Comedy and Carol’s at Christ Church Woking

Miranda, she of the posh voice and softly self deprecating humour, champion of the single woman and all round (not that I’m suggesting she’s round in any way) good egg was rumoured to be appearing at the Christ Church Comedians and Carols night in Woking. When a friend told me the rumour I was on the internet, booking tickets quicker than you can say ‘Such Fun’.

Christ Church, Woking

Christ Church, Woking

We arrived nice and early and found that unfortunately they weren’t opening the doors until exactly dead on 7.30pm. We stood in the queue, freezing our socks off and exchanging pleasantries and little jokes with everyone in the queue. By this time I had been informed that Miranda was definitely not coming and we weren’t sure what might lay in wait for us in that nice warm church.

Eventually the doors opened and the crowd surged forwards. The Christ Church team were in full force with their matching sweatshirts, shepherding the crowd and generally welcoming everyone and herding them in the right direction. We rushed to the front to get some good seats and then headed back to the temporary bar to get some glasses of red wine. The vicar, Peter Harwood, had recommended the red wine in particular and of course a vicar should know his red wine as he probably drinks quite a lot in his job.

At 8pm, after the Vicar had officially welcomed us all, Paul Kerensa, Comedian and one of the writers of Miranda and Not Going Out bounced onto the stage and began his warm up routine. He was gently funny and my worries at having invited Colin’s daughter Jasmine and her fiancé Nick along began to disappear. He introduced the first act, Andy Kind a comedian hailing from Manchester.

Andy Kind

Andy Kind

According to Andy’s website he is described by the Scotsman as being ‘terrific’ and his style like ‘ the joyful rant of a post 30 chaos vacuum’ I think that’s a bit harsh he was very good. He certainly had us in stitches. He’s a good observational comic and we found ourselves chuckling along to his anecdotes and had some really big belly laughs especially when one joke in particular hit home.

Howard Read

Howard Read

We sang a Carol, I can’t remember which one and then the next comedian, Howard Read was on. Howard had a very unusual style. He first of all entertained us with a lullaby to make sure your child won’t ever get out of bed once you’ve put them there and wouldn’t dare move once in the bed for fear of the beasts and ghouls that Howard was lovingly describing. It was naughtily funny. The rest of his act consisted of a ‘double act’ with a cartoon character called Little Howard who appeared on the screen behind him.

Interval time and a dash for the ladies loo, I got there first and was mightily pleased with myself when I saw the queue on the way out. I was then able to relax with another lovely glass of the Vicars wine and a chat with the people around us. Everyone seemed to be having a jolly old time and were commenting on what a good evening it was turning out to be.

Paul Kerensa

Paul Kerensa

Paul Kerensa was up first after the break and he was now wearing a silly Xmas outfit complete with Xmas jumper and reindeer antlers. For some reason his jokes got even better and he was really funny. He then got us singing his amusing version of the Fairytale of New York which he had adapted to be relevant to Woking. I couldn’t help noticing that everyone sang this with Gusto, a little more gusto than the last Carol but by then we had all had a couple of glasses of wine.

Singing always makes you feel good and after the rendition of Fairytale of New York the whole audience seemed to have been catapulted into higher spirits or could it have been the Holy Spirit? The Headline act of the evening was Milton Jones. Nick, the aforementioned fiancé was beside himself, he’d not really wanted to come along not that he would have said anything to me he’s too well brought up, but now he was going to see his favourite comedian. Of course this called for a status update on Nick’s face book page. An outpouring of jealousy ensued on the 20 something face book network. I was feeling quietly smug that I’d brought them to such a COOL night out.

milton_jonesAnyway, back to Milton he jumped onto the stage all springy legs, loud shirted and Squiffy haired. Milton Jones is the King of the one liners and some of them are so clever the audience have to think about them for a while but Milton is quite practised and he just stands there until you get the joke. It was a great set and very clever. He was so good I forgot all about Miranda, speaking of whom… she did actually do a 5 minute very funny pre- recorded slot all about Genesis, not the group – Adam and Eve and that pesky snake.

The Evening was finished off with a rousing rendition of Hark the Herald Angels, sung with a great deal of enthusiasm. Funny how a great night of comedy can release the inhibitions and get even the tone deaf and terribly shy to brush off their tonsils and let rip with their vocal chords.

We left the church having had a fantastic evening. We were all smiles and happiness afterwards and it was so nice to go to such a good evening locally. It may even have done the job of enticing us back for a bit of proper Carol singing later in the season.

