I've made many great friends at Guitar Retreats and I would like to think that Sue and Chris are amongst the best. Earlier this year I went to stay with them in Leatherhead along with Jim, another great Guitar Retreat friend. Sue lives in Cobham and recently had some work carried out on her home which necessitated the need for her to move out. She and Chris have stayed in a number of houses where they have looked after pets and the house whilst the owners were on holiday and they have enjoyed it so much that they have continued after Sue's house renovation was completed. When they were asked to house sit and pet sit a dog and cat at a house in Harrogate they invited me, Jim and another Guitar Retreat friend, Stephen for the weekend.I met Steve at the local station and after a visit to the supermarket we made our way to the house where Sue and Chris were staying. Unfortunately, Jim had bronchitis and wasn’t able to join us. After dinner, we spent the evening drinking, chatting and jamming!
On Saturday Chris drove us to Brimham Rocks, a formation of giant rocks. Sue was a geologist and she explained that the sedimentary rock was laid down by an immense river nearly 350 million years ago and over that time the rocks have been sculptured into weird and wonderful shapes by ice, wind and rain. They are a truly dramatic and almost otherworldly sight. Despite it being bitterly cold, the site was extremely busy with, gladly, a complete absence of health and safety as children and adults climbed freely around the formations. We spent an hour or so wandering around before going back to the house to warm up and have a cup of
Chris had brought along a mandolin that he had recently bought. I have been considering one myself for the past couple of years. Whilst both guitar and ukulele are very similar in terms of chord structure and shape, a mandolin is strung in a different way and the chord shapes are completely different to those of guitar and ukulele - a good reason to learn something new. We had decided to walk into Harrogate for the afternoon and I looked up instrument shops and found one, Guitar Zone, a shortish walk from the centre of the town. I had decided that if I could buy one for less than £100 then I would. There was only one in the shop and it was within my price range, not a make that either Chris or I recognised but he tuned it up and said that it looked and sounded fine - so I bought it! I’ll be spending the next few weeks learning the chord shapes and getting use to the very narrow neck - difficult with larger fingers. On the walk back to the house, Steve and I stopped off for a couple of pints in Hales Bar which is the oldest pub in Harrogate and has some great features; original gas lighting and flame things on the bar that were used for lighting cigars. Steve noticed a poster for an Open Mic session that was taking place the following afternoon and we decided we would come along.
The following day we took a short drive to Fountains Abbey, and spent a couple of hours wandering around the beautiful grounds and impressive abbey. We stopped off at the restaurant for some lunch before returning to the house and Steve and I getting ready for the Open Mic. Sue and Chris had decided to give it a miss, but Chris drove us down to the pub/. Steve was planning to get a train back to Sheffield at ten to seven so we made sure we were early and spoke to the organiser so that we could get on near the beginning. Steve had never played in public at an Open Mic before and I was going to accompany him with his song. I had chosen another couple of tunes I would perform. The pub was fairly quiet and we were to go on first. We were both a bit nervous, Steve because this was his 1st time and me because we had only run through the song once the night before. I was only playing with Steve singing and playing so it was easier for me. The performance went quite well and I think Steve was pleased and relieved! We stayed on to watch the other performers with Steve deciding to catch a later train. Chris came in later from his run and I asked if we could get on and do a number together. Unfortunately there were quite a few performers so we didn’t manage. Sue had ordered a carry out for us and we left Steve to finish his pint and we walked back to the house. It was a great weekend and I’m sure that if Sue and Chris have another suitable property then we’ll all meet up again.
We are are all meeting up at the beginning of June when we journey to a Guitar Retreat at La Perdrix in the Dordogne. I’m also planning a trip to Moscow at the end of August to go to a Charity Concert that Steve is organising at the Ambassador’s Residence.