January 7, 2006

by Diane and Tim

The idea for this meet-up grew out of a small gathering in South Wales in September. It was not arranged with any particular itinerary in mind, other than finding an empty room with a bar, adding some food and an open mic, asking people to come along, and seeing what happened.

A report by Diane…




Rob, Linda and Margaret

Phil and Fergie

Ali, Berni, Tim, anonymous, Pete

It all started for me when Ali, Lee and Ali's brother Dave collected me from Bristol train station just after 9am. After a trip to Asda, Ali and I spent the day chatting as we prepared a snack or two for the buffet. I snuck the odd break to stand out on Ali’s balcony to survey the Bristol cityscape, and wonder what the long-anticipated night would bring.

Time flew, and soon we were setting up at the venue and the others were arriving. Margaret, John (Byron), James, Tim, Rob, Pete, Linda with other half John, and Phil with Fergie, plus some of Ali and Lee's lovely friends. We all launched into conversation in the cosy manner of which Rob later described as meeting people you already know for the first time.

Lee and Dave did a lot of running around and setting up in the background, and once the sound system was ready, Lee proceeded to entertain us with a well-chosen set of songs, including his wonderful cover of Hallelujah. The Lovely Pete then took the open mic spot, and everyone was simultaneously stunned into silence as he played a succession of Leonard numbers. Those going to Berlin will have the chance to see Lee and Pete perform there. Don’t miss them!

The venue was small and friendly but did come with a minor flaw. On such a freezing January night in England, there was but a one-bar gas heater for the whole room, which had a rather anaesthetising effect on one's fingers. Later, Lee treated us to another set, and then Byron joined in with Pete on the guitar. So we had almost constant entertainment, despite the harsh conditions. What heroes.

Linda and Rob had both worked hard to prepare quizzes to test us. Whilst Tim appeared to be the overall winner, Ali had the most creative answer of the evening. Rob harshly disallowed her answer of: A horse, Suzanne, Marianne, and Joan of Arc, to the question: Name four mammals that have featured in LC songs.

We had all brought along items for the raffle, a perfect way to redistribute treasured musical instruments, books, CDs and bottles of booze. Providence managed to unite people with their perfect prizes, with my loot including a bottle of whiskey.

As Roy the barman politely reminded us that the evening was drawing to a close, he informed us that he was a Cohen fan, and knew of at least 20 others (!), and would have had them all in attendance had he known. Of course, we assured him he would be informed of future events.

Before closing time we raised a red needle to the Night, to Lizzy's brother Ron whose birthday it was, and to dear Lizzy herself.

I was deeply glad to be able to meet people face to face I had previously only known from their posts on the forum. There was no-one in the room I would not have liked to have sat with for a further, lengthy, one-to-one conversation. Fortunately, Margaret, John and Rob were staying at Ali's for the night as I was, so I was lucky enough to be able to talk to each of them a little more. But Pete, James, Tim, Phil and Fergie, Linda and John, all escaped into the night.

Big thanks are due to Ali and Lee for all their work, and their generous hospitality. This meet-up would never have occurred without them. It was a wonderful, memorable evening. It was good to be able to say goodbye to some with the words, "see you in Berlin".

…and another by Tim:

My Cohen-day started at just after 4pm when I left work in Bath and headed towards Bristol. I made at least one navigational error in the 15 mile journey so I have a lot of sympathy with travellers from further afield who were confused by Bristol's roads.

The pub was easy to find, tucked behind the landmark that is St Mary's Redcliffe church, and as I was approaching it I saw a car looking for somewhere to park. The driver looked strangely familiar and I peered into the car (by now it was almost dark) to see Pete, who I hadn't seen in over four years. I left him looking for somewhere to park and entered the pub to find James.

Pete joined us shortly and for maybe an hour the three of us chatted sociably, the 'old guard' as James called us - although since Pete was at the 1998 Lincoln event he's entitled to call both me and James newbies.

Eventually Diane came to look for us, so we went to the back room (skittle alley) and met Ali, Lee and Diane, who had already brought the food in. Pete helped carry the food into the right room, while James and I were given knives so we just looked useful without doing anything at that point - although shortly we sliced a couple of baguettes to add to the fabulous range of foods in the buffet that Ali and Diane had prepared.

John (Byron) and Margaret and Rob were the next to arrive, as the guests began arriving from all over the country.

Lee was the first to play for us, after setting up the sound-system. Pete though played before too long, hardly distracted by me hovering around in front of him looking for a good camera-angle. I'd heard him sing and play before, in Leicester, so the sensitivity and excellence of his performance came as no surprise to me. Anyone who hasn't heard him yet will have a treat in store in Berlin, where he will surely play at the open-mic.

Lee followed Pete at the mic'. He sang a good range of material - Hallelujah I remember, a Johnny Cash song I think, and several others, all sung and played well. John (Byron) played later too, also very well, and also duetted with Pete.

There followed two quizzes; a tricky one from Linda based on identifying the first lines of songs when given the last line. And I thought I had a good grasp on Cohen's songs! But this was really tricky for me - I collaborated with James on this one and we weren't even 100% sure of the album all the last lines were from (there was one song per studio album) let alone which songs they were...

Rob's quiz was a bit easier for me as it added general knowledge musical questions to the Cohen ones. I'm not sure that as Diane suggested I won this one, not least because I was sharing a question-paper with James, but I was pleased with my answers to a few of the questions, including this one:

What was the connection between the Doors and Aldous Huxley (and as a supplementary question, William Blake)?

After the quizzes, there was the raffle! I was happy to get an early prize in this, so I chose the Needham family bundle - one CD of Pete (10 Cohen songs and his wonderful and Cohenesque composition, Be The One) and two by his brother's band, Doctor Hasbeen.

And then, it was nearly closing time! With red-needles in hand, we toasted the evening, Lizzytysh's brother Ron, whose birthday it was, and Lizzytysh herself. I'm pleased that I managed to record this with glass in left hand and camera in my right!

Thanks to Ali, Lee and Diane for everything they did in setting it up, and Rob and Linda for their quizzes, and thanks to everyone else for being there!
Click here too see Tim's Bristol photo album!