Procol Harum

the Pale

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Homage to Guildford : Jim Krapf

(upon seizing the opportunity of a lifetime)


Now months have passed grown old beyond, 'tis time
to reflect on Guildford when we were prime
targets for e-mails that stirred romantic twinge
we packed bags, stowed our lot, left dogs and kids


Flew overseas, though rough, without more fear
than Heathrow served to confuse, run around
queued in maze with passports in rightly gear
soldiered terminal miles for underground


Heathrow's expanse gave way to London town
one hundred thirty hours found the way out
climbing into the shining night, Earl's Court
zigzagged to and fro directions we found


Edwardian digs, Harrington Gardens
tiny room, slim bed, but plumbing in stead
slept like logs we did till the gray dustbins
swirled above then lit upon our heads


Breakfast was served in continental style
listening to Beatles' Strawberry Fields
dawned on us we were in the British Isle
let's see what adventure the day will yield


The Bloody Tower and Crown Jewels led
to Spanish armor and the Domesday book
off to a pub with bitter to be fed
dark bap, onion cobble and stock pot soup


Quarter past three stumbled upon Lime Street
ducked into the Ship Tavern for bitter
roamed the outdoor Leadenhall Market beat
hugging my wife who is all a flutter


The rush-hour tube ride packed in like sardines
content at least the blockades had lifted
dined on salmon, Dover sole, and Champagne
as I turned fifty, the sand has sifted


An evening stroll as the drizzle did fade
took us down Cromwell Road, South Kensington
stood in awe, carved, terra cotta fašade
the Natural History Museum


Next day, refreshed, we are Waterloo bound
by now we are professionals on tour
I buy the tickets for the Portsmouth hound
we're off to Guildford by River Wey's shore


As the petrol shortage had eased a bit
we cabbed our luggage to the Travel Inn
the Jarvis was booked, and such was to wit
we were honestly pleased they took us in


Walking to town, we were somewhat on edge
what were we to find at this Convention?
we ate Italian, peering past the hedge
at Jarvis Hotel, the Palers' station


In need of a bitter before the show
we entered the Jarvis Hotel and bar
the headquarters seemed to be a bit slow
but one tall Paler was waving his arm


Outside the Hall, anticipating art
we meet Frank who sauntered in from Deutschland
we formed a group and ably looked the part
humble pilgrims ready to take a stand


Once inside, we meet a few more good friends
Beverly, Hermann, George, John and Marvin
Dave Ball hops on board, the party begins
strangers from cyberspace tucked in a den


Bitters all round 'cept my wife who drinks wine
we merge with the sound of Procol reverse
is he dead? can I tell? no sense I find
here's hoping the Palers band has rehearsed


Palers put on a show for the ages
Wolfgang in sync with BJ's plucky rolls
me thinks, "This room's turning back the pages"
Kaleidoscope as if taking a stroll


Antonio's Salad Days and Thin Edge
wrought from the heart and eerily surreal
Wreck of the Hesperus here on this stage
Nothing But the Truth between us revealed


The common thread that binds us together
A Barnyard Story echoes in the night
the loss of which we cannot recover
deliver us to Procol Harum flight


A Salty Dog with Tito, Fritz and Sev
this daring adventure cries out for more
Larry's Ghost Train organ really revved
Dr Sam meets Mr Krupp washed ashore


The Commander walks in at Palers' break
surveys the scene amidst our pleasantries
I thank him for coming but do not shake
those hands that deliver the groceries


He gives us A Rum Tale and marriage prop
forgets a line and is prompted out loud
by a chorus of bitter-laden sops
though speechless, they don't miss a beat, this crowd


Fires Burnt most Brightly with the Clare splendor
as this colossal night bore a second set
and great Ball's on fire with Conquistador
were we dreaming this musical banquet?


Utter Boredom turned to a Dead Man's Dream
Still There was More with Richard on guitar
Grand Hotel including Mabel it seemed
proved a fitting showcase for family Clare


Larry and Tito in Pandora's Box
David and the Geek were Long Gone by then
Robert, Stephen, Antonio on vox
Multifaceted Greg, Jens and Roland


Wilfried played bass on B side Homburg
Stefano guitar, Whiter Shade of Pale
audience transfixed this night in Guildford
interchangeable parts Palering well


We left the Hall with a souvenir disk
signed by Gary and Keith in white cover
then hurried on to the Jarvis breakfast
before this wonderful night was over


