom! How will anyone ever love me?"

"Well don't go overboard. Your epiglottis needed a good waggle, and I needed a proper night's sleep. Did you sleep well? 'Yes'. Well then--result all round." I didn't get a proper night's sleep, of course, sleeping on a hard floor and a bath towel and half a quilt, but the depth of her sympathy didn't deserve me saying that.

Saturday night, and we're buffed and depilated for a night of 70s and 80s jazz-funk and Modern Soul in hotel near Blackburn that I'd been looking forward to. The company was good, but the volume was ear-splittingly loud, driving us into the bar next door. After an hour-and-a-half, I cautiously suggested cutting our losses and going home. "Oh yes, thank God you said that!"

As Trina's car joined the M6, we saw a hitch-hiker with a ragged old sign saying "Scotland." "Shall we..." I said, and somewhat to my surprise Trina pulled up and we put him in the back. He was sixty-eight and had been to his brother's funeral in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and was going home to Motherwell. He chatted away, his accent fading in and out of my comprehension, as I calculated the temperature and the time.

We took him back to mine, got the quilt down to the living room and made up a little bed for him. Both the lodgers were in the kitchen. "Hiya. Just to say, there's a hitchhiker sleeping in the front room. He's trying to get to Motherwell but he won't make it tonight." We offered him tea but he wanted to sleep. Me and Trina went upstairs, had a dance, went to a sexless bed; and soon the cattle are lowing and the baby awakes.

In the morning he was sitting neatly dressed in the front room. We invited him into the kitchen and served him tea and porridge--made in my perfumed English way with soya milk and vanilla sugar rather than the rainwater and salt it stipulates in a book of Scottish cookery I possess--and he told us about his years spent in Blackpool, arriving there without a job after leaving his wife. He apologised to Trina. "Ah'm sarry, Theresa, ah canna get ye ah bax a chacklats ah anythen, I jast..." We drove him up to the M6 junction at the Holiday Inn and pointed him north.


I wasn’t going to comment because I’m running late for work but, Jaysus Christ, that last paragraph is such a fat, juicy steak. A feast. Makes the work I’m heading for seem duller that it actually is.

Fri 28th November 2014 @ 12:28
Comment from: Suzy Southwold [Visitor]

That’s really kind of you. I’ve never heard of anyone giving a hitchhiker a bed. I’ve barely heard of anyone giving one a ride.

Fri 28th November 2014 @ 16:54

Yeah, now that she mentioned it, what’s up with keeping a hitchhiker overnight? Aren’t you guys afraid of being sliced and diced into tiny bits? That’s very old-world and trusting, if you ask me.

Sat 29th November 2014 @ 19:00
Comment from: [Member]

Well, you just make assessments on fairly subjective criteria I suppose, but I implicitly trust people until they prove themselves unworthy of it.

Sun 30th November 2014 @ 09:33
Comment from: [Member]

i love this! well, the hitch hiker bit, not the snoring bit (as i endured many nights on the sofa while married to my ex-husband). i am often tempted to pick up hitch hikers, but the fear has been beaten into me through the years - despite the fact that i used to hitch rides while in university, and never had a bad experience.

Sun 30th November 2014 @ 14:17
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks, and you should pick up hitchikers. I suppose it’s not a great idea for a lone woman to do that, possibly (and sadly).

Sun 30th November 2014 @ 20:54

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There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
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