Sunday 25 December, 2005

Increasingly, as time marches on, I’m prone to reflect upon how different a lifestyle I have and how I rarely engage in the normal activities as enjoyed by the majority of the human race.

Take Christmas cards, for example: most people plan ahead, buy the required stock in early December and then post them off in enough time to ensure their reasonably timely arrival. In my case, I’m sitting on the tour bus in the early hours of Monday morning, Bologna-bound (and at the mercy of the north Italian roads) attempting to write French Christmas cards – adorned with Italian air-mail stamps - in the hope that I can post them later tonight, before I wake up on Tuesday morning in Spain!

And what of Christmas presents? Well, I’m scheduled to arrive back in Edinburgh at 9.10 pm on Friday evening, the 23rd. Hell, I’ve got all of next day – but allow me to let you into a secret: when you’ve been in the rock ‘n roll touring business for over thirty-years, you are unlikely to be able to boast of having an engaging social life. This, however, generally dictates that you can scribble down your Xmas shopping list on the corner of a hotel napkin.

Is it sad (in one sense) that I only needed to buy presents for my children, my father and wild, young, Beverley? Ah, you can’t have it all ways. I’m reminded of a quote I happened across recently in the Sunday Times “Money” section where an interviewee (I believe he was involved with the production of the “Strictly Come Dancing” show on television) remarked “I have no immediate desire to become a millionaire … I just want to be able to live like one occasionally”. Touché!

In (pointlessly?) doing my level best to guide my siblings in the right direction in life, I’ve always said that I would be quite at ease with working six 12-hour days if it meant I could enjoy the seventh in a bit of style. My son - he with the steely eye for a designer label – would prefer to reverse that equation. Good on him, if he manages to do so – but that’s a rare accomplishment.

Sunday 18 December, 2005

With the realisation that the tour will soon draw to a close (22nd in Madrid) comes the need to make a start to tidying up the various loose ends.

A tour of this magnitude (four trucks and three months duration) invariably calls for a couple of weeks of “clean-up” – particularly where accounting matters are concerned. However, there is a need to be even more vigilant, in regard to this tour, as Christmas is fast approaching – and the music business is not renowned for putting in the hours over the festive period!

This week’s dates commenced in Munich, at the Zenith Halle, on Monday past. As there had been a long overnight drive down from Amsterdam the previous evening, we didn’t arrive at the venue until around 10.00 a.m. As the buses will always make better time than the trucks (a fully-laden tractor-trailer can weigh in the region of 32 tons) the first of our four trucks did not roll in until an hour later.

So, all hands to the pumps as they say and, thankfully, both bands (The Rakes are now our only opening act) managed to squeeze in a brief sound-check before “doors open”.

Munich also heralded Nick McCarthy’s birthday, therefore a fair old celebration began to unfold, - within ten minutes of the band being off stage after the show!

By now – if you’re anything of a regular reader of these entries – you’ll know that the crew invariably travel on overnight to the next city (whether it’s a show day or not), however on this occasion, we elected to keep everyone in Munich to “assist” Nick with his birthday partying.

Thankfully, having Tuesday as a day off allowed the majority of the entourage to recover from the previous evening’s festivities. The crew left Munich around ten on Tuesday evening (heading directly for the next day’s venue, the Eulach Halle in Winterthur, Switzerland), whereas the band elected to travel up from Munich on Wednesday morning.

On Thursday we played at the Stadthalle in Vienna, a gig that holds many memories, the most poignant of those being the times I spent there with WWF Wrestling and also the “Lord of the Dance” show.

A fairly substantial drive then followed the Vienna show (535 miles) as we wound our way down to Milan - not the most friendlies of cities when you’re attempting to thread a thirteen-metre coach through the narrow, city-centre, streets to reach your hotel. On this particular trip I traveled on the band bus, as I knew Rebecca – the band’s Tour Manager - would be struggling to decant the band’s entire luggage within walking distance of their hotel. That assumption proved correct, to the extent that we actually had to hail two cabs, a good mile from the hotel, just for the luggage.

