I have, since the age of 15, always wanted to see The Black Crowes live in concert. It has taken me almost 20 years but I’ve finally made this dream come true! Seriously, this was the single most exciting thing I’ve experienced in a very, very long time. Ok, so it’s only a band. But it is a band that has shaped my musical taste and been with me through ‘thick and thin’ (haha, a pun for the Black Crowes fan there!) over many years. When Hank* told me they were playing in London and asked if I wanted to go see them with him, my heart skipped a beat, my stomach turned over, I did a little dance and screamed yes, yesssss, YES!
*(It seems an appropriate moment to mention that ‘Hank’ chose his own blog name (after several mind changes, the original being Horatio!) explaining something about sideburns and American truck drivers for his choice!!)
So, we decided that since we’d be flying to England for this gig, we may as well make a well earned holiday out of it. And that is exactly what we did. For four days we camped in my home of Kent, the beautiful garden of England. I took this opportunity to show Hank all the places that I came from and I think he really fell in love with the English countryside. The first night we stayed at my Dad’s place in Folkestone and sat up talking until the small hours. Then we camped out in my Aunt's field which was pretty awesome. The field is behind their house, is completely remote and has it’s own lily pond filled lake! (Plus we were able to use their facilities which was great, cos let’s face it… women don’t like peeing in a field)
Our four days in Kent were blessed with beautiful sunshine. We took many drives through the countryside to see oast houses and hop farms. We drove to the beach and had proper English fish and chips (after a few good English ales!). We walked around a vineyard in 30 degree heat (you simply can’t do that here!)
The very first day at my Aunts house she happened to be holding a big family party so it meant that Hank got the pleasure of meeting all my English family in one go. Poor sod. Although, he coped well and they all seemed to like him (regardless of the sideburns!) Then that evening he was even more blessed with a meal out in Maidstone town centre with seven women! Yep. I had a little reunion with some of the old Invicta and Borough Green school girls. We ate at the Wildwood restaurant and Hank was the only man at our table. But he seemed happy enough (if a little gay) and luckily no one told any desperately embarrassing stories about me. (Much to his disappointment!) It was absolutely lovely to meet up with the girls, some of whom I haven’t seen since the ages of 11 and 16.
I took Hank to see some of the sights in Maidstone that I remember from my childhood. We saw some of the old buildings and took a really nice walk along the River Medway, all the way to a pub called The Malta. The walk was just idyllic and the weather matched. There were canal boats and barges parked along the way, and some of the most beautiful river side homes and buildings.
We also had a little walk around Tenterden and stopped for an ‘English Cream Tea for Two’. If you see the photo below you can see that there was an awful lot of food for just two people. Comprising of tea, tuna sandwiches and salad, two scones with cream and jam, and four absolutely mahoosive cakes! We couldn’t manage anywhere near all of it and ended up taking some of it back to the tent…. where my Aunts dog ate it!
We took a day trip to Canterbury, because Canterbury is completely gorgeous (thankfully we didn’t bump into the local loon!) You can’t visit Canterbury without seeing the Cathedral. But more interesting than the inside of the cathedral was all the hidden gardens and areas around it. We spent a good hour or so looking around these before even entering the Cathedral. The stained glass windows in there were totally stunning though.
After the Cathedral, a pit stop in Starbucks and a wander around the shops, we ended up punting along the river with a tour guide and a couple of other tourists. This was one of my favourite moments from the trip. It was so tranquil and scenic, and so lovely to just lie back and float beneath the huge old buildings.
My cousin took us on a train trip to Hastings where we ate the largest meals I’ve ever seen at such reasonable prices. I was totally wrecked this day and could have just slept. We found a really cool rock bar and sampled some more English ales, then the boys spent some time wasting money in the arcades (really, I just don’t get those places).
But after four days it was time to head to London and realise my dream of seeing The Black Crowes live! We stayed in a travel lodge in Waterloo, for three nights, that was decent enough (and we had booked it at a bargain price months before!) The Black Crowes were playing in the Empire, Shepherds Bush, which was just a tube ride away and turned out to be a much smaller venue that I was expecting. Which was actually excellent as it made for a better atmosphere and we were able to actually see them properly.
Both Hank and I were beyond excited. Imagine children at Christmas…. and then double, no, TRIPLE that excitement. That was us! We’ve both been waiting so long to see them. I was absolutely out of my mind happy when the first two songs they played were two of my current ‘play every day’ favourites. Cold Boy Smile, and Soul Singing. Mega happy. Happier than happy. Out of this world ultra, mega, super happy!
Instead of having a support band they played two sets, the first being acoustic. Awesome. Just awesome. The awesomeness was only perfected when they brought Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) on to play with them for the encore. Legend. Dream realised. Pure happiness :)
We did all the regular touristy things in London, and the weather held out for us. We walked along The Thames and saw Westminster. I pointed out St Thomas Hospital opposite the houses of parliament, which is where I was born. We saw Big Ben and Westminster Cathedral (although didn’t waste 3 hours queuing to get into it!) and spent a day in Covent Gardens buying souvenirs for my kids. We sat in a bar drinking Pimms and feeling ‘awfully English’ :) We went to Buckingham Palace and sat in the sunshine in both St James Park and Hyde Park. We conquered the London Underground system in no time.
My friend C won a free meal for all of us in Canary Wharf which turned out to be absolutely delicious! Hank was a real man and had half a pig on his plate. Not only was it lovely to have a free three course meal with drinks, but it was also lovely to spend some more time with C. Hopefully she will visit Norn Iron someday.
All in all it was a bloomin fabulous week away. I slept like a log every single night without anyone waking me up for bottles or nappy changes, and felt like a new woman at the end of it. I felt really rested and was ready to head home and be Mama again. Hank was darn good company too and just as I had always suspected turned out to be a genuine gentleman and an absolutely mahoosive Black Crowes fan :)