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Open Mike with Chris Evans. Oh, and Sparky.

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“Open Mike tonight if you’re around.”
For the last few years, the Cranley Hotel has played host to Sparky, Open Mike extraordinaire. As labouriously detailed in Sparky – The Final Encore (with flash goodness too!), his songs light up a darkened room, raise the roof and could bring a tear to a glass eye, all at the same time. He semi-retired from singing over a year ago, but his fanbase demanded more. Much more. So he’s become an unofficially regular feature back at the hotel, and his text message was enticing. The idea of a night listening to his songs battled with a strong desire to do absolutely nothing. Another text message, 2 hours later, instantly made up my mind.
“Currently sitting about 2 foot from Chris Evans.”
Shunta was at the hotel watching Sparky, and by sheer coincidence so was Chris Evans, presenter, broadcaster and millionaire good-time guy. The chance of Open Mike and a celebrity appearance was too much, and Michelle and I rushed out the door. We were eager as beavers.
Unlike my car. The flashing tyre light has been on for a number of days, and like a buffoon I’d ignored it. My car was plainly peeved, choosing this moment to throw a tyre-based strop, flashing a big red warning light and forcing me to stop.
And so it was that while friends and Mr Evans were living it up in Cranleigh, Michelle and I were sat at the side of the road in Guildford, pumping air into my right rear tyre. Luckily, within twenty minutes we were back on the road, and steaming towards the hotel. We rocked up at 9pm, just in time to see the last dregs of a Chris Evans-sponsored sambuca bottle draining into the mouth of Shunta. They were all plainly drunk, and my original plan to drink little and drive home went out of the window as quickly as a defenestrated slipper. We drank, listened and clapped along with Chris and his small entourage, who was plainly as taken with Sparky as we are. He was also plainly very drunk.
Shunta was on good form, fresh from a rather vicious barbers. His off-the-cuff suggestion for a made up song – titled “I wasn’t born here, I’m just here for the cheese” – was one of my favourite moments of the night. A bit later, eyeing up Mr Evans, he hatched a plan. “If you can sleep with him,” he asked his fiance Lucy, pointing at our celebrity, “we’ll be quids in.” Lucy agreed, the game girl, and after a quick touch-up of makeup, managed to get a seat at his table. She had stiff competition, mind, from Chris’s girlfriend. And worse luck was to come – his girlfriend was plainly so drunk that there was nothing for it but to leave. We managed not to be too disappointed and continued well into the night with song, dance and The Only Gay Eskimo.
So now, thanks to Sparky and Shunta, I can now say that I’ve been drinking with Chris Evans. The evening was also a winner for Sparky, not just because of his sensational singing (ably backed up, by the way, by Shaun, who appears to be getting worryingly good). Chris Evans was impressed enough to invite him to host nights at a pub he’s about to buy in Chiddingfold. It’s a small step to stardom, Sparky…

Happy Birthday Me

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So this is it – my birthday has arrived! I woke up late this morning, spoiling any plans to get up and open presents. I stumbled into work a few minutes late, and am currently having the busiest day on record at work. Things, as you can imagine, are not going to plan – but at least I’ve got something to look forward to – cakes this afternoon (it’s a tradition, apparently) and Simon H’s last quizmastering at the Cranley Hotel tonight.
Now, back to work…

Look out for that tree…

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Dear god, a bit of an oversight – I’ve completely forgotten to announce that Michelle has successfully navigated around Guildford and is now officially legal to drive! Thrilled to bits, she eagerly awaited the driving licence, only to find that they’d spelt her home address wrong and had to send it back again. Well done on passing your driving test, you – and I’m throughly looking forward to you being able to demand you drive us home after I’ve had one to many in Cranley Hotel…

The End Of Sparky

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“Thank you all so, so much. You have made every night I’ve been here a special experience.”
Sparky, closing speech, 6th March 2004
What a splendid morning it is. The birds are singing, the trees are swaying, and my Student Loan Repayment Notification announced itself on
my doormat.
Still, Saturday night, the Last Encore, was a corker. Over the years, the Open Mike night at the Cranley Hotel has evolved into a one-man show, with others filling in admirably when the main man needs a rest. “Sparky” is that main man, and the emotional end last night was a fitting tribute. We’d prepared for the slaughter – Shunta had made special personalised Last Encore t-shirts for the male half of the group, and rooms were booked in the hotel, so at the end of the hazy night all we had to do was climb the stairs to welcoming beds.