I would have liked more time to explore Milan (and that rings even more true for Florence, which was the location for Sunday’s show) but such is life on the road. Was it the legendary Sam Cooke who once sang “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”? I am, I am. See you here next week? I hope so.

Sunday 11 December, 2005

“When it’s spring again, we’ll sing again – tulips from ….” . Yes, here we are in the Netherlands, and their beautiful capital city of Amsterdam.

We arrived in here yesterday at around midday, to be able to enjoy a rare Saturday night off. I had seen that as an ideal opportunity to whisk the blond one out here, god speed, and then venture into the city centre for an evening of revelry. Alas, family commitments - and astronomical last-minute airfares – conspired to prevent me from putting my cunning plan into action.

However, I’m running ahead of myself here: let’s back up a little, to the beginning of this week, and sort the events of the last seven days, into the correct order.

Monday, Monday: a full day at home in Edinburgh, no less! There is much mail to sift through, although my daughter has been good enough to undertake the “first edit” and weed out all items resembling anything close to junk mail. As any frequent traveler will know, the bills don’t get paid in your absence – they just pile up collectively. Various other domestically-related chores managed to consume the rest of my day, while Tuesday morning was set aside to await the Gods of Broadband (Telewest Communications) who, - surprise surprise – never showed up!

I therefore jumped on a train just after midday, down to Manchester where I happened to stay at a little family hostelry in Northwich (Beverley Towers), before boarding the flight the next day, to Stockholm. Slightly chilly in Scandinavia at this time of year, that’s for sure. We reached the hotel mid-afternoon and with the show not until the next day (Thursday) I spent the rest of the day and the evening tidying up various aspects of the UK tour.

The KB Halle in Denmark followed Stockholm Arena on Thursday, which brings me to where I started this week’s diary entry – arriving into Amsterdam around Saturday midday. As I mentioned previously, my social plans for the evening took a serious nose-dive with the non-arrival of my partner-in-crime. I therefore resigned myself to a relaxing bath and a TV movie. Wild, huh?

The venue on Sunday (The Heineken Music Hall) is no stranger to me, as I must have done six or seven shows there in the past three or four years. That particular venue has plenty of room backstage - which is always welcome to our production staff, as they will generally spend at least sixteen hours of the day in any given facility when they have a show there.

Maybe next time round the lads will play at “The Ahoy” in Rotterdam (a 12,000+ capacity venue) which I have also played many times, down through the years. Of particular note there, I can recall doing 9 (nine) shows with “Lord of the Dance”, consisting of six evening performances and three “matinees”, within the one ten-day period (A nice little earner for Michael Flatley indeed).

So, here we are at the end of another satisfying week in the company of the Franz Ferdinand lads – and a most enjoyable time this is proving to be. It may not (yet) represent the heady existence I enjoyed with the Westlife boys, but at least I have time to draw breath on this one. See ya, gang.

Sunday 4 December, 2005

Well, folks, here I am at 10.20 pm on Sunday evening, aboard a Virgin train headed for Edinburgh, for a brief couple of days at home, before I head out to Stockholm on Wednesday morning.

The last week started “quietly” enough with a show at Nottingham’s Ice Arena, on Monday evening, before we headed down to London for our four Alexandre Palace shows this weekend.

Unfortunately, there was little time to take in the sights and sounds of Nottingham this time around – and I kind of missed my regular stay at The Lace Market Hotel, just a short walk from the Ice Arena itself. It’s a cool hotel in a funky little old area of the town.

The sleeper buses didn’t leave the backstage car park until around four in the morning, although the last truck’s doors were closed by 1.30 am. With only three hours to run to London, the crew voted to hang back in Nottingham for a few libations, rather than pitch up outside the Holiday Inn in Camden at six in the morning, only to have to wait until midday to check in to the hotel.

