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A U G U S T   2 0 0 6 

Tuesday  1st August 06                                                                                                                                     

Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe.

"August is a Wicked Month" according to Irish feminist writer, Edna O'Brien.  I'm sure she was talking about sex, and that's a lot more interesting than sitting in a fucking car for ten hours every time you have a gig to do.  We are going to cover many many miles in the next 30 days.  There will no doubt be much wickedness within the band.  Sex, on the other hand and contrary to popular belief, will be left to those with "proper" jobs and those not suffering from "car sores". 
NB. Dirk has started to bring a cushion on the long haul trips.

So what do we know about Ilfracombe?'s a very beautiful, very hilly seaside town tucked away on the North Devon coast.  We take the picturesque road into the town via Combe Martin, home of Damien Hirst, and avoid the traffic in Barnstaple.  The views are quite simply stunning.  They say that the calf muscles of this towns inhabitants are among the best developed in the United Kingdom.  Indeed, one of the first things that Dirk and I discover on our initial reccy, is a mosaic artwork memorial to World Record breaking Triple Jumper, Jonathan Edwards.  Apparently he lived here for a while, and his parents visited the town in 2002... all the kids had the day off school.  As if this wasn't enough excitement, I have since learned that famous Cavern Beatles fan, Joan Collins, went to school in Ilfracombe.  Given the towns penchant for celebrating its famous, one would have least expected to have seen an obelisk.

We must have arrived here in plenty of time, because we managed to squeeze in a fish dinner.  Dirk and Eddie went for the cod and I sampled the haddock.  For once, I'd made the right decision as I was still in possession of it by curtain up.  Great chips though.
*Recent evidence gathered, suggests it may have been the peas!!*

After last weeks accommodation debacle, I had taken the precaution of booking the whole entourage into the Collingwood Hotel on the seafront.  I was able to bargain the landlady down in price on the phone, by assuring her that at least 2 of the company would probably not make it down for breakfast. 

Like its sister Theatre had done in Barnstaple last January, The Landmark had sold out, save for a handful of obstructed view seats.  We were looking forward to the show even though we were unable to get a sound that we were totally happy with at the sound check.  It was definitely my turn for the time-share of a cold that Dirk had introduced to the group last week.  I was feeling wretched, but fortunately, that is not too serious for the amount of vocals I have to do.  In fact it is a positive bonus for the Please Please Me songs.
It is a cracking show tonight, as it usually is with a full house.  The majority of the audience is on their feet for the last few numbers and we are having a hoot.  We left the stage to a standing ovation.

I decide to give the post gig drink a miss back at the Hotel and retired to bed feeling quite sick.  The room I'm sharing with Roy has three beds.  The first one I try, in the tiny annex room is ridiculously uncomfortable, slanting sideways at a 45 degree angle and is full of lumps.....I move to the other, which is slightly better.  Rather how I imagine a bed would be in a Turkish gaol.  The sheets are tucked in so tight, I have to struggle to loosen them enough to slip inside, but at least I won't fall out.  I was amazed that candlewick bedspreads are still used in the 21st century.
The others are down in the bar enjoying the Guinness.  Evidently, Edward enjoyed it the most, and could still be heard at 4am shouting "Drink, feck, and arse" across the promenade.

Wednesday 2nd August 06                                                                                                                               

Day Off, Ilfracombe/Weymouth.

6.30am, and I'm wide awake. 
I always think that curtains should have a dual function.  Firstly, to prevent Mrs. Slapcabbage across the street from seeing ones bollocks as you stroll to the en-suite.  And secondly, to prevent the light from flooding into the room and waking you up with sound of the first morning seagull.  The Collingwood has crap curtains.
I go off to the high street to find an ATM for money with which to pay the bill, (cards and cheques are not acceptable at the Collingwood, but good old fashioned cash, green stamps and Danegeld are most welcome.) leaving Roy to shower and thrill the occupants of the Sea Haven Guest House.

We'd asked yesterday what time breakfast was served until.
"Breakfast is at 9" was the curt reply.
"Oh.. 9, until what time?"
"No...  breakfast is AT 9"

I come back from the bank at 8.50 to find Roy sitting in the dining room, I join him "at table".
"What are your names?" we are asked by the rather hoity breakfastess.
We coyly reply and are told:
"Well that's not are over here.....number 8....breakfast is at 9 you know......tish!"
Dave & Ade walk in and join us.  We all sit for a moment and contemplate the piece of diagonally cut French bread sitting on the plates to our left, when Roy notices a congregation gathering outside the dining room.  At 9 o'clock, as if an imaginary whistle has been blown, about 20 people file into the dinning room and move to their clearly rehearsed places.  The room is filled with "Morning's".......we watch....mouths slightly open.
The first wave of silver teapots begin to be placed at the relevant tables.
Our waitress hovers, and asks..  "What would you like?"
"Breakfast" was the unison reply.
"Right...that's four full bre......where are the other two?"
"Oh I think they are still in bed"
The girl nods to a thin looking man in a maroon jacket with black lapels.  "76" she says.
But surely, that is Dirk and Eddies room number!  The man has clearly been dispatched to blow reveille on bass and rhythm guitar.