Jac, Shaun and others filled in during the night, while the rest of us (Michelle, Alex, Siobhan, Sophie and Debs) found the alcohol slipped down our throats splendidly, in exactly the same way a set of razor blades wouldn’t. By around ten o’clock, Jac and I were muttering bizarre conversations (“My rooms has a four poster bed, without the four posts.” “So it?s a bed then.”) The climax (as it were) came (so to speak) at around 11.30, when Sparky finished off (stop it with the double entendres, will you) with his trademark chest-thumping acapella version of “Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz”. It was an amazing moment, caught for posterity by Michelle’s new digital camera (videos and pictures will be up soon).
So that?s it. No more Sparky. What will Cranleighans do now of a Saturday night?
Update: Photos are now online.

Open Mike – the final farewell

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“All good things must come to an end.”
Anon.
Devastating news – the Open Mike night at the Cranley Hotel is coming to an end, and the finale is this Saturday. Years of fun we’ve had there, singing the old classics, more often with a fine acapella finale of “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”.
Everyone’s welcome for a rousing send off – click here for a map if you’re in the area. I’ll be the tall, loud one at the front. It’ll be great. Here’s a little missive from Jac:
Dear All

And so that sad time has come, that announcement that we feared might one day materialise has cropped up, that news that we never expected to hear but knew deep down that it was inevitable has arrived, yes, open mic night in the Cranley Hotel is to cease from 6th March.

Having provided us with music every Saturday night without fail for almost four years, Sparky will turn his attentions to fatherhood and leave the weekend entertainment to the pub landlord. As all of you know, Open Mic night has been the source of many-an-amusing scene and countless antics have occurred on such occasions. This truly is a historic announcement.

It is very sad to see the Open Mic evening disappear from the entertainment calendar, but times change and new approaches to entertaining Joe Public need to be made. However, since we have become so fond of Open Mic night over the years and since we have so many fond memories of Saturday nights in the Hotel, I think it our duty to give Sparky and the final Open Mic night the send off it deserves.

I am therefore inviting you to attend Open Mic ‘The Final Encore’ at the Cranley Hotel on Saturday 6th March. Please do try to attend and show your support for Sparky and the work and effort he has put in over the years to keep us entertained.

I hope to see you there.

Jac

Cranleigh Tour

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Few things are more pleasant than a village graced with a good church, a good priest and a good pub.”
John Hillaby
And so, by rights, Cranleigh is as pleasant as can be. Many a time I’ve been out in Cranleigh, and the drunken antics are legendary. Last Saturday was no exception.
We decided to give Jac’s new girlfriend Debbie (welcome to our world, Debbie) a tour of the local hostelries, all five of them. Lucky her. She was treated first to Little Park Hatch, a pub on the outskirt of cranleigh, for a swift tipple to start the evening off. Michelle and I rocked up at 8pm to find the place full of partygoers, dressed in all sorts of fancy dress (the 118118 guys were particularly inspired, I thought). After queueing for an eternity for a drink, we managed to get a round, and joined the group. Nick, as expected, turned up a little while later, and we merrily buzzed with the thought of the night ahead.
It was then that the night took a turn. One of the 118118 men suddenly lashed out at a man next to him. A considerable fight ensued and, brave souls that we are, we all stood back, backs against the wall, and watched in lurid fascination, wincing as head hit table, gasping as chairs flew. Only Simon H managed to be brave enough to break it up, and after several compliments, he suggested now would be a good time to move on. Event Number One had passed.
Event Number 2 happened mere moments later, when Lucy crashed into an unsuspecting car on the way out of the car park. Someone, we thought, was plainly out to ruin our night.
After a few minutes, we reached a sleepy tavern called the White Hart, confident that we would not be interrupted in our quest for fun. A darts board provided entertainment while I again waltzed to the bar in search of a hearty drink. The barman appeared confused as he served us – nothing unusual in that, I thought, the old soak was probably craving his next pint of bitter. But this shaking hands were a definite cause for concern. I asked around, and Lee piped up that he usually asks for a “pint of bitter, shaken not stirred”. Duly amused, I thought nothing more of it.
Until, of course, Event Number 3 decided to introduce itself. A loud crash signalled that all was not well behind the bar, and we leaned over to see the barman laid out on the floor, convulsing, dribbling and with a trail of blood dripping from a large scar on his cheek. Odd, we thought, and while others had the presence of mind to call an ambulance, we merely stood, stunned at our misfortune. The barman’s colleague fussed around, claiming she didn’t know what to do, and in a rather macabre moment, began serving customers again, mere feet away from the poor wretch shivering on the floor.
It was then that I discovered that Cranleigh is not a place to be if you’re planning on being severely ill. A full half an hour passed before the ambulance turned up, by which time the barman has righted himself and plonked down on a convenient bench, bucket in hand, looking utterly confused. The bench was considerably inconvenient for our bowels however – as Simon H quipped, “The man’s sat in front of the toilets, and has in his hand the only other way we could empty our bladders…”.
We ended up in the Cranley Hotel, which managed to calm our frayed nerves. We supped pints, shorts and shots, and got very merry. Simon H began to utter highly inappropiate comments, and we decided to leave while the going was good. Michelle and I wearily got into bed at Simon H’s, a welcome sight at the end of a very bizarre night.