As I may have mentioned on previous occasions, the practice of using sleeper buses to safely transport our crew from show to show, deems that – when “driving into” a day off – the hotels are only reserved for the next day. In other words, leaving Nottingham on Monday night with a day off on Tuesday prior to our four-in-a-row in London, the London hotel is held for Tuesday “evening” arrival (this is common touring practice for technical crews). Naturally, if the hotel has not been fully occupied the previous evening then they will usually allow us to check-in mid-morning. Worst day to arrive, in the above scenario, is a Sunday – as guests are never in a hurry to check out of their rooms on a Sunday morning.

Anyway, what of our four shows in London? Well, I would have to hold my hand up and admit that to be the first time I’ve done shows at Alexandre Palace. The fact that the refurbished Wembley Arena is not open for another few months yet, has allowed Alexandre Palace to pick up some extra concert business (Paul Weller is playing there tomorrow evening, Monday). It is certainly an imposing building with many “nooks and crannies” and a formidable labyrinth of corridors on the basement kitchens level.

Franz Ferdinand can have no complaints at the level of business they attracted, with each of the four sold-out nights boasting an attendance of over 8500. The buzz around the shows seemed to escalate with the passing days with the result that, by Saturday’s final show, our guest list was bursting at the seams. However, everyone was accommodated, with the added bonus on Saturday night of the after-show party in a club called “Canvas”, somewhere in Islington, I believe.

Having been to the odd after-show party in my time (and some splendidly lavish affairs at that) I decided to venture into Camden town, Beverley in tow, to sample some of the wide variety of nightlife that the area has to offer: suffice to say, we were certainly not disappointed. So, it’s off to Europe next week, for the final phase of the tour where my diary entry will come from Amsterdam – a city where the term “window shopping” can sometimes take on a whole new meaning. Look forward to seeing you there. Almost another year over, and we’ve only just begun.


Sunday 27 November, 2005

Here we are again: seems like we’ve been out on the road for months – and yet we only left rehearsals 30 days ago. Such occurrences are modern misconceptions on the road, probably brought about, to some degree, by the 16-18 hour days that this job regularly entails.

Naturally, my body has adjusted itself over the years, to deal with such punishing schedules, when I’m on the road. I may have said before in these pages that I really don’t believe I have any reserves of strength left: when I’m out on these tours, I’m running purely on the adrenalin that this lifestyle invariably produces.

Anyway, what of the past week?

I left off in Aberdeen last week, where we arrived overnight from Belfast, to be able to enjoy the evening off. Coincidentally, my beloved football team, Hearts, were actually playing at Aberdeen last Sunday but, as luck would have it, I only arrived in enough time to see the last three minutes of the game on the television, in the foyer of the hotel.

So, after Monday night’s show, we headed down overnight to Glasgow, for two sold-out shows on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Hometown gigs of course, therefore much excitement and clamour, as it is the hottest ticket in town this month – and who would have Rebecca’s job? (Rebecca Travis, Tour Coordinator). The guest list for these shows threatens to run into the hundreds as the lads in the band use this opportunity to invite along to the shows many of the people who have played a contributory part in their meteoric rise to date.

The shows themselves are of course a huge success and after the first show on Tuesday night, the band stages a little celebration (mainly for the technical crew) at the ABC2 club on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. Naturally, I make an appearance – albeit an hour after everyone else gets there (the safe deposit box in my hotel room refused to stay locked). On my way home from the club – around 2.45 in the morning – I’m once again reminded that, even midweek, Glasgow can boast a lively nightlife scene.

Although, as a departure from their normal touring routine, the crew elected to stay at the Glasgow hotel after the second show, I picked up a hire car on Wednesday afternoon and drove to Manchester after the show that night in order to spend the next day in the company of the blond.

On Friday morning I drove directly to Hull, to begin a four-show, back-to-back run, consisting of Hull, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham. Hull Ice Arena is a fair departure from the general type of venue we are playing on this tour. However, even though we found ourselves prey to certain production limitations (low ceiling, restricted load-in, etc) the venue costs were very reasonable, ensuring a good night’s business for a 3500+ capacity venue. On the complete flip side of the coin, we played Manchester’s M.E.N. arena the following night with an audience of over 14,000, to which the FF lads reacted with one of the best shows on the tour to date. Onwards again to Newcastle (way, aye, lad!) and another memorable show. Here comes the London run. BFN.

