The day before the fête, we received a phone call to say that our emplacement had changed. We would be on a remorque opposite the Mairie.
Being flexible, with a Yes We Can attitude, we took it in our stride, passed on the message to the crew and rocked up to Moréac on a lovely warm evening.
The first thing I noticed about the trailer was the smell. I wondered if it had been used that morning for muck – spreading. It had been hosed down of course, but there was an interesting odeur which lingered.
The second thing was the fact that there was no method of getting on to it. Someone had come by & promised to bring back some steps – but he disappeared & was never seen again.
Now the thing doesn’t look too high on the photos, but it came to shoulder height for the smaller members of Chanti. The only way up was via the metal rod which attached the trailer to a tractor. Triangular shaped, wide at the trailer end & narrowing down to a small ring which would go over the tractor’s hook.
It was not appropriate for any of us to get on or off the trailer by this method. One of our members is 70 years old! I have no idea in what terms a Health & Safety Officer would describe it – so let’s just say it was a tad dangerous!
Once on the damn thing – there was just a small lip all round to indicate that we might be in danger of falling off.
But there we are – all plugged in & ready to go. Let the singing commence!
A fun first set, then Chanti-Rock turned to Chanti-Pirate Metal for one song. Thank you Chanti-crew, for indulging Luke et moi!
Towards the end of the first set, I noticed a man talking to our photographer. He’d been watching us closely for quite a while. Apparently the conversation went something like this – but in French:
Man : « Who are they? They’re very good. I go to lots of music festivals & they are the best group I’ve seen for a long time. Really original. »
Ricky: « They’re called ‘Chantimor’, they sing 19th century sea shanties. Sometimes with an accordion & whistles, sometimes with an electric guitar. »
Man :« They have a great sound! Do you have a card, or any publicity? » Our flyer is handed over. « That’s fantastic. Where do they play? »
Ricky: « Anywhere; bars, fêtes, markets… »
« Do they do private events such as weddings? » Why not. « Do they do Christenings? » Mmm, maybe.
« And do they do enterrements? » (Funerals)
Words fail Ricky at this point, so : « Bonne Soirée »
Back for a second set, neatly avoiding the roving carnival drummers and giants, which I have to say were both brilliant.
Finally, after scoffing grilled sausages & chips, & quaffing free beer, all courtesy of the very generous music festival commitee, we all went home. Except Shirley, who couldn’t get down. She’s still there, in fact … waiting for some bloke to come back with the steps. 😉
Flushed with success for being given the public vote for « Best Entertainment » at the Trophée Hayet in Vannes last month, Chantimor is currently organising a summer programme. First up…. La Fête de la Musique in Moréac Saturday 27th JUNE at about 9pm. We’ll be on the big parking place & hope we won’t be drowned out by the Breton band & dancers who will be our neighbours. Fortunately, we are going wired for sound (rather than our usual « unplugged ») and we have Luke on electric guitar. So it’s Sea Shanties, Jim, but not as you know it! Bring some beer (or rum) and get ready to clap along!
Next: Sunday 12th JULY for a more traditional Sea Shanty sound, we’ll be accompanied by Dave on accordian & Anwyl on whistles. Find us in the market at Bieuzy des Eaux at about 10.30, swiftly followed by a performance in the « Salle » at lunchtime at Kerfourn. This is a charity lunch to raise money for the Nepal Earthquake appeal. See details below if you wish to participate.
If you came by on Saturday for the last installment of young Martyn’s adventures and wondered where the article was, well here it is:-
We think that he’s bµckeneered off to the UK for a bit, but in his absence the Chantimor Crew asked me to delay the publication for a few days to co-incide with his birthday on 1st April.
So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTYN – the round’s on you when we next see you at the Bo Bar!
Sea Cadet Williams continues his story…
My other never forgotten memory was the life raft training. We were taken along to an indoor swimming pool (unheated) on the shore and much to our consternation were told to strip off all our clothes, after which we were ordered outside where a very kind officer sprayed us down with an outside hose. (The month of this training was November, by the way). We then had to run inside and there, in the middle of the swimming pool, was a 12 man life raft – but upside down.
One by one we had to jump in and get the life raft into the correct position, which was easier said than done as the raft had a canopy which was under water. The idea was to swim up to it and then grab one of the straps which were laced into the fabric of the bottom of the raft, put your feet against the wall of the raft, then lean back so your weight would slowly but surely pull the inflatable raft to a vertical position until finally gravity would help it fall over to the correct side.
Again, it all seemed straight forward to me while I was watching the other cadets… and then it came to my turn. I swam over to the raft and grabbed a strap. So far so good; then I put my feet on the side and leaned back and there I stayed because the raft was much heavier than me and it wouldn’t budge. Eventually someone was sent in to help me get the momentum of the raft turning. That worked and when the canopy started to come out of the water my colleague swam away leaving me to finish the act. Slowly the raft came to the vertical and then – all of a sudden – it came crashing down so fast that I didn’t have time to let go of the strap. By this time I was underwater and trapped underneath the weight of the raft.
