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Zoe Mulford: Postcards (Blog)

Swarming Bees and Catastrophic Traffic in Yorkshire

Posted on June 28, 2010 with 2 comments

First of all, it must be said, the gig was lovely.

The original plan was for me to drive to North Yorkshire to play support for Hungrytown at the Kirkby Fleetham Folk Club. Sadly, Hungrytown cancelled due to illness - so the organizer asked if I would headline and did I know anyone who might like to play the support spot. I called Lorelei Loveridge (riding high from her final band gig in Liverpool) who kindly came in at the last minute - and did the driving. We played for a small but friendly crowd in the Kirkby Fleetham Village Hall. Both the club volunteers and our hosts Paul and Wendy Arrowsmith could not have been kinder.

Beyond that, the whole trip was pretty surreal.

England just gets generally strange around Midsummer. The days begin before 5 and go on until after 10, and everybody is a bit sleep-deprived, plagued by vivid dreams, dazed and dazzled by the sunshine. The girls in Manchester are wearing long floaty floral dresses and everyone is finding time to lounge around in outdoor cafes pretending to be real Europeans. It is the season of the Glastonbury Festival, Wimbledon, and the World Cup.

After coming home from Liverpool in the wee hours of the morning, we scraped ourselves out of bed and reorganized. (Several phone calls back and forth: Are you ready? No, me neither.) We drove through the beautiful countryside over the Pennines and up to Kirkby Fleetham (the second “k” is silent.) The village hall is on the village green, opposite the old smithy and the post office. It’s that sort of place.

While we sat on the picnic benches brushing up some harmonies, the air suddenly filled with bees. We retreated and watched as the swarm milled around the parking lot and then settled on a low branch of a nearby tree, hanging down in a seething black mass about the size of a dead cat. They stayed there all night and were still there the following morning. Lorelei’s pictures didn’t come out, but it looked a lot like this.

On Sunday, Paul recommended a scenic route home, but we opted to head directly back to the M62 motorway. Weekend traffic was moving briskly, as people tried to get home in time for the England match against Germany. We considered stopping for a sandwich, but pressed on. Which is why we came to a standstill with everybody else when the police closed the M62 so they could talk a threatened suicide down off the Scammonden Bridge.

People turned off their motors and opened their doors. They wandered along the shoulder with their cell phones. Rumors spread. It’s an accident. It’s someone threatening to jump. He’s already jumped. We’ll miss the match. People fumed. People settled in stoically. People led their small children into the tall grass to pee. We realized we had almost nothing to eat or drink in the car.

Meanwhile, the local drivers were filtering off the motorway on an emergency access route. Eventually we decided to try that and wound up on a two-lane road that was now doing the work of a 6-lane highway. The traffic was moving in fits and starts, but it was moving. Cars, camper-vans and lorries crawled over treeless green hills and past the scenic reservoirs of the Peak District. On either side of the road, cows and sheep grazed placidly.

The folks in front of us, realizing that the box of chocolates in their car would melt in the heat, walked back along the line of standing cars sharing them around. Some guys from a tour-bus, after a good deal of beer, decided to hike home.

As we crossed the Pennine Way (a major hiking trail), there was a National Trust car park full of model airplane enthusiasts and - Providence! - an ice-cream van. We pulled over and ate ice-cream while watching a guy wrestle his hang-glider into position for take-off. People around us had driven for miles to reach this spot that we couldn’t wait to leave.

It took us six hours to get home. I played a lot of the favorite tracks on my iPod through Lorelei’s car stereo - our own private edition of Desert Island Discs. England lost the match. He didn’t jump.

Ann Berry

August 5, 2010

Way to go, Zoe...I've been to the Yorkshire Dales--ancestors came from there-- and know it's magical, but a weird magic. Wonderful account. Thanks.

margaret a. robinson

July 5, 2010

Loved it - also the account of songwriting interrupted by geese. I'll phone you next Sunday - I put it on my calendar.