Thanks to Paul Kerensa ( I did buy your book afterwards ) and to Christ Church Woking for organising such a splendid evening this is definitely going to get the Lightening standard rating – Excellent

Three Thunderbolts, the Lightning Standard

Three Thunderbolts, the Lightning Standard

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Jazz in a Cold Climate, Runnymede Jazz club

Jazz in a Cold Climate, Runnymede Jazz club

Chris Walker and Roger Marks Band

Chris Walker and Roger Marks Band

“Want to go to a Jazz night” said Colin, “Yes” I said not really listening to the details and into the diary went ‘Jazz night’ for the 23rd November. It was freezing on the night and so, imagining some sort of smokey, dimly lit, fridge like basement with not much heating,  I dressed up nice and warm with a good few layers and we headed out.

My eyes lit up when I saw the venue because it immediately screamed ‘heating’ at me and meant I’d be warm even if I didn’t like the Jazz.  All thoughts of a hip and trendy 60’s style Jazz club scenario went out the window as we entered The Chertsey  Hall which was brightly lit, warm and had a lady selling homemade scarves, snoods and hats in the foyer.  We’d been invited by a couple of members and so we paid  the non members rate of £10 each to go in.

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Once in the building I noticed that Colin and I had brought the average age down quite considerably which was exactly what our host said as we walked through the door. However, these silver Jazz lovers looked a lively bunch to me, the place was heaving and the bar was open. We went straight to the bar to order our bottle of wine, the bar was small but manned by two very friendly barmaids who, when we ordered a bottle of red wine gave us a choice of Merlot, Malbec or Pinot Noir, we couldn’t make up our mind so asked what countries they were from, we went for the Italian wine, which went down very well with a couple of the Neapolitan love songs we heard later.

Out of the bar and onto the raffle station where everyone without exception seemed to stop to buy raffle tickets. The raffle ticket lady was very friendly and was chatting to everyone as they bought their tickets, she obviously knew a good few of the regulars and helped me find the chairman so I could ask if I could take pictures.

DSCN0081We finally settled at our table and waited for the show to begin. The Chairman of the Jazz Club did the introductions, tonight we were going to be entertained by Roger Marks and Chris Walker and their tribute to Trad Jazz. On to the tinselled stage came six musicians, a Trombonist, Trumpeter, Double Bass player, Banjo player, Clarinettist and Drummer; all of whom were wearing matching sea green jackets, Glen Miller style.  We then sat back and listened while the Band played a repertoire influenced by Jazz greats such as Monty Sunshine, Aka Bilk, Kenny Ball and Hoagie Carmichael. Some of the Jazz, to me, seemed to step right out of a Great Gatsby film and evoked the 20’s and 30’s . Other numbers were more recent, only 40 or 50 years old. In between numbers the band took it in turns to introduce the next number with frequent references to the ‘Hit Parade’ in the 50s and 60s interspersed with some wonderful ‘awful’ jokes that Bruce Forsyth would have been proud of.  My favourite in the first half was when the Band, in a self-deprecating manner said that they were the “best musicians in their price range”.

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The music was certainly foot tappingly good. I looked behind me and saw a row of ladies all with their arms firmly crossed rigorously nodding their heads in time to the music, others were tapping on tables and chair backs and there was a fair bit of “chair bopping” going on which probably meant that they would have liked to get up and twinkle their toes on the dance floor. One of the songs, Somerset, by Aka Bilk was introduced as hitting number 5 in the hit parade in 1960, I couldn’t imagine something so charming even hitting the top 40 today which to my mind is a little bit of a shame, but, heh, we gotta move with the times.

At half time Brian Frith, the Chairman read out a few notices and announced the Xmas Concert with the Hugh Rainey Jazz band. I went to the bar and had a chat with the regulars. They all seemed to have been coming to the Jazz Club for years and explained that the club was so popular that musicians  from all over the country were queuing up to appear at the club ( they are now booking for 2015). The Club is held every month and is often sold out so booking is essential if you want to be sure of a table. I’d say there were at least 150 people there on this particular night. Everyone I spoke to was friendly, had a great love of Jazz and were particularly enthusiastic about the Jazz club.

Raffle prizes with that Blanket, centre stage

Raffle prizes with that Blanket, centre stage

Back to the table for our picnic.  You don’t have to pay inflated prices for food at the club you just bring your own, a nice touch. We tucked into french bread, cheese and pate care of Morrisons and washed it down with our Italian wine, delicious! The Raffle was also called out and we won twice!! .. beginners luck. I was going to go for the wine but I spotted a brightly coloured home-made, crocheted blanket and couldn’t resist, Colin didn’t like it but I thought it had some nice colours and someone had spent a lot of time on it. The people behind us told me that an 87-year-old lady had made it so I felt justified in my choice and promised it would go to a good home…. probably in a nice cupboard if Colin has his way.

