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F E B R U A R Y   2 0 0 7 

Friday 2nd February 07                                                                                                                                      


A beautiful, bright day in the middle of winter and it's not at all cold.  Just three of us present to run through the new songs, but very productive nevertheless.

Wednesday 7th February 07                                                                                                                            

Perth Concert Hall, Perth.

Had there been a fly on the windscreen at our M55/M6 rendezvous with Dirk, he would would have thought  "oh Christ!...this lot are at it again!".  The altercations started immediately after the car doors were slammed shut.  To explain:  Dirk was on the phone as the three of us pulled up next to his car.  His salutation to me was to thrust a hard back book in my face, and it was a mere nod to Roy.  As we pulled away, Eddie said,  "Hello Derek" in tone which implied he had been snubbed.  Dirk apologetically explained that he had not seen him because he thought he would be having a piss in the pub toilet.  Whatever any of us says to one of the others will be deliberately misinterpreted to make out that we are put out or annoyed, it is just our sad sport.  Anyway, Eddie couldn't really argue with the stereotype as he had jumped out of the car 100 yards before we met Derek to run to the pub troughs. 

The book I mentioned above, gave us something to talk about for a while, as its subject matter is something that we have been discussing for months and months now.  The book was Affluenza, by psychologist Oliver James, and here is a synopsis:

There is currently an epidemic of 'affluenza' throughout the world - an obsessive, envious, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses - that has resulted in huge increases in depression and anxiety among millions. Over a nine-month period, bestselling author Oliver James travelled around the world to try and find out why. He discovered how, despite very different cultures and levels of wealth, affluenza is spreading. Cities he visited include Sydney, Singapore, Moscow, Copenhagen, New York and Shanghai, and in each place he interviewed several groups of people in the hope of finding out not only why this is happening, but also how one can increase the strength of one's emotional immune system. He asks: why do so many more people want what they haven't got and want to be someone they're not, despite being richer and freer from traditional restraints? And, in so doing, uncovers the answer to how to reconnect with what really matters and learn to value what you've already got. In other words, how to be successful and stay sane.

Well... we all find this topic fascinating.

We stop at Carlisle Services for sustenance.  I would personally have preferred to get further up the road and onto the M74 before stopping, but I am assured by Derek that once we get over the Scottish border .....  "They don't sell coffee up there"  
I'm amazed, because I thought it was only muffins that were hard to come by.
The apparently racist comment was really just a smokescreen for the bass player to "eat now" rather than build up an appetite.  We are about to leave the services, when we are bewildered to see Dave and Ade walking away from the Burger King counter with some unhealthy comestibles.
"Another coffee?" asks the bass player.

Once past Glasgow, the sat-nav gives us a bit of a bum steer, and leads us up some "A" roads and traffic congestion on the route to Perth.  When we finally pull into the Perth Theatre car park, we discover that we are actually performing at the Concert Hall up the road.  My attempts to run Dirk over while he fiddles with his belongings in the boot fail miserably, and he gets back in the car with all his gear on his knee for the 200 yard journey to the proper venue.
Whatever GPS problems we had had, were small potatoes to the ones suffered by Spectrum and their piece of electronic inadequacy.  We arrived at the venue half an hour before them, so their system was having a big laugh at their expense.  Perhaps it was programmed by the Scottish Tourist Board.

The staff at The Concert Hall were friendly and fantastic.  Once the van arrived, they got everything unloaded in record time.
As the equipment was being set up, Roy was having a small crisis with the coffee machine in our dressing room.  He was filling it with water, but it didn't appear to be registering on the scale on the side.  The drummer set off to ask more or less all the staff if they knew how it worked, but I think they all thought he was a bit strange.

We spent the sound check going over a few new songs and making alterations to a plate of sandwiches.  In the time before we were to start the concert, Dirk became quite fluey.  That is to say, developed symptoms of influenza.  His body was aching and he was full of phlegm.  (God! dontcha just love that word?)  Our resident apothecary, Roy, was on hand to administer medicine, and this helped Derek get through the show with aplomb.
The concert itself was thoroughly enjoyable, we played well and were well received by the audience.  We love playing in Scotland.

As we performed the final numbers of the encore, snow started to fall in Perth.  By the time we were getting into the car, it was about an inch deep.  Going up the hill to the bridge was no joke, as the car was finding very little grip.  Heading out of Perth, we were in a blizzard, which had it continued, would have made the journey home completely tortuous.  Fortunately, by the time we reached the Forth Bridge the snow was gone and our progress was hampered no more.

Saturday 10th February 07                                                                                                                               

Rothes Hall, Glenrothes.

