the rise of the chattering classes

"My Auntie Mary's Spam sandwiches always smelled of Wintergreen Ointment."

Pete Buckley

Last Saturday (29th) was an altogether better day than the previous week. The sun was shining and it was Derwent Valley Mills Heritage Day which meant one could see quite a goodly number of events happening up and down the valley corridor from the Silk Mill in Derby to Masson Mills in Cromford.

Where to start? Well Belper North Mill seemed as good as any, just down at the end of the road and one of the first events of the day – unveiling of a ‘water-powered sculptural automaton’ by the artist Johnny White - one of three he has created for installation in the various mills. A massive amount of work was involved bringing together the artist, groups of children and adults from the community and apprentice helpers from Rolls Royce so it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a hitch and in this case the hitch was… how to get the motive power – water – from point A the source, to point B, a spinning wheel made up of (hopefully waterproof) brightly coloured, epoxy resin impregnated socks. The artist in his excitement had forgotten his very important length of hosepipe! But your trusty correspondent ever eager to a be a participating member if the community pipes up "I’ll get you some. I only live up the road. Give me fifteen minutes." So with the assistance of The Driver I was back in ten and the sculpture was saved. Hooray!

But of course this seriously disrupted our timetable. The Driver and Me weren’t going to manage The Silk Mill and the events on the Cromford Canal in the time we had left. So we opted for the latter despite the former, on this occasion, being free. But a lot was going on at the Canal. The Gothic Warehouse at Cromford Wharf was open showing a very interesting display of historical photographs of the development and decline of the waterway (and included a set of clever computer generated images showing plans for the future); there were tours of the High Peak Junction workshops; Leawood Pumping Engine was in steam; a horse drawn barge on the water; art installations at Arkwrights Mill (perfect working order – JW had remembered the pipe for this one!). We even bought some Christmas Cards. And we got a cup of tea and a cake as that nice little café in the courtyard has reopened with its walls newly painted although the paintings on the walls have not improved any.

Certainly the best choice and later we were going to see the Matlock Bath Illuminations and Parade of Boats. And much later (time and public transport willing) PETE SMITH & JOHN BUCKLEY at The Queens.


The train going was on time. Right on time. It’s a shame considering they run so punctually that they cannot run more frequently. Obviously a footie special as chaps in Rams shirts got off as we got on but it was still packed all the way to Matlock Bath. Too packed for the conductor to collect fares. Now I’m not proud of travelling buckshee but what can you do? I suppose if they ran more trains they would simply lose more money but it was very charitable to convey us all gratis.

The restaurants were all packed and we had neither eaten nor booked so we were a little worried that it was going to be chips again but we eventually managed to get into Riva @ Rose Cottage. Used to be a bikers’ pub I think but now a stylish little bar (the bar being very little) with efficient staff, pleasant food and decent wines.

Then finally - the boats – a little disappointing; there were only eight rather than the rumoured twenty one and they started an hour later than advertised which threw our timetable into disarray once more. So the 20.20 train was out but there is a T.P. bus at 21.00: not too bad. There is also a local bus at 20.55, that was a bad move:

"Do you go to Belper?"


What I should have asked was, "Do you go directly to Belper?" That way we would have avoided not seeing Cromford, Wirksworth, Idrighay, Shottle, Cowers Lane and Blackbrook in the dark. But it was actually a very quick journey for we were the only ones on the bus and it was non-stop. But the fare seemed steep. The driver must have known we didn’t pay on the way up!

So The Driver and Me finally got to The Queens. What can I say about the music? Exactly what it says on the tin. The Duo are everything everyone says they are from accomplished right through to zealous. A jazzy little number when we walked in not too long into the set. Then Song For Ellen dedicated to our local heroine which it apparently took as long for them to write as it did for her to sail around the world. And I’m not surprised for it was complicated but they made it seem so easy. I once read that skill in football comes from randomly placing your foot in space at a point which just happens to be surrounded by a leather ball. They were doing similar, wiggling (or maybe waggling) their fingers in space at a point which just happened to have a guitar neck beneath it. IT CAN’T BE THAT DIFFICULT CAN IT? For these two – nope. I’m reminded of Lugosi’s line in Dracula, "Ah the creatures of the night, what sweet music they make." For these two cannot be human to be able to play a full orchestral arrangement of the theme from Beetlejuice and still sound as if they have instruments to spare. They must be in league with that eponymous spectre. They must have an absolute monopoly on ‘standin’ at the crossroads’.

And so it went on, All Of Me sounding like the Hot Club de France when there were still a lot of French colonies left. The witty Polishing Rag where they employed the novel (for them) device of playing in tandem rather than opposition and still sounding like there was more than just the two of them. And for the second week running, chatterers – non singers, story tellers.

And on through Nuage, more like a great George Benson (when he was still a proper guitarist) than a Django and then Cabbage Patch Blues - Rick and Rossi on speed! By the time they got to Tiger Rag their twin Taylor guitars (not sure which models so you could look at ALL of them)  were glowing white hot (I did notice throughout the evening how shiny the frets were). I don’t remember the encore though for The Driver and Me had to rush off to a party.

Where do we get the stamina?