Ferret and Vole: Promoters!
Littletown was actually a picturesque village full of antique cottages and pretty gardens.
A Ferret greeted me at the door of the venue.
'You must be Helen', he said. 'Where's Martin?"
I told him Martin was following behind.
'This is Vole', said Ferret, 'and this is Nice Man'.
'There's a great artist on the bill tonight: Craig… I saw him play in Bigtown last night, he was brilliant! There are all these teenage girls who love him, they have seen him on Youtube, and they're all turning up to see him here later on. Craig's in the dressing-room already.'
I went to get my guitar, and took it into the dressing room to meet Craig.
'I've just got back from New York' said Craig.
I thought about my drive over from Suburbnorth-Bigcity.
"Where do you come from?', I asked, recognising a northern accent.
'Nowhere', said Craig, 'I am intentionally homeless'
Martin arrived. Ferret started rubbing his hands and sidled up to me.
'How long do you normally play for, Helen?' he asked. 'It's just that we thought we'd put Craig on before Martin, between you and Martin.'
What a clever way of telling me I had been bumped to the bottom of the bill!
On our way back from the chip shop we met Ferret having a roll-up outside the venue.
'Two teenage girls have turned up already to see Craig play. They've been waiting since six o'clock', he said. 'He's fantastic. You should have seen him play in Bigtown last night!
We got the sound checks over and Vole came up to me.
'I am MC--ing tonight: could you tell me something about yourself, as I know absolutely nothing about you at all'.
I told him I had started playing again three years ago after a twenty year break, and Martin told him about my punk past.
'OK' he said. 'Two teenage girls have turned up already to see Craig play. We've never know anything like it in Littletown before!'
It was time to start.
'Ladies and Gentlemen,' said Vole, 'I would like to introduce Helen McCookerybook, and I don't know how old she is, she's quite old, she is probably almost as old as me'.
The audience gasped in astonishment.
'Anyway she used to be in punk bands and John Peel used to like her but I hope she's not going to play any punk tonight'. He had started gabbling, embarrassed at the hole he had dug himself into.
I thanked my grandfather for introducing me, and played my set.
Afterwards, Ferret came up.
'You were really good', he admitted through gritted teeth. 'You must come through and watch Craig now, he's great'.
It was Craig's turn: indeed, he played a nice set of well-crafted songs and went down very well, especially with the two teenage girls who had turned up to see him.
'That was amaaaaaazing!', said Ferret to him afterwards in the dressing room, eyes sparkling in admiration.
After Craig had gone out to stand by his CDs and sell them with Ferret fluttering around him like an excited butterfly, Ferret came back into the dressing room.
'He is just such a BRILLIANT songwriter', he said, 'What an amazing guy!'
Martin went on and played a very personal set, interrupted constantly by a woman who clapped loudly and erratically in the middle of his songs and while he was talking. At one point he even left the stage to speak to the woman to ask her to be quiet: it was unclear whether her problem was anything more than absolute drunkenness.
Her partner had a rustling plastic bag that he rummaged in throughout: it didn't seem to occur to Vole, who was sitting close by, to go over and shut them up. Martin played a lovely set and an encore, and the audience sang along with his songs, good natured and appreciative as always.
Afterwards, Ferret was in a tizz.
He'd obviously promised to pay Craig a lot, but the sell-out gig had been advertised as 'Martin Stephenson', and on the website it said 'Martin Stephenson and special guest Helen McCookerybook', with Craig's name underneath.
The audience had all come to see Martin, in spite of the Ferret's predictions about a mob of teenage girls.
What could he do? After all, Craig was obviously a Star. He was staying at Ferret's house and getting pizza for supper there, while Martin and myself had to find accommodation for ourselves and go to get a bag of chips for our tea from the chip shop down the road: unless we wanted Ferret to ask around to see if anyone could put us up that night.
We imagined breakfast the next day with the reluctant victim. 'Sorry, fellas, I've only got one ginger biscuit- could you have half each?'
So we agreed to Martin paying me out of his fee, and the Vole counted out a nice wad of tenners for Craig.
The Lady on the Door was lovely. So was Nice Man, who could genuinely say that he liked our music. So was most of the audience, apart from the Clap and the Rustler. The two teenage girls were sweet, sitting at the front and having a whale of a time. And Craig was nice too, a proper musician, slightly bemused by the fawning attention of our hosts.
The Ferret and the Vole however…
Afterwards we speculated about what their problem might be.
We wondered about their plans for the night… 'The orange juice and apple juice are for Craig, and the Helen and Martin can have the water', mused Martin about the rider; '… the crisps for Martin and Helen, and the pistachio nuts and apples and bananas for Craig'.
Could it be that Ferret and Vole, too, were musicians, and that there was some seething resentment hidden away in their headcupboards that Martin could pull enough people to sell out their venue, and they couldn't?
Or were they so keen to be part of Craig's potential success that they were intent on bigging him up constantly and in the process, smalling-down the act they had booked to sell tickets?