The Perch Creek Family Jugband have a long history playing rural shows, and as we pulled up at the Aalten Farm and Country Fair, we knew at once by the overpowering stench of fresh cow dung, this was going to be the real deal.
Beneath all the groans of “oh man, we are rock stars now – we don’t do agricultural shows anymore!”, we were secretly harbouring sentimental feelings for the good old days when we used to gig on hay bale stages sandwiched between the sheep and the Angus cattle, trading sets with Dale’s Dog & Duck show and heats of the doggy high jump. Some of us were more sentimental than others. Reminiscing about how they met at the Lismore Agricultural Show (true story, folks) Camilla and James were seen taking long walks in the poultry shed and coming out with their feathers all ruffled.
The stall and displays were a cut above the dinky ag shows we have back home and we were amazed by the reindeers, camels, alpacas, pigs, and award winning guinnea pigs (but sadly, no muntjacs) as well as all the crafts. But more amazing than all that was the friendliness and incredibly down to earth people that we were surrounded by the whole time. Dutch people in this area have this great way of greeting each other that goes “Hoi?!”. It goes up in pitch and is one of those sounds that just feels good to make.
At the core of it all were the lovely Ruesink family, (Erik, Joke (pronounced “yo-kuh”), Suzanne, Marielle and Joyce) who put us up and looked after us for the weekend.
They were real hard working farm people and while we complained that we had to play 10 sets over the weekend (10!) we knew we were just wimpy musos. I knew this all too well, because after not touching the double bass for 6 weeks, then playing 10 sets (did I mention that we played 10 sets?), by the end if it each note was pure punishment for my raw fingers (sympathy, please).
After one of the shows, a 12 year old kid was really excited because he thought that Lear was Stampycat Longnose, a minor youtube celebrity among gamers, who happens to look a lot like Lear. We were sad to disappoint the kid, but glad to get a new nickname for Lear.
Pointless anecdote: Fishing out the old pair of gumboots last used at Green Man 2012, I found a blue woolly sock that had been missing since, well, Green Man 2012. It was a joy to be reunited with the odd sock, but was cause for a moment of concern when reflecting on the fact that I had been clinging on to its lonely counterpart in my sock drawer back home for two whole years!
Speaking of footwear, we saw lots of people getting around in actual wooden clogs – how quaint!
As we got to know the Ruesinks, we gradually became aware of their eccentricities and creativity. Erik single handedly built an entire theme park on their property called “Follybos”, complete with a real castle and an underground labyrinth! The Follybos was an incredible feat of imagination, with paths winding through a forest full of oddities giving the whole place a surreal, homespun nursery rhyme feel with a healthy dose of the macabre. Joke had the most incredible vintage pram collection with literally hundreds of unbelievable prams from the early 18th Century to the Art Deco era. Each daughter was passionately into some aspect of farming or animal breeding – if you order a super rare breed of exotic guinnea pig, chances are it’ll come from these guys.
Each day we discovered some new cool thing, like the talent contest for sheep called Sheep Factor, which we were hoping to enter Christi into with his magnificent, shabby locks.
On the Saturday night we were shouted a bunch of drinks by Suzanne and then invited to join them in their tradition of a midnight fried egg feast at Benny’s farm a few kms away. Normally, eating fried eggs at midnight is not something any of us would do to take our night to the next level, but hey, when you are traveling abroad, you try new things. Either that or we were drunk… Anyway, a whole bunch of young, jolly Dutchies and our awkward but grinning heroes all bundled into a big old circus trailer, with Benny towing us from behind the wheel of his big tractor. Songs were sung loudly with everyone joining in in Dutch and English. After a good bout of singing, we all hopped out of the trailer and into Benny’s kitchen where round after round of eggs were fried up and dished out.
High as a kite on eggs and wine, I was coaxed by a young Dutchman into unwittingly saying my first rhyming Dutch phrase, “Neuken in de keuken”. I did splendidly but still caused a few giggles around the table. You can Google Translate that at home if want, provided you are over 18 years of age.
With that thought, I’ll leave you now, but stay tuned for the next instalment… Amsterdam and beyond!