The breakfast was really quite acceptable, but both Ade & Dave found it a little early in the day to be eating bubble and squeak, and so both left a green splodge on the side of their plate.

Later on that day, Eddie was quizzed by us about how he had slept.
"Yeah... fine, until some twat was knocking on the door at nine o'clock.   I told him to do one"

With it unlikely that Dirk and Ed would rise much before chucking out time, the four of us set out to explore.  We climbed a hill and had a spectacular view of last nights venue.  On top of this hill, we found a statue of girl who had tragically fallen to her death on the rocks below in 2002.  It was definitely one of those..."it's not funny....but it is" ...things.

Once up and out of the Hotel, Derek endured a micro waved breakfast at the cafe over the road.  I liked the waitress, and Dirk dubbed me a suck 'ole for tidying all the dirty plates into a convenient pile for her.  
I shrugged....defenceless.
Time to go to Weymouth.

It seemed like a good idea to suss out where the venue was first.  This wasn't difficult as it could be seen as soon as we came along the promenade.
We had no rooms booked here so we asked at the Theatre if they could recommend anywhere. We were told just to try the plethora of B&B's on the front.  We declined the kind offer to go to see Syd Little's show that night and began our search.
This was going to be harder than we first thought.  Weymouth was full of NO VACANCIES signs.  It became apparent that we would really struggle getting everyone accommodated in the same place.  A twin and two singles sorted out Spectrum, Roy and Eddie in The Clarence and Dirk squeezed into the last available single in the Anchorage.  I went for a walk, remembering that I have slept in the car before now, but was sure that it wouldn't come to that.....I could feel it in my water.
Still drawing a blank after a nearly an hour, I met up with Dirk for dinner at the harbour.  My uninspiring burger made my jaw ache a bit, but Dirk enjoyed his chicken caesar to the pub.
We found The Dorothy Inn on the seafront, which looked like a good place to get oiled for the night, live music et al. Having arranged to meet Eddie, a bit further down the road, Dirk stayed outside to keep lookout, while I went in to order the Guinness.  I noticed that the pub did B&B, so I asked the lovely girl behind the bar if they had any vacancies.  Yes they did..and it was within our budget....result!  As the negotiation was taking place, I received a text from Eddie.  
I sort of said I wouldn't put this on the blog but it made me howl with laughter!

EDDIES TEXT MESSAGE:  "B with you in a sec rick. just avin a shite."          Poetry!
The barmaid wondered what I was laughing I showed her the text.   When Eddie came in the pub she said:
"'ere....I 'ope you've washed yor 'ands!"
The evening was filled with Guinness and laughter.

Thursday 3rd August 06                                                                                                                                    

Pavilion Theatre, Weymouth.

It was sods law, that the room I had got at the Dorothy had 7 beds in it, that's enough for a netball team.  We could've all stayed together, saved some money, and had one mighty pillow fight. arh well!
I've already mentioned my beef with thin hotel curtains, they seem to be across the board.  No establishment really wants you sleeping in too late.  I was wondering, though, why no reviews of seaside B&B's and hotels, ever mention what I call the "Seagull Factor", or SF.
Let's say you are staying in a B&B tucked away up the back streets, maybe a few hundred yards from a beach.  You may expect an SF of say 2 to 3 - denoting mild noise around dawn which would only arouse the lightest of sleepers.
Now, if you decide to stay at somewhere like...say....The Dorothy Inn, right on the seafront, and you choose to sleep in the bed right next to the open window. You will get a SF of 10.  As sure as eggs is eggs, one big, fat, muthafucking Seabastard will be squawking down your ear hole at first light.  This particular creature, really had it in for me, and no amount of covering my head with pillows was going to alleviate my suffering.
Fantastic breakfast though......available 8 to 11. ;)

Dirk was booted out of his B&B at 10 and came over to meet me.  After a quick Costa coffee, we went over to the theatre, where Dave & Ade had already set up the back-line.  I did a radio interview with Wessex FM and then tried to get a bit more sleep in our dressing room's Parker Knoll, so that I'd be alert for the long drive home after the show.