Two Open Mike nights. Spoiled, I am

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So, finally you get an update on last weekend. It was actually a very musical one – on Friday night, as Michelle swanned around at a hen night, I went to a nice little bar in Guildford, Jo Clarks, with Nick and Sarah. We watched my good friend Simon Broadhurst play with Michael Taylor. They played one of my favourite songs – standing in line, marking time – waiting for the welfare dime, and I was frankly in awe of them. I was in awe again two days later, at the Cranley Hotel on Open Mike night. Sparky, the resident Open Miker, was backed up by Jac and Shaun H, and it was a very good night.
And here I am, back in the five-day working stretch, and looking forward to a wedding on Saturday. Not mine, I hasten to add. Talking of weddings, a little announcement was made…

Cheap month

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My New Year economy drive is in full swing. January’s always an awful month – you’ve spent all your money on presents and pubs, and you have to survive an extra week before you get paid… In the last month, I’ve been to 3 parties – one work do paid for by the nice people at Head Office, and two house parties, where I rudely brought no alcohol and proceeded to drink everyone elses. Of course, thing’s never go to plan, and my car decided that now would be a good time to bring up its two bald tyres, broken cooling fan and dodgy rear brakes. Bless it though – got the tyres fixed yesterday, and it bombs along now. Chessington Tyres, I love you. Kind of.
So, what have I been doing without spending money? Well, I’ve been visiting Head Office, which put expensive lunchtime Marks and Spencer sandwiches well out of reach, and carting Michelle and workmates around for their Christmas do, earning ?20 in the process. I combined my chauffering job with a visit to the Cranley Hotel for a long drink with Jac and Shunta for the first time in ages. Jac managed to discover he could balance his beer on his stomach while standing up (previously he could only manage it sitting down – it’s sad, isn’t it), and the evening ended with a beer towel fight. Jac, as ever, has a full decription of the night here.
While Jac and I wondered out of the pub at about 1am, Shunta stayed at the bar till 4am, no doubt informing everyone how his pus-filled abcess is getting on…

Bye, Jac

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Well, Jac’s off. He had a leaving bash on Saturday night in the Cranley Hotel, which we all duly attended with aplomb. After the final rendition of Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me A Horse and I’m The Only Gay Eskimo, we said our farewells, and even Jac won’t deny he got a little emotional.
He’s started a new job at Renault, moved into his new house in Ealing, and just received a new company car. It’s the end of an era. We’ll miss you…
On a lighter note, I slipped on a small button mushroom this afternoon.

Jac’s Embarrassment

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After all the FUN OF THE FAIR on Friday night, we were all washed out. Jac looked truly awful, emptying his stomach for most of the afternoon, while I was at work, a virtual zombie. A small night at the Cranley Hotel was called for for us all, where Jac and Shaun were due to sing their hearts out at Open Mike night. After Jac’s previous night’s success with Becki, both of them were a little apprehensive of meeting again, but things went well. Until, sadly, the landlord (a personal friend of Jac) turned up. Interrupting a perfectly civil conversation between Jac and Becki, the landlord drew up the table and announced, “So, Jac, I hear you pulled last night.” Everyone stopped talking. Tumbleweed skitted past. Jac’s life flashed before him, as everyone imagined the blokey gossip, congratulations and slaps on the back that must have gone on not half an hour before. “So, who was she? Was she nice?” the landlord asked again, ignoring the utter horror on our faces. “Well?”, the landlord again asked, desperate to glean any information at all from his clammed-up friend. Eventually, something had to give.
“Steve,” said Jac, “meet Becki.”
After the laughter died down, we tried to rescue the evening, but Jac, out of sheer embarrassment, and Becki, out of sheer awkwardness, barely talked for the rest of the night.
It was ALMOST worth it…