The food was okay, not a disaster
the bar was closed, we couldn't understand
nothing to drink not even tap water
back home they would be just starting the band


Finally, they wavered and let us in
with one odd stipulation to obey
if we wanted a bitter or a glass of gin
A Jarvis Hotel resident must pay


Since Frank was our friend he paid for our drinks
we gave him cash and got lost in the crowd
they showed films of Procol Harum, I think
by too much bitter I became endowed


We stumbled out to the strange looking street
thinking what a long, hard walk lies ahead
when my wife says, "We're lost," in frightful heat
I say, "Must have taken a left instead"


Just as my wife was about to panic
up pulled a taxi cab right where we stood
we got in thinking "What a lucky trick."
"Driver, takes us out of this neighborhood."


Back at the luxurious Travel Inn
I tipped the cabby a couple of pounds
he said, "Not necessary sir," wherein
I called him a godsend for coming round


Now the day has come for the reunion
me in the crowd for a live performance
seventy four, Kiel Auditorium
last saw them play as the harem girl danced


We will take our time whilst roaming the stalls
after lazy walks through a sleepy town
at the book fair in the convention hall
where we were last night only one floor down


Browsing through the stacks just wishin'
not thinking I'd find the stuff I wanted
Sillitoe, Dirk Bogarde, Colin Wilson
I suddenly find myself confronted


I end up with twelve, nine are rare Wilson
and chat avidly with the bookseller
to my lot I add the odd Simenon
from an American, the next teller


He asks me what we're doing in Guildford
I say we've come to see Procol Harum
there's an advertisement by the front door
say what!, eh gads, didn't mean to scare em


I talk about the convention last night
he's ready to pee in his pants it seems
he hasn't seen them and now they're in sight
and "in Stoke Park", "just down the road," he beams


Now we're happy having turned someone on
what should be a special event today
goes unnoticed by almost everyone
unless they traveled from far, far away


As we wander this quaint village of yore
we ask directions for this hidden park
two blocks that way, turn right, go down two more
what we cannot miss they are in the dark


For it's obvious what to us is keen
these teenage girls are not aware at all
the festival, "the web", the concert scene
their painted eyes stare back, blink and grow small


We climb crooked upon a grassy knoll
wondering if it might lead to the Stoke
an English garden by a pool we stroll
"Look yonder, at that old, gigantic oak"


Still uncertain of whereabouts we roamed,
searching for some signpost that is not there,
in the distance a fence that brightly shone
encircled tents and circus atmosphere


"Surely this must be the place," as we closed
on the fenced-in activity and joy
but, "How do we get in?" mockingly posed
a proud groundskeeper acting a bit coy


"You will have to go around to the front,"
he said, not knowing where behind we came
but it's all enclosed and the gate is shut
"Look, there's a bramble path beside the lane."


Sure enough, we're able to find our way
between the maintenance shed and the fence
a narrow strip of bramble bush and hay
leads us to a riding trail and park bench


We appear to be on top of a hill
above the road where our baggage is stowed
we've come full circle and onward we will
find entrance to this park and wooded bowl


As we come across a grand looking lodge
there appears a walking path of asphalt
it takes us to a parking lot we dodge
following our noses, then by default


We see Franky Brooker parking her car
giving us a smile and a wave, we know
we must be close, it cannot be too far
the open gates near a tent for the show


People handing in tickets to be torn
"Oh no, I left ours back at our room!"
a check at the tent, our fears are reborn
pay for the day, not just the concert boom


Gave our sob story, misunderstood plan
said we came from US Midwest to see
Procol Harum, they're our favorite band
"Here's some torn stubs, you can get in for free."


Happily inside, it's a lovely day
the sun shining bright and we spot the stage
"Natural amphitheater", I say
the BtP tent and friends to engage


I talk to Hermann about his school days
and pretend to be snipped by Beverly
my wife takes both of our pictures and says,
"These will make for wonderful memories."


Meet John Grayson of "Shine On" fame and buy
up all the souvenirs I can carry
tour the grounds and sample the veggie fry
we're certainly not in any hurry


But as we meander across the field
we think about getting back to relax
hauling around books takes strength to wield
and it's time to lay down and rub our backs


Now we know the layout, we go straightway
to the inn, take a nap and freshen up
then head to town to eat without delay
at Finnegan's Wake we take our due sup


At Finnegan's Wake pub we dined on grub
fit for a king and queen, so we took our
time and matched bitter and wine for to scrub
our slate quite clean, then we noticed the hour


And scrambled back past the inn to the Stokes
whilst on the way there we ran into Sam
going past us with a couple of blokes
"Sam," I said, "this is the way to the jam."