We have 5 shows here in Weymouth over the next 6 weeks, but I guess this will be the longest day of them all.  Dirk and I catch the last of the late afternoon sun back at the Costa coffee shop and muse over how, although being in this band has been loads of fun over the years, it's really fucked up our lives in a lot of ways.  We are beginning to get some clarity!

Announcements made on the promenade tannoys throughout the day, did relatively little to swell our pre-sales on the show.  It's a big theatre and hard to fill.  The audience we did get, were enthusiastic, but we do need more numbers to create a really buzzing atmosphere.  It doesn't seem to make sense that we can do so very well in one seaside town two days earlier, and then in a place with loads more people the sales are not as good.  There is no logic in this game.
Roy had been in a mischievous mood since the sound check, gaffaing Jane McDonald flyers to my amp and dressing room mirror. The final straw was when we came out for the second half and somehow he had gotten a flyer on the stage floor right in front of me.
Eddie had begun to suffer badly during the gig.  His throat was swollen and he was having a real problem singing.  He was definitely coming down with the same virus that has now plagued the whole band, but it seemed worse in his case.  As I write this, I now know that Ed has been diagnosed with laryngitis, and it will wipe him out of Saturdays show in Great Yarmouth.  We have had no alternative but to cancel.

My nemesis....bastard bloody things...pretty though!

Saturday 5th August 06                                                                                                                                     

Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth.


But thanks to Message Board member, Pattie........ here are some images of the show that never was!

Thursday 10th August 06                                                                                                                                  

Pavilion Theatre, Weymouth.

I think it was Steve Coogan who was responsible for me missing the turn off at the Taunton junction of the M5.  Roy and I were gabbing about "The Man Who Thinks He's It" and we just sailed on past towards Exeter, adding several miles to an already long and tedious journey.

Weymouth looks quite different today.  The heat wave is over and the sands are relatively empty. We hope that this will mean that the theatre will be better subscribed than last week.

Eddie is feeling a lot better, but he still hasn't fully recovered.

There are quite a few more bodies in the the theatre this week, though still a long way off a full house.  Those that are there make up a fab audience, and we put on a good show which seems to be really appreciated by them.  For the second time in as many months, there is a cock up over the encore.  As we left the stage after Get Back, the house lights come on almost immediately and the audience begin to file out of the theatre.  We are left waiting in the wings, realising that we would look quite foolish if we walk back on to the stage for our final numbers.  So it's back to the dressing room to sort out our saturated clothing into as small a space as possible for tomorrows fly-out to Northern Ireland.

Once again drawing blanks at the accommodation on the M5 services, we are steered to the Holiday Inn Express near Droitwich.

Friday 11th August 06                                                                                                                                        

Ardoyne Fleadh Cheoil, Belfast.

The grim television broadcast tells of the arrest of the terrorist bombers in London and Birmingham.  No one has been hurt, but the inconvenience that this development will cause will be felt for a long time.  Has the government only just realised that nitro-glycerin is capable of blowing a hole in an aircraft?  Now that you have to take your shoes off and have them x-rayed at the departure screening, I'm sure  any attempts at aircraft bombing will be thwarted.  Things have to be seen to be being done, I guess.  Car keys with electronic fobs, like mine, now have to be checked into luggage in the hold.  With 30% of bags currently going missing, this is a bit of a worry.

We arrive at Belfast City Airport NOT to be met by Seamus, who is waiting for us at Belfast International, 25 miles away.  This is entirely my fault.  I have told Seamus that our flight is coming into Belfast International.  I had realised my mistake in Birmingham, but because no mobile phones are allowed on your person after check-in, I have not been able to contact him.  We rely so much on our portable technology these days, I even had to read the instructions on the payphone at the airport when I tried to find his number from directory enquiries.
So it is a taxi that takes us the short journey to our Hotel on Botanic Avenue.

Seamus picks us up to take us to the gig in North Belfast.  The site of the Ardoyne Fleadh is actually a school yard.  Derek and I fall out for about two minutes at the sound check, but it takes us about 30 seconds to reconcile... we both know why we are so agitated and it was nowt to do with obstruction from one of the PA crew.
The picture on the right was taken from the stage on my phone's camera , I couldn't be bothered with the hassle of checking the proper camera into a guitar case or one of the bags.

The turnout for this, the first night of the Fleadh was a bit disappointing, but we took to the stage with plenty of professional gusto to entertain those that were there.  Having decided to take the Epiphone Casino with me rather than the Gretsch, I was having a tough time.  I don't know whether the neck had suffered during the flight, but it was behaving like a bitch.  The open strings were in tune, but that was about all, all the chords seemed slightly out and there was nothing I could do about it.  The hospitality from the folk at Ardoyne was much appreciated, but before we knew it, we were being whisked off back to the hotel in a black VW Passat.

