JANUARY | MARCH >>
E B R U A R Y 2 0 0 7
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.
Concert Hall, Perth.
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:
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
Centre, St. Neots.
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
"But..but.. but..I've been trying to do this for
nearly 20 minutes and it's only three minutes past
"The computer says no......you 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
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!
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
serious....it was her walk. Every time she passed
our table, Dirk had to stop himself from asking her to
take larger strides....it 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
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
The whole Duxford experience is very thought
provoking. As Derek said: "The things we'll
do, to kill each other"
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
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
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
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 repaired.....no
small inconvenience. Thankfully, we didn't have
another venue to go to.