GOOGLE isn’t a name you would associate with traditional folk music. Not unless you are using the search engine of choice to look up someone like Donnal Lunny, Alain Stivell or our very own Fernhill. My search for folk music was purely unplanned and although it involved Google it did not involve their search engine. It involved a search for real ale.
The journey began in Llanelli with the 12.35 departure on platform 1 to York via Shrewsbury, Manchester and the Cross Pennine railway. I will spare you the details of this enormous train journey mainly because of the discomfort and expletives uttered during the journey cramped like a chicken in a box surrounded by people with enough medical conditions to keep the best of local GP’s busy. Although a trolley appeared now and then there was very little by way of edible substances available and the toilet facilities were shall we say akin to the dark ages. I cannot remember who said it but someone did, which was, ‘the trouble with public transport is the damned public’.
Almost 8 hours later, the time it would take to fly to Berlin and be ensconced at the Hotel Bar I was making my way wearily along a pavement flanked by an ancient city wall towards the doors of The Grand Hotel York. The name I have to say was suitably fitting. This was no pretentious Grand by name, from the moment one sets eyes on it, it oozes grand.
Greeted at the door by a doorman, ushered to meet the concierge on a comfy seat and asked if I had stayed there before. Why no I had not was the reply. After a brief explanation of what was what where was where and the handover of a card I was on my way along some wonderful corridors to my room. It could have been the lack of sugar but I got slightly lost and had to ask a maid where 221 was. After finding it the next problem was finding the lights. After switching light after light switch on and off I had all but given up. I noticed a slot for the card I was handed and upon placing said card in a slot by the door the place lit up like Blackpool.
It was oh so tempting to just collapse on the beautifully made double bed or go and take a soak in the equally luxurious bath. Those white robes just called to me to relax and switch off, but no. I wanted to take it all in and explore. I made for the hotel bar and asked if they served real ale. They only had bottles. I politely declined and set off along the dark streets of York. After asking a couple of people where I might find said refreshments I was pointed in the direction of a public house called The Maltings. Upon entering it reminded me of some hang outs I used to frequent as a young man. Loads of old bits and bobs randomly placed on hand painted red walls, dim lighting and bar staff who had not been to the Lucy Clayton School. They did however have a range of uniquely named real ales such as Father Ted’s Fat Ar*e etc. I opted for the liquid gold and took a wooden pew. Within seconds my ears tuned in to strains of music coming from the snug area. Curiosity got the better of me and I gatecrashed a get together of musicians. They had no name as such, they were they said, just playing together.
I introduced myself and asked if I could record the proceedings and there were no objections. What I heard and what I concluded very quickly was that this music was happy folk music. When I say happy folk music I mean compared to a lot of Welsh Folk Music. That is not meant as a criticism of either. I love all forms of Celtic and folk music. The pace and the key were bright and cheery as opposed to say the Irish tune Danny Boy or the Welsh tune Myfanwy. At one point I asked if they could play something sad just to remind me of home. They couldn’t.
Several songs later and two pints of golden liquid later food arrived. Sandwiches and chips. The gathering play at The Maltings each week and they receive some food in return. York has a decent folk scene and in fact a decent live music scene. As some of the gathering began to leave for home on their bicycles I too said my farewells and headed for that Grand old Lady of an hotel.
The bath, the robes and the double bed were still there and much appreciated. The alarm was set and the following days were dedicated to a Google Sprint Event, the likes of which, I have never experienced before. That is for another story. Suffice to say after another two days of work coupled with some dining in York I was not relishing the hellish journey home by rail. Leaving York at just after 3pm and arriving in Llanelli close to midnight gives you some idea of why you should consider all the travelling options available before setting off to York in search of Google real ale and folk music.