The second half kicked off with a little number called “so do I” with everyone joining in the chorus. The drummer who had been entertaining me all evening with his shoulder rolling and  facial expressions also happened to be a Clarinettist and came forward to give a fantastic rendition of Petit Fleur. They did their own version of the White Cliffs of Dover, the audience groaned when it was announced and the band retorted with ‘just you wait and see’ ….I think the audience were right. My favourite awful joke of the second half referred to a little number by Chris Barker entitled “The World is waiting for the Sunrise” AKA by the musical fraternity,  “The Musician is Waiting for a Pay Rise”. Finally they finished off with a well-known number of Chris Barber’s called Ice Cream,  the audience loved it and it was a great way to end the session.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and will definitely be back next year. The club is one of the largest Jazz clubs in the country but they still want members.  They now have a website under the umbrella of Surrey Community Information website. Go to www.surreycommunity.info and type in Runnymede Jazz in the search box. So get in touch if you’d like to join.

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I’m going to give the Runnymede Jazz Club a one thunderbolt rating, it was good but our hosts insisted that we hadn’t seen the best of the club yet. They’d had a band on last month called Reeds United that were absolutely brilliant and had got a standing ovation. I’m coming back when they are on and I’m bringing my mum !

one lightening bolt

Ben’s Collectors Records, Guildford

Ben's Record Shop -frontMy Uncle Dave is chief music aficionado in our family with definitely the largest collection of vinyl I’ve ever seen, so when he said get down to Ben’s in Guildford we were there quicker than a “Bat out of hell”.

Ben’s is a second-hand collectors record shop in the heart of Guildford City Centre run and owned by Ben Darnton.The minute I saw the shop I was transported back to Kingston in the 1980’s when it was really cool to hang out down the record shop, flicking through what you hoped was the trendiest section whilst casting an eye at all the fit boys/girls that made it their Saturday afternoon Mecca. Record shops were SO ‘hip’ in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, albums were treasured and played over and over again and music and albums were a serious and repeated topic of conversation for the young man/woman about town.

Suddenly digital music took over, you couldn’t flick through the albums or CDs in shops, there was no interaction with fellow customers or the owner and there was no fun in buying music any more….. nowadays three clicks and it’s done.  Ben’s Collectors Records put’s the “hipness”, trendiness, coolness and sheer pleasure back into buying music and not only music but music on vinyl, which, in my opinion, is the only way to listen your favourite tunes. Unlike the compacted sound from digital music, vinyl still has that raw sound that compels you to get up on your feet, throw some shapes, play your air guitar, pogo or bang your head “whatever you want” to coin a famous phrase.

Ben and Chap - Copy

I had a chat with Ben and it’s clear that he’s had a love of good music right from an early age, he was brought up on his dad’s mix of modern Jazz, Queen, Bowie, Sweet and T Rex as well as the obligatory top 40 countdown on the radio on Sunday night. After being lent a record deck in the 70s with a few records thrown in, Ben discovered the double A sided single, Day Tripper/ We can Work it out by the Beatles. This was the spark that ignited his passion for music and his future career. (He’s the one on the left in the picture)

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The shop is jam-packed full of rows of Vinyl (or LPs as they used to be known) and CD’s from every genre and era since recorded music began. The notice boards are crammed full of local music events and the ceiling is covered in old album covers.

Ben's TOTP The one that caught my eye was the old Top of the Pops compilation. These were sold in the 1970s and were sound-alike covers of the latest pop tunes priced reasonably and aimed at unsuspecting kids and teenagers who thought they were the real thing.The Album cover always had a boobilicious young female on the front which I have no doubt increased the sales amongst the young male population.

All this paraphernalia helps to create an atmosphere of a friendly music club. On Saturday morning the regulars  get a green card from their other halves, come down, have a chat, play some music and while away a few hours.  The shop is frequented by a good mixture of clientelle, as well as the serious collectors and enthusiasts. Those fit boys and girls I was talking about from the 70s and 80’s, now with a silver streak in their once spiky tousled locks tend to frequent the shop during the week and the youngsters/students at the weekends. However this isn’t an exclusive club and all are most definitely welcome.

Ben's Ceiling - Copy

Records cost from £3-£5 depending on how in demand they are and CDs are £3-£5.  At that price you can afford to try a few albums you are not quite sure of and still have change from a tenner.  If you are after something more specialist you can always have a chat with Ben and he can direct you to the right place or look out for that particular Album/CD. Ben is very friendly, helpful and obliging and I think that’s one of the reasons why this place has such a good vibe. Ben also knows a chap that can repair your record deck so if you have one or your dad has one collecting dust in the attic, get it repaired, get those albums out and  throw a few vinyl parties!

Ben’s gets a Double Thunderbolt rating – very good and here is a link to his website www.bensrecords.com. The shop is open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm, and on Sundays from 11am to 5pm.

2 bolts