WHISPERING SMITH: Snakes and jazz both alive and well

Adders at Pulborough Brooks. Picture by Diana Adams
Adders at Pulborough Brooks. Picture by Diana Adams

Have you ever bought a ticket on impulse for a gig you knew nothing about and then wondered why, only to discover it was one of the most joyful evenings of a lifetime of gig attendances?

Well it happened to me and, as it was at Shoreham’s Ropetackle with its two bars, I went quite willingly. Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra, it has been 50 years since they first performed in Brighton as a jazz quartet and some of the original players are still going strong.

Adders at Pulborough Brooks. Picture by Diana Adams

Adders at Pulborough Brooks. Picture by Diana Adams

They are all white haired now, well those that still have some, and I learned from my companion, a long-time fan, that many of the jokes had worn just as well. Excellent musicians and comic turns, they obviously like the visual joke and don’t mind sending themselves up a wee bit.

During the excellent drum solo the rest of the orchestra pretended to fall asleep while Maurice Dennis, who seems to be the longest standing member, stood up and did some magic with scissors and a newspaper. The very different musical Punch and Judy show which popped up at the end of the first set had me in stitches.

As well as past band members dropping by, other guests included blues singer Marlene Hill and tap dancer Lee Payne. Lee is a familiar sight at Littlehampton’s Organisation of Community Arts gigs.

It was all a bit like Dad’s Army in so many ways, great and lasting humour skilfully performed by players who were happy in each other’s company and knew exactly how to deliver a note, a line or a visual and exaggerated grimace. A joyful and delightful entertainment and well worth the impulse buy. Live music, you cannot beat it...

Adders at Pulborough Brooks. Picture by Diana Adams

Adders at Pulborough Brooks. Picture by Diana Adams

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I have always had a phobia regarding snakes, they leave me cold, give me the heebie-jeebies, I could not even watch the snake scene in Indiana Jones without a great shiver.

That aside, I have a total fascination with British wildlife and when the opportunity arose to see adders in the wild, something I have never witnessed, I could not but say yes please. I set off on a bright Wednesday morning heading to the RSPB reserve at Pulborough where a barmy bird lady I know, assured me I would see an adder or, if I was ‘lucky’, several adders.

I was sceptical, I have been there hundreds of times and never seen a sign of one. Good as her word though, straight to one curled up among some old tiles.

I did not like the way it glared at my camera, looking very much as if it were eyeing up its lunch, but I went very close, took my pictures and, when it was joined by several mates, I fled.

The bird lady stood firm, clicking away at the whole bunch of them. Top bird lady, chicken-hearted man!

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