On Friday night, it became apparent that Derek was going to struggle to be fit for the Glenrothes show.  The flu he had started with on Wednesday had taken a firm grip, and he sounded wretched on the phone.
At this point, there were three options:
i)   Find a stand in player to do the gig.
ii)  Travel with Derek and hope that he could perform.
iii) Cancel immediately.
Three hours of trying to get hold of people by phone and text, was drawing a blank.  This was extremely short notice and everyone was busy.  We did not relish the thought of travelling nearly 600 miles in a car with all those germs, which would surely be passed on to the rest of us, thus causing a similar problem next week.
It was decided to wait until first thing Saturday morning before making the cancellation just in case Dirk figured he was fit enough to make it or a dep. came through.  At 9.30, it was all sorted out.  The venue was informed that we would not be coming and I was trying furiously to let people know that the show was off.  I have to hope that some people will have looked at the website and seen the announcements.
These are the most stressful times!

Friday 16th February 07                                                                                                                                     

Priory Centre, St. Neots.

God bless me, but I was quite looking forward to having a couple of days on the road.  After dropping and breaking my cell phone earlier in the week, I had got another one with a pretty smart MP3 player on it.  Eddie and Roy already have ipods of some description and I was pleased to be in on the technology.  I was in quite a good mood getting my stuff together, when I got a call from Ade, telling me that Dave would be doing the two gigs on his own.  I thought that I may as well cancel one of the Travelodge rooms I had booked as 5 of us could easy squeeze into two rooms.  At 11.45 I was on the phone to Travelodge trying to make the cancellation.  I finally got through to a real person at 12.03.
"I'm sorry, we can't accept cancellations after 12.00"
"But..but.. but..I've been trying to do this for nearly 20 minutes and it's only three minutes past now"
"The computer says could send an email to customer services"
"You are customer services!"
"Sorry, the computer won't let me cancel"

When Roy and Eddie arrive, I'm really cross.  What I need now, is a nice Friday M6 Cheshire traffic jam to chill me out.  We pick Derek up, and realise by the time we get to Alsager that we will have to use an alternative route...the traffic is stationary.  Pulling off the motorway, we use the Stoke ring road to get onto the A50 over towards Derby and have made good enough time to take a leisurely stop at the services.
Our arrival at the venue was over an hour before Dave pulled up in the van.

I am sure that correct pronunciation of the name of this town is Saint Knee-ots, but I couldn't resist trying to convince Derek that the town had a strong French history, and that the locals referred to it as San Neo.   I think I nearly had him for a minute, and I was looking forward to him saying it on the microphone.... "Good evening San Neo"...pretentious!...Moi!

It was obvious at the brief sound check that there would be some problems tonight.  The hall acoustics were not particularly kind, with a cocktail of breeze blocks and wooden floor, so we had the backline down to a bare minimum, and Roy was hitting the drums gingerly.  Even with the PA running well under capacity, we were going to be loud.
As we cracked off the first song, it was impossible not to notice the woman on the first row sitting with her fingers placed theatrically in her ears.  It gave us all, and especially Derek, the giggles.  By three or four songs in, and after a few guffawed lyrics, Dirk could stand it no longer and had to pick her out for special attention, to the delight of the audience.
Although the on stage sound was far from the best we have ever had we all had a great time I think, and hopefully the audience got that vibe from us too.

The Travelodge was only 5 miles down the road, so we were all settled in by midnight....patiently waiting for the kettle to boil.  If you have ever stayed at a Travelodge, you will know what I mean!

Saturday 17th February 07                                                                                                                               

Broadway Theatre, Barking.

There is a Little Thief right next door to the Travelodge, and seeing as we have been given 25% off vouchers, we are tempted into this establishment to enjoy a breakfast which very nearly represents value for money.  My breakfast (illustrated below) normally costs 6.99 without a drink.  The Little Thief chain is going through a bit of a rough time by all accounts and we have seen quite a few boarded up now.
One of the waitresses was causing Derek quite some irritation.  It wasn't that she was brusque or the fact that the food takes so long to be delivered to your table in these places, no....this was much more was her walk.  Every time she passed our table, Dirk had to stop himself from asking her to take larger was really pissing him off, watching this woman shuffle about as though she had a piece of string tied between her ankles.  Tolerant times we live in.
Derek hadn't actually ordered breakfast, and this was a bit of a puzzle that we were about to have solved.  Eddie and Derek explained how they were awoken at 9am by the cleaners playing rap music at full volume from the TV sets in the rooms adjacent to theirs.  This seemed like more than reasonable grounds for a complaint to the manager, a confrontation that I am gutted to have missed.  It transpired that the outcome of the negotiation between the Travelodge manager and Derek was that our bass player ended up with four breakfast "goodie bags" as compensation for the inconvenience.  