They turned in stony glaze, "Quite rightly so,"
he said, as they were wondering the same,
the signposts having ceased to sign, to know
which way to heed to find finale game


As we ducked inn side for our toilet dubs
Sam and his companions left to attack
when we entered the gate we handed stubs
thus preserving both our tickets intact


The bar sells canned bitter, we take our place
as the red sunset bids the day adieu
our tarps to the ready we sit with grace
New London Sinfonia plays to few


But as the night seeps in a crowd gathers
it soon becomes clear we won't need our tarps
"Rejoice, rejoice," hail the Choral Singers
this reckoning must invoke heaven's harps


After an operatic overture
we must stand to see the stage and drum deck
I tell my wife, "Prepare the aperture,"
they're getting ready for the sound check


Procol Harum, Bringing Home the Bacon
they tease before the ensemble boards ship
this voyage, thus commandeered, has taken
all the parts of an orchestra that's hip


Gary greets us in a cozy fashion
and reads 'a get on with it' from KR
then they sincerely bring home the bacon
and merge to an orchestrated Homburg


Conquistador, Shine On, the Grand Hotel
a Pandora's Box and Beyond the Pale
Salty Dog offered to one whose now well
Man With a Mission and a Whitehorn sail


Cerdes, Holding On and Repent in turn
smiles on their faces is reward enough
Piggy Pig Pig, Mick and Geoff, dual burn
Whiter Shade mix, sax by Frank Mead, great stuff!


Full force, they wade Into the Flood and float
Gary, Matthew, Mark, Mick, Matt, Whitehorn loom
New Lamps for Old played with heart on this boat
the Grand Finale's spectacular boom


Almost too much for one to comprehend
as we head on back to the Jarvis Bar
we hook up with Frank who lends us a hand
and orders our drinks, by the rule so far


Roland comes to us with programmes in hand
"How did they do a Whiter Shade", I ask
"Did they change the words, altering the band"?
"Oh no, four, one, three, two," takes me to task


The place fills up with fans galore and more
in anticipation of being there
talk with Frank and Dave trying not to bore
but it's easy, relaxed and pleasant fare


My wife has to go to the toilet stall
just as Gary and Franky walk on in
she froze and then climbed back upon the wall
so she wouldn't commit a passing sin


There he was, standing before her, his mug
she told me later, since I didn't see
her chance of a lifetime to give a hug
but, smooching against the wall, she did flee


Happy to be part of this splendid crowd
a bit sloshed and tired we say good-bye
some stayed till 9 am talking and proud
but we sauntered on home at 1:05


Next day back to Waterloo underground
this time the way out is at Marble Arch
it's raining again as we look around
for Palace Hotel we hurriedly march


Stowing our bags and our well-gotten gains
we look for our lunch in the neighborhood
ducking a pub that was out of its mains
we eat oriental, extremely good


I have Mongolian barbecue ribs
my wife a lush, veggie noodle salad
sated, we head back to our Palace crib
for a well-deserved, long nap at the pad


As we slowly awake a cricket match
is on the telly and we take to heart
this unique opportunity to watch
an Olympic game, British work of art


This game will last all day we soon find out
our time is running short to see London
off to Hyde Park subway to walk about
quaint Speaker's Corner hushed with no sun


Walking to the next block, we see the bus
that will take us on the grand Big Bus tour
in covered deck we leave behind the fuss
and ooh and ahh at Trafalgar Square's door


Winston Churchill stands tall and bent in stone
Lord Nelson defies those who doubt his pose
St. Martin in the Fields beckons in tone
but there's only time for a passing dose


Crossing the Thames on the Westminster Bridge
Piccadilly Circus, electric rain
passing Shakespeare's haunts to Theater digs
"There's Fleet Street and the Strand, Orwell's domain,"


"What does all this have to do with Procol?"
you say, "And who cares about what you did and saw?"
"Well, we're just a pair of country yokels
you see, we were traveling in the raw."


Everything we did had value to us
we partook in an adventure by Jove,
even to ride the Big Company Bus
into magic of history we dove


And BtP was the cause of all this
our marriage with Procol Harum complete
seizing the day, expose our wedded bliss
favorite music, sightseeing replete


Gas shortage easing, we cab the next day
back to Heathrow we go, smiling the way
of friends we met, but one regret took her,
my wife wished she had hugged Gary Brooker.

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