Today was by far our busiest day so far, even without the dramas of car breakdowns. Five piers, an evening concert and playing a garden party (which we are still working towards as I write this)!
We started the day in Basildon, where we’d stayed with our hosts Paul, Mike and Mary, and made the short journey to Southend where we encountered the longest pleasure pier in the world. At around a mile and a third, it was a long way to the far end, so we walked there and back before playing at the shore end for a small audience (including a couple of old friends) and getting on our way. Brief performances and dashing off has very much been the theme of today, although we managed a quick bacon sandwich for breakfast before departing Southend and leaving East Anglia behind.
Over the Thames to Kent we went, and our first stop was Gravesend Town Pier. A short pier that is mainly taken up by a restaurant, with a walkway down to a boat departure point, we played a single piece here before getting on our way again. We were however filmed by our first cameraman of the tour – by a strange coincidence one of James’s former pupils! We were also accompanied here – and for all the piers today – by Andy and Suzie from the National Piers Society, for whose support we are very grateful.
Along the north coast of Kent to Herne Bay – a lovely little seaside town, with an old-fashioned feel to it. Our daily fish and chips were consumed before going along to the end of a short but very pleasant pier, full of fun for the family. There was evidence a long way out to sea of the former end of the pier – it used to be one of the longest in the country, but unfortunately (or fortunately for our legs!) much of it was destroyed. Again, just a couple of quick pieces before we had to move on, this time to Folkestone.
Ah yes, Folkestone. We had thought of this as our nemesis – it was only recently classified as a pier again, after it was reopened last year, and until a few weeks ago we thought we would “only” be playing on 57 piers. When we found out that Folkestone Harbour Arm was now recognised by the National Piers Society, we struggled to think how we would fit it in. In the end we decided to slot it in before Deal today, and slightly resented it. What a wonderful surprise it was then to find that it is a very tasteful (and different) pier, with all sorts of nice cafés, stalls and art to keep people entertained. In fact, we got to the café at the end where the owner greeted us (he hadn’t been expecting us), and was delighted to find that we would be able to play. He and the pier designer were extremely welcoming, and playing with a view of the White Cliffs of Dover (see picture) was rather special.
We were a bit delayed by the time we left, however, and a bit late getting to Deal. However, when we did, we had another great surprise – a crowd of dozens of people waiting to hear & see us (most of whom we didn’t know – although Clare’s brother, Paul, was amongst them!). Well done to the people of Deal for getting the message out there! We played for about 25 minutes, to rapturous applause and generous donations to our charities, before we had to leave for our next appearance – a concert at St Margaret-at-Cliffe, a few miles down the road.
A beautiful old church, we had a lovely audience who not only welcomed us in the concert, but one of whom (Clare’s old friend Deb) provided us with a very welcome spot of tea afterwards! Now we’re on to our final thing of the day – our hosts tonight are holding a charity garden party, so we’re going to play there too, before finally getting a rest…
Tomorrow is another busy one though, as we do all of Sussex in one day – Hastings (10.00), Eastbourne (11.30), Brighton (13.30), Worthing (15.30) and Bognor Regis (17.30). We’re expecting a bit of media coverage tomorrow too, so watch out, especially if you’re in the south east region!
Weather report (in which we test out the range of conditions in which Jargar Strings operate well!): Another hot and dry one – the hottest so far, in fact. Today’s temperatures varied between 23.9 and 32.8 celsius, with humidity between 29.4% and 52.0%.
Quote of the day: “I suppose you shouldn’t have Champagne?” The café owner from Folkestone making us realise what we are missing out on…
Pier of the day: Folkestone Harbour Arm