*With apologies to Raghu Dixit . . .
I'm going to have to go out of chronological 'what I did on my holidays' order to mention our visit to - er - Milton Keynes at the end of July. That is 'our', in terms of my Friend on the Road and me. We where there to see the Raghu Dixit Project, for which we had waited an entire year because I wasn't able to get away from Devon to see the band when they were in the UK last summer.
It was only last year that I discovered their brilliant music, when the BBC's coverage of Glastonbury included Raghu performing No Man Could Ever Love You. It took no more than the opening bars to have me hooked, lined and sinkered and I wrote about Raghu Dixit here.
I drove across Buckinghamshire - I was staying with my family in the Chilterns; my Friend on the Road caught the train from Euston and we met at the Jaipur in Milton Keynes, to remind ourselves of the time we spent travelling in India four years ago. Recommended by my ex-Royal Greenjackets friend and neighbour, S, who seems to be familiar with everything everywhere in the UK, it is said to be the largest Indian restaurant in Europe.
But this being just Day Two of the Games (still confused; am I allowed to use this word?), it was unusually quiet for the Jaipur, which is normally heaving with hungry diners. Our excellent vegetarian meal was great value and the staff were delightful. We had a longish chat with one of them about the Games before another gave us directions to Campbell Park, where Raghu was due to appear on the closing night of the annual Milton Keynes International Festival.
So, our first visit to an equally - and eerily - quiet Milton Keynes, at least in its centre, and on to the festival, where we had our first experience of a spiegeltent:
Glastonbury afiçionados will know exactly what this is: an ornate circular construction - think circus ring - edged with mirror-lined booths:
The lighting is art nouveau:
the ceiling a canopy of red velvet trimmed with gold braid that billows in the wind (this being a farly typical English summer, it billows in the rain too), and an intimate space that lends itself to rather good acoustics. A combination that makes for an intimate setting for music and all rather magical.
The audience reflected the international aspect of the festival and ranged in age from very young people (as in babes in arms) to, well, let's not be coy about this - pensioners. Within minutes of the band's appearance on stage, everyone was up on their feet, clapping, dancing and generally having a very good time indeed, helped by the fact that Raghu Dixit engaged so directly with the audience, joking wth them, telling stories of his childhood in Mysore and even encouraging a collective attempt at qawwali. Proof, yet again, that music has the power to cross the boundaries of age, culture, nationality and gender.
By the end of the evening our hands ached from clapping and our jaws from smiling, laughing and occasionally joining in; we had loved every minute and that year of waiting to see a live performance had been so worthwhile. So, an enormous 'thank you' to the Raghu Dixit Project. If you have the opportunity to see the band, do take it; you will not be disappointed.