Sunday 20 November, 2005

May the UK tour commence in earnest!

Although the first date was last Monday, 14th, I elected to travel down to Cardiff on the Sunday night, in readiness for our first UK arena load-in.

Having “recently” completed three arena tours with Westlife, I can probably boast having done over ten shows in the Cardiff Arena, within the last three years. While it’s one of the smallest venues of the UK arena circuit, the crowds that it attracts – over varying styles of music – are always up for a good night.

However, if the truth be known, my favourite Cardiff venue is just around the corner from the Arena, namely in the shape of St. David’s Hall: a relatively “new” establishment, it’s modern theatre-style layout lends itself well to some of the more middle-of-the-road acts on the circuit. For example, I’ve done shows there with the likes of Jimmy Nail and (in earlier days – and something of a homecoming) - Shakin’ Stevens.

On Tuesday we played Brighton Centre which, being relatively close to London, has a tendency to inflate the guest list – and why should we be an exception to that rule? I managed to locate myself away from the main production office (which I had generally shared up until that point) and find some sanctuary in a small room at the end of the dressing room corner. Some days, Waterloo station can prove to be a calmer environment than our Production Office therefore if it happens to be the point in the week when I am dealing with the reconciliation of cash floats and expense disbursements, I need to be able to keep my (accounting) wits about me.

Overnight out of Brighton, we headed for the N.E.C. arena on the fringes of Birmingham, for Wednesday night’s show, after which – with a travel day to accommodate the next scheduled show in Dublin on Friday night – we traveled from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire (probably wrongly spelt – but pronounced “Done Leary”) arriving in the Emerald Isle just before midday on Thursday.

Now, to dwell on ferry crossings for just a second: you’d be surprised just how many of our technicians will remain in their bunk on the bus – if they can get away with it – rather than venture topside for the duration of the crossing. Quite apart from the fact that I swim like a brick, I’ve never really fancied the thought of being awoken in my bunk by a rapidly rising swell of seawater.

The Point Depot in Dublin has of course almost become a second home for me, venue-wise, over the last few years - however I can’t say it wasn’t a pleasant surprise to have reigning calm in the dressing room corridor. No comparison with the organized chaos of a Westlife show!

We then travelled up to the Belfast Odyssey for Saturday night’s show (lots of memories from there as well – including the 11-show Westlife run in 2003). Back on the ferry again after the show: this time Larne to Cairnryan, in south-west Scotland, and on up to Aberdeen for – as I’m sure you’ll agree – a well-earned evening off in the Granite City. We even passed within eight miles of my house on the way up there. Ah, well – see you in Glasgow, next week. Au revoir, gang.

Sunday 13 November, 2005

I may have made an error of judgment this week (yes, I’m still very capable of that – more so probably with the advancing years): I decided to zip home for a couple of days this weekend – when we had three days between Europe finishing and the UK starting, rather than just stay “out on the road”.

After a few weeks of luxury buses, impressive hotels and the like, you’re just not in the best frame of mind to deal with the shower head breaking; the leak in the garage roof and the door lock jamming in the kitchen. I live a life of contrasting existences, so I do.

Anyway, quite characteristically, I’m leaping ahead of myself again. Let’s wind the diary back to the beginning of the week, to Monday’s show at the legendary Philipshalle in Düsseldorf. I would have to hold my hand up and confess to having first played that venue in 1976 with Jethro Tull (and, let me say, with one truck only – whereas here we are with five of the damn things now).

Nevertheless, fond memories of my first visit there, Back then my weekly wage with Jethro Tull was £45.00, with a 50% bonus when I was out on tour, bringing my overall earnings to the princely sum of £67.50. However, even back in those days, Ian Anderson (to many, the face of Jethro Tull) was decent enough to ensure that his crew was all allocated their own hotel room on nights off, when the majority of touring acts were “twinning up” their crew.

From Düsseldorf, it was overnight to Berlin, to play The Tempodrome. In years gone by, prior to the demise of the Berlin Wall, the final hundred kilometers of that trip was a bone-juddering journey along a rutted and pitted “highway”. Nowadays, the ride is noticeably smoother and that makes a huge difference when you’re trying to grab a precious five hours of sleep, before the Hamburg load-in, the next morning (Wednesday morning, in this case).

On Thursday morning I actually flew back from Hamburg to Edinburgh, via Heathrow and that - evidenced from the opening paragraph in this week’s diary - is where the trouble all started ………

An appropriate mention is in order at this time for my (now) sixteen-year old daughter Jade, who managed to persuade her father to turn over his house to her – in his absence of course – and throw a little get-together to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. Actually, the girl done good and - although there was no visible constructional damage upon my brief return - suffice to say it has proved to be an astute decision not to renew my lounge carpet until after Christmas.

On Friday I managed to race up to Stirling, with Jade and Beverley in tow, to have dinner with my son in Bridge of Allan. He’s managed to land himself a week’s work as a production assistant on the Oasis show at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. You may recall that he was out on the road with me when I worked with Oasis, on the stadium tour, this past summer. He certainly appears to have made a good impression during that spell, when he took up the role of “Guy Friday”. Well, Franz’s UK arena tour kicks off tomorrow in Cardiff, so I’ll have five shows under my belt (including a whistle-stop tour to Ireland) by the next time that we speak. Many thanks for your time. BFN.

Sunday 6 November, 2005

Greetings from the Düsseldorf Hilton where, today, Sunday, there’s no show – thereby enabling me to pen my weekly edition of the diary, on the actual day of the week that I’m meant to.

The Franz Ferdinand touring organization is now firmly “on a roll” and – since we last spoke – now has another five shows under its belt. Indeed, all the past week’s shows have taken place in France and, in trying to recall the last time I worked with an act that did so many shows in said country, I could really only recollect having done so with Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance”.

Having bid young Beverley a fond farewell, as she sped off on a taxi in the direction of Charles de Gaulle airport, on Sunday afternoon, I made my way across Paris to St Lazares station, to take the train up to Rouen (keep in mind that the crew buses had left for Rouen – and a much welcome day off for the guys – after Saturday night’s second show in Paris).

On the way to the station, however, I stopped off at a lively little bistro close to Rebecca’s hotel where, over a late afternoon lunch (when in Paris …..) we reflected upon my first hectic week with those redoubtable Franz Ferdinand lads. Who is Rebecca, you ask? Ah … where to start.

First, and foremost, I consider her to be a trusted friend: the fact that she just happens to be the lads Tour Coordinator is but an added bonus – particularly as, when the lads decided the time had come to employ the services of a Tour Accountant, Rebecca was kind enough – and confident enough - to put my name into the hat. And the rest is a now a minor blip in history.

Once on the train to Rouen (not to be confused with the road to ruin, a journey I’ve taken at least once in my questionably “glittering” career – but to which I somehow just managed to screechingly apply the brakes) my non-stop journey lasted just over an hour.

Once I had dropped my bags at the Mercure hotel, smack bang it would seem in the centre of the old town, I ventured out to grab a bite to eat, subsequently spending a most enjoyable hour observing passing life from a well-positioned table in a restaurant in the near-by square.

The Rouen show, on Monday night, was the first of a three-show, back-to-back run, which saw us overnight out of there into Lille and then onward again to Metz. Friday’s show was scheduled for Grenoble, which meant that – arriving there overnight from Metz by about midday – we had a little time to take in this very picturesque city, nestled as it is, in the shadow of the Alpine Mountains (don’t be fooled by my apparent geographical savvy – I had to check that out on the internet).

From Grenoble, we traveled overnight