Pier Pressure Day 9: Shiver Me Dorset Timbers


Back to a much busier day today, although it was a fairly unconventional one in many ways. We started the day in Christchurch, having enjoyed an evening off (and a spot of Ghostbusting) down the road in Bournemouth. But we headed back there first thing, in order to play at the two local piers – first Boscombe and then Bournemouth.

Boscombe pier is a curious but delightful little one, notable for a couple of reasons. First, on the beach next to it are some rather glorious rocks which enabled James to get some interesting cello photos (see picture). Second, the pier itself is a so-called “musical pier”, with a number of large tuned percussion instruments along the way down. The crowning glory here is a set of 88 tubular bells, which when struck in order, sound “I do like to be beside the seaside”. Naturally, we played this on the bells, before playing it on our cellos, as we have done on every pier!

We then headed down to Bournemouth – barely a mile down the road – where we met James’s old friends Ashley and Claire and their young daughter. The pier here has a massive zip wire going from the end to the shore: we were sorely tempted to try this with our cellos, but our schedule would not allow! We did find some other audience here: a few people had turned up having heard about us in advance. We played for a good 20 minutes or so before we got the impression from the pier staff that we should move on.

So our next pier was a particularly interesting one. Swanage pier has to go down as one of the most beautiful Victorian structures we have seen, but it wasn’t the architecture today that provided the most notable element. We were playing as part of the Purbeck Pirate Festival – a weekend-long festival involving all sorts of pirate-related activities, including a tall ship moored at the end of the pier, cannon battles re-enacted, and so on.

We had a half-hour slot to play (wearing pirate uniform), and a crowd of several dozen people were waiting for us and seemed to love what we did! This included our first performance of a “hornpipe” arrangement, which we maybe took a little bit quickly… but the crowed joined in with “Last night of the Proms”-style movements and clapping, which was great Because of the particular theme of the festival, we did not collect for our usual causes of Alzheimer’s Society and CHICKS, but donations went towards the appeal to Save Swanage Pier.

Then onto Weymouth. Now, Weymouth is an absolutely glorious seaside town, with a fantastic beach and beautiful setting – especially in the afternoon sun of today. However, the two piers don’t really do it justice. The first one we played at, the Bandstand pier, is barely a pier at all: it is a building that juts out above the beach, presumably allowing the sea under it at high tide, but as the tide was out and there was nowhere to play on the pier itself (it being taken up entirely by a restaurant and other businesses), we played under it, on the beach itself. We then headed around the esplanade to the so-called “Pleasure pier” – I think that once it actually met that description properly, but these days it is a small fishing promenade adjoined to the harbour car park. There were a few people fishing around, as well as a few teenagers diving into the harbour, but not a massive audience for cello music. We did here, however, play “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” – to celebrate West Ham’s contribution to England’s solitary football world cup victory, 50 years ago today – before going to find a drink & ice cream a little back around the beach.

The day finished with the long drive down to Cornwall, where we’re staying in anticipation of Falmouth tomorrow morning. We’re playing there at 10.00, followed by Paignton (13.30), Torquay (15.00) and Teignmouth (16.30). We’re particularly looking forward to the last one, as we’re expecting a bit of an audience there, and it might be the last one in dry weather for a day or two…

Weather report: A bit of a mixture today, although the Jargar Strings are really sticking well in the conditions. Today’s temperatures varied between 20.6 and 24.5 celsius, with humidity between 53.0% and 86.2% (we had a bit of drizzle in Swanage!).

Quote of the day: “If you’re wondering what the connection of that last piece with the sea or pirates is, it’s called Nessun Dorm-aarghh!” Jeremy raises a groan from the audience at the Purbeck Pirate Festival…

Pier of the day: Swanage