Saturday 12th August 06                                                                                                                                   

Robin 2 , Bilston.

The four of us make breakfast this morning, but not all at the same time.  It has rather more to do with Madisons relaxed times than any early rising from certain quarters.
And so the waiting round begins.
We've all reached a nadir at different times over the last couple of days.  Sometimes one of us will wander off on our own with our own thoughts.  At other times a couple of us will get together and try to work out the way we feel about different stuff.  It's not been the happiest of times since we set off down the motorway on Thursday morning and as we lounge around in the airport for a couple of hours prior to our flight back to Birmingham, we are all relieved that we are on the "home" leg.
Coming through security, all cigarettes are confiscated except one, which each passenger is allowed to keep.  This isn't really too serious, because Belfast City Airport has one of those horrid 12 foot square smoking rooms, to keep all us addicts out of harms way.  It's not the most pleasant of environments and these places always make me consider packing in...perhaps that is the idea.

The drive from Birmingham airport to Bilston gets us to the Robin just as Ade and Dave are finishing setting up.  No one has any enthusiasm for a sound check, but we run through I've Got A Feeling, cos we feel like chucking that in the set tonight.
After some food, it was good to meet up with Sam and Nick from Blondie Tribute Into The Bleach, who were here for our show.  I haven't seen Sam in ages and it was good to catch up even for the short time we had.  The trouble with having mates in other bands is that you rarely get a chance to meet up because of clashing gigs. Invariably you will only meet up at one or others gigs and there is so little time to have a proper bitch!

Getting into the suits and wigs was a pretty laboured affair for everyone.  I don't think any of us was looking forward to going on stage.
If there is one cure for that feeling, then it is The Robin itself.  I say this every time we play here, but the crowd is just fantastic.  Within a few moments of the band striking up, you forget all the shit and just enjoy playing.  This place is the apotheosis of why anyone would want to get on a stage in the first place.  We play for 2 and a quarter hours and the crowd make the gig an event.  

Thank You all !!

She's a "baaad" quitar.

The Originator of a Quaint Style of Negro Comedy, Song and Dance. Palitoy's lastest range! After an hour in a hair net and a gets that certain appearance!

Thursday 17th August 06                                                                                                                                  

Pavilion Theatre, Weymouth.

Is summer over already?  We are halfway through August, it's certainly got cooler and it's pissing down!
In spite of having to change a punctured tyre on the way to his rendezvous, Roy is in a very good mood......this is his kind of day.  To celebrate the change, Roy has brought along his new set of comedy dentures.  Friends and even casual acquaintances of our skin basher will no doubt be aware that Roy has several passions in life:  Any type of engine, aeroplanes, rockumentaries (if you will), Charlotte Church, inclement weather, Marilyn Manson and false teeth...although not necessarily in that order.
Eddie has made a suggestion, that I have taken up....  from now on, Roy will only appear in blog photographs in black & white, in much the same way as John Major was presented in Spitting Image.

On arrival at the Pavilion, Dirk and I set off in search of food.
Having settled on the Dorothy's menu, Dirk decides to have Ham, egg and chips @ 4.75.  Sounds good to me, I love egg and chips.  I don't really want the ham though.  I ask if I can just have egg and chips.  Now this is where the problems start.  The modern cash register does not have an option for just egg and chips, nor does it have an option for ham, egg and chips without the ham.  It's starting to get confusing.  The chef is called and asked if he can prepare ham, egg and chips without the ham.  Yes he can  (how cool is that?), and how much will this repast set me back?  
"4.75 mate"
"but that is the same price as ham, egg and chips"... I decline the food and settle for being a spectator as Dirk tucks into his dinner.

This happens a lot these days haven't you noticed?  Humans are no longer allowed to make even the most trivial of decisions.  If there is no option for your requirements an a flat panel are well and truly fucked.  My next food encounter 20 minutes later will probably point to the reason why....

I want a 99, (for the non-Brits amongst the readership, that is a soft ice-cream cone with a 'Cadbury' chocolate flake stuck in it) the little kiosk on the seafront sells them......they are 1.20.
I give the man a 2 coin and a 50p piece, explaining that I would like a 1 coin in my change. (for the theatre vending machine and my half time orange drink)  You would think that I had asked him to perform some advanced calculus they way he screwed his face up, looked inside the till and looked back at me blankly.
"The pound coin, and 30p" I offered.  His relief was evident.

