It is not for me to judge perfection. But there are occasions that come pretty damn close, and last weekend was one of them. It all started with a call from my dear old friend Rob. I'll summarize his rambling: "We have a spare ticket to Van the Man at Audley End. It's yours if you want it". Of course I did. And having booked my cheapo flight, there I was, cruising out of Stansted on Thursday evening at the start of -- dare I say it -- a weekend as close to perfect as any weekend can be.
Item: The Hosts
Rob and Lynn are among my best friends. No matter how long we have been out of touch, catching up is a matter of moments. We go back a long way, but time with them is never mere reminiscence. And their daughters are pretty fine people too.
Item: The Weather
Warm, but not too hot (except for a brief rainy spell on Friday morning). Skies deeply blue, sometimes flawlessly so, sometimes marred by perfect fluffy white clouds.
A perky little mini-Mazda, Rob's own mid-life-crisis-mobile, complete with soft top that stows one fingered and quick as winking, and automatic transmission, so that one isn't even tempted to do stupid things with the gears.
Item: Lunch date
Phyllis, too, is a very old and dear friend, with the same qualities of timeless catch-up. But have I known her longer than Rob and Lynn or not? I cannot remember. Not that it matters. We shared all sorts of stuff, and I felt better for that. She is also very wise in the ways of the world (and women, natch).
When we were young, the Three Horseshoes at Madingley was unattainably expensive and posh, a place to fret about which knife and fork to use while someone's parents footed the bill. Now, it's a jumped up parvenu, with egregious errors in its "Italian" menu but a reasonable bite nevertheless. Has it changed, or have we? I think I know.
Tooling around The Backs in an open Mazda is something that, perhaps, I should have done then, but never did. (Couldn't even drive, then.) It is surely sweeter now. They were good times, even though Tom Lehrer's "days of youth, days of truth, six parts gin to one part vermouth" was no more than a clever rhyme.
Bob Dylan, Unplugged, is by no means his best album. But it summed up the day perfectly. Everything changes, and everything stays the same.
Will the fun never stop? Is there a more pefect horse racing scene than the July Course at Newmarket on a perfect July evening? Of course, I ignored a Message from God, and failed to back Firenze in the third. Firenze? Miles from me! Romped home at even money. And then, having blown a tenner on nags, I was in no mood to hear another Really Loud Message, Roman Villa in the fifth. Stormed in to win by a head. At 8/1 too. Rats.
Item: The Concert
I last (and first) saw Van several lifetimes ago at the Finsbury Park Astoria. It was the first outing for the Caledonian Soul Orchestra, and I spent the night drooling over a blonde cellist. No idea of the year. Let's just say that this was better. Much better. Tight, mellow, together; all those musical adjectives that signify Sound.
I could go on. But I won't. There's a slide show over on Flickr.