We had sort of half arranged that while we were in this part of the world, we would make a group visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.  These sorts of plans hardly ever come to fruition, but today we found ourselves in the airfield's car park at 12.30.  Roy and I have been here before, Dirk would like this place with his penchant for history, and we managed to convince Eddie that he too would find some things of interest here.  Duxford is huge place, and you really need more than the time we had allocated ourselves to see everything.

I always loiter a bit longer round the Lancaster bomber whenever I come here or any other air museum that has one.  My grandfather, after whom I am named, was a Lancaster pilot.  He has no grave, so I find it especially poignant standing underneath this terrifying fucker, and trying to imagine what it must have been like for those poor sods climbing up the ladder on 18th August 1943.

The whole Duxford experience is very thought provoking.  As Derek said: "The things we'll do, to kill each other"

In contrast to yesterday, everything is very relaxed at the sound check, and we have plenty of time to hang about and get settled back stage before the punters are let in.
It was a full house and the audience response was brilliant.  Oftentimes, we find it very difficult to gauge how well we are going down, but tonight, no one seems to be in any doubt.  The only trouble is, none of the band seem to be enjoying it as much as last night, and we can find no explanation for that.  The on stage sound is much better and the whole vibe is more exciting....but...this is an odd business.

The journey home seems to take much longer than it should. We go about 20 minutes out of our way when we find the slip road onto the M25 closed and there are hold ups on the M1 and the M6. A stop at Hilton Park services takes much longer than it should, when the bad tempered eastern European lady at the till decides to cash up while we are waiting to pay for our foul snacks.

Friday 23rd February 07                                                                                                                                    

Marine Hall, Fleetwood.

This is turning out to be the only fixture in the calendar, where just Eddie and I travel together.  We make the most of it by finding a great fish and chip restaurant in Fleetwood town centre.

Whilst tucking into a piece of haddock that would be good enough for Jehovah, I get a call from Dave, asking if we had left Liverpool.  Of course, this was no courtesy call, but a desperate attempt to salvage a potential disaster in the form of us not having any guitars to play.  It seems that some guitars had not been packed in the van prior to Dave and Ade setting off for Fleetwood.  We carry as many guitars as we can with us, but the acoustic, the Casino and the Rickenbacker bass normally travel with the van, and they were the missing items.  Dirk was alerted and brought his Takamine acoustic guitar, which although looking all wrong, sounds and plays much better than the J-160, but he was a bit worried about not having a spare bass.  Sods Law says that when there is no spare, there will be a problem.
Someone from the venue had very kindly brought a couple of guitars along for us to use should we need them, but thankfully we got away without having to.

The room was once again packed out as we delivered our sets

Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan
Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan

Saturday 24th February 07                                                                                                                               

Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli.

As a child, I always associated Pwllheli with Butlins holiday camps.  The kids on my street always seemed to be going there for their summer holiday.  These days, I associate it with the terror of having to ask for directions.  I forget who it was who said it, but I recall someone saying... "never ask for directions in Wales, unless you want a face covered in spit".  It's weird, but although I can see the Welsh hills from my house, they put letters next to each other in words, that I can't pronounce, everything looks like an anagram.  Either that or they are missing a vowel here and there.

When we pull up outside Neuadd Dwyfor, everyone can remember playing here a few years ago, and everyone remembers there being some unpleasantness, but nothing specific.  We are a bit early, Dave and Ade are still building the PA, so we split up into groups and go for a wander round the town.
While Eddie and I are killing time down by the waterside, we are confronted by a chap who is about as paranoid as we are becoming.  He wants to know why I am taking photographs of his astroslide.  I explain that I am not from the government and assure him that I will not be using the images to get him into any silly bother with customs and excise.....  Well I suppose you can never be too careful.  Pwllheli is only a few miles down the coast from Portmerion, the setting of 60's cult TV show "The Prisoner", so I suppose it may be on some peoples minds, the way our society seems to be going.  We all know it, but are we all to apathetic to do anything about it?

No one likes the first half of the show.  I am talking about the band here, I can't speak for the audience, but they seemed to enjoy it.  I guess it is just one of those days, we play OK, but there is some spark missing.  The second half improves a bit and we are more relaxed about it I think, but it won't go down as one of those concerts that we will always remember....that's just the way it goes.

As we set of home in a torrent of rain, Dave and Ade have one more unpleasant obstacle to negotiate; the venue lift breaks down, and there is really no practical way to get all the gear down to the van.  It arranged that they will leave all the equipment at the venue and pick it up when the lift is small inconvenience.  Thankfully, we didn't have another venue to go to.

Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan
Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan
Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan Pic: Dave Bryan


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