Dirk and I went back to the splattered with ice-cream.  I must have got some bad karma as the wafer cone was imperfect and the ice-cream leaked out all down the front of my "clean on" top.  No one was about, so Dirk did some crooning on the mic, whilst I photographed.

The poor weather may well have been responsible for us having a few more in the house tonight...and I do mean "a few".
Frankly the show was a bit of a struggle for us and we found it quite hard work.  This was not particularly related to electronic issues with the potentiometer on the acoustic guitar, but that didn't help.  During the interval, Adrian did a splendid job, stripping the guitar down and applying some repairs to the pots.  As though this could have been our problem all along, the second half was much better, and this time, the audience even stayed for the encore!

Saturday 19th August 06                                                                                                                                   

West Park, Macclesfield.

It had been raining at West Park since 8am.
Dave called me at 3.30 to say that the M6 was at a standstill due to an accident in the bad weather and it was going to delay their arranged 4pm arrival at the park with our gear.
Once we arrived on site at 6pm, there was already a sizable crowd sporting umbrellas and waterproof clothing, hell bent on not allowing the British summer to fuck up their good time.
Last time we played at this Park, we had had some difficulty gaining access.  It was not quite as bad this year, but we did have to resort to a spanner to undo a section of herras fencing.  We were drenched as we struggled through the back stage area with guitars and costume bags. Dirk did have his brolly with him, which is probably the least "rock n roll" item imaginable but nevertheless, a shrewd move.

The stage was not big enough to get all the groups drum kits and back line on at the same time.  The organisers wanted a  very short turn-around between the acts, and so the ABBA band kindly allowed the other groups to use their drum kit, which was already set at the back of the stage.  Our back-line was put in position at the start of the show and the 80's band who would later turn out to be "Bleach", worked around our amplifiers.

In the short break between the 80's band coming off stage and us going on, Dave and Ade worked furiously to get things ready.  A tricky job, as their monitor desk had become somewhat waterlogged.  As we took to the stage, I turned to see Roy.... low down on the 5 tom-tom kit.  This is not Roy's usual position at all, he found it amusing and coped exceptionally well under the circumstance.
Of greater concern to me was the rain.  I've been electrocuted twice on stage in the past, once knocking me off my feet and pulling muscles in my chest.  It is not funny.  As we went into Twist and Shout, the arm on my guitar was actually wet, and my fingers were sliding all over it.  Eddie was getting it even worse, as the wind was blowing the rain across the stage from his side.  The old instruments we have, really do not like being wet, and we were plagued with tuning problems.  I found it very difficult to concentrate and I have never been more frightened for my, and the bands safety on stage.  I just hoped that everything was earthed properly.
With all this going on, I was pretty oblivious to the crowds reaction or how well we were going down.  Roy commented later, that we had been very well received.  I'm slightly ashamed to say, that I was only really concerned with getting off the stage in one piece.  I don't believe that this performance would rank as one we would really care to remember....we are a much, much better group than this.

I have to say that when "Bleach" went on, about 15 minutes after us, they didn't seem to be having the same sorts of problems, but I don't know, I never spoke to them about it.  They were very professional about the whole thing and were a really tight band who sounded as good as was possible in that environment.  
Sou'westers off to them....they really impressed me and I'm a huge Blondie fan.


2 videos uploaded to YouTube by Pattie.

Thursday 24th August 06                                                                                                                                  

Pavilion Theatre, Weymouth.

I spent most of yesterday in agony.  Getting out of bed I discover that my back has gone and I can barely stand up-right.  I've had this a few times over the years, but never this bad.  Maybe it's a trapped nerve, maybe I just slept awkwardly, or maybe it's a sign that autumn is coming...I'm being metaphoric!

Yes, it's hilarious isn't it lads?  I shuffle into the motorway services looking for all the world like I've shit my pants, but I can't stand upright.  The last thing I need is to be stuck in a car all day.

After arriving in Weymouth and getting out of the car, it took me about half an hour to become erect, but then I was fine...ish.  The Ibuprofen (or whatever recognised anti-inflammatory it was) had kicked in and I was feeling altogether more comfortable. A bit of a walk round the prom for my customary ice cream did wonders for my stiffness.
Roy had set up a changing station for me at the side of the stage so I wouldn't have to go up and down the stairs to the dressing rooms.

The show itself was pretty much business as usual.  We seem to have settled on a regular audience in terms of numbers, but from what I'm hearing, ticket sales for the seaside venue are generally down and we shouldn't be too disappointed.

Thursday 31st August 06                                                                                                                                  

BBC Radio Derby. 

Sally Pepper show 1.30 promoting Buxton Opera House.
104.5, 95.3, 96 FM





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