Mad panic! I thought this was it.
I was going to drown in a swimming pool under a device that was meant to save you from drowning!
Of course someone dived in and hauled me out from under the raft and as my head emerged from below the water all I could hear was:
“ Williams! What the ……..!!”
So all in all my introduction to the Merchant navy was not without a few little hiccups and it was the start of many other adventures; but next time it would be on the open seas …..
Martyn, second from right, wearing his original Merchant Navy cap, with some of his Chantimor crew-mates.
The sea-faring adventures of Cadet Williams will be continued at a later date. §§
Chantimor consists of 11 ex-pats, marooned in Brittany, who sing Sea Shanties.
Some of us have even been to sea…
The first month!
There I was standing at the end of a small jetty with my parents on a cold November evening, looking across the river Thames into thick fog, listening to the dipping of oars and small splashing sounds slowly getting closer and closer.
« What was I doing here, all 5ft 3 inch and 7 stone 12lbs of me », I thought? Then it all came back to me about my present predicament. Several months earlier I’d been talking to our Careers Master and he’d asked what I wanted to do in the big wide world:
“I want to work with animals, Sir”, came the reply
“Don’t be stupid boy, there’s no future in that”, came his response, “What else do you like?” It was one of those situations, common in my case, when you are taken unawares and just open your mouth and spout nonsense.
“I like the sea, Sir” …. To this day I haven’t a clue as to why I said that. We lived miles away from the coast and spent our annual holiday in my dad’s static caravan at Borth on the west coast of Wales.
The next thing I knew, was that I was in a Merchant Navy administration building in Cardiff sitting an exam to allow me to become a trainee navigating officer: a Sea Cadet.
So as I stood there reflecting on my young life in the bows, a small rowing boat came out of the dense fog and gently bumped the jetty. With a tear in my eye I said goodbye to mum and dad, climbed into the boat, and was rowed away, disappearing into the depths of the fog.
I boarded the Merchant navy training ship the HMS Worcester, an old ferro-concrete warship built in 1906, and the adventure began.
The purpose of my apprenticeship was to train me in the art of safety, navigation and general seamanship to enable me to finally become a deck officer and follow a career path to Master of a ship. This first introduction to training was purely for safety and was for 3 weeks before I was put on board a ship to sail off into the unknown. It was a 3 week period full of highs and lows which I will never forget.
Several incidents have really stuck in my mind mainly to do with my lack of stature and the consequences of that.
One of our tasks was to master the driving or piloting of a motor boat, easy you may think, but not quite so!!
There were about 20 of us in my intake of cadets, of which 6 of us plus the training officer boarded the small motor boat. All went well with the other cadets steering and pulling the boat alongside the HMS Worcester and tying up. We had to look and be competent, understand commands, steer safely, navigate the various buoys and other small boats in the vicinity. All was well and the task was successfully accomplished by all of the cadets until of course it came to my turn.
“Easy”, I thought, after watching my fellow cadets. I jumped down into the cockpit and proceeded to take over command of the boat. Straight away I realised there was a problem; being so small I couldn’t stand in the cockpit and steer and actually see over the front of the boat all at the same time. So I decided to improvise and stood on the seat by the wheel so that I could see where I was going. I thought that was a pretty clever idea as I managed to navigate around the various obstacles safely without too much problem.
“Take her in and tie her up alongside the Worcester”, ordered the officer,
All went well until I had to attempt to slow down while approaching the ship because I was standing on the seat and I couldn’t reach the gear lever. “Oh dear”, I thought ( or thoughts to that effect!!) The officer started to look agitated and when I jumped back down into the cockpit I got the timing wrong and couldn’t see a thing in front of me.
Then came the piercing scream: “Williams what the f*** are you doing? Look where the f*** you are going!”
Whoops too late, we crashed straight into the side of the ship and the officer by now was apoplectic. I was panicking trying to turn the engine off and my fellow cadets were struggling between laughing and the fear of drowning and of the screaming of the officer. Needless to say I was not the most popular cadet that day and I spent the rest of the day keeping my head down,(easy for me), and avoiding the angry officer.
Part 2 next week!
Today, some of us find the slaughter of whales shocking and unecessary – but 200 odd years ago it was a huge industry with a multitude of products made from all parts of the whale. It goes without saying that it was extremely dangerous for the whalermen and they lived in miserable conditions for long periods.
The opening lines of the shanty « Old Maui » sum up the whalermen’s predicament:
« It’s a damn tough life, full of toil and strife, we whalermen undergo.
And we don’t give a damn when the day is done how hard the winds do blow… »
Three links for you:
First, « Old Maui » sung acapello by « The Dreadnoughts »
Second, for those interested in history, an article on whaling in the 1800s sent to me by Ian.
Third, from Geoff, a link to an article on Christmas at Sea in the mid 1800s, which also includes tales from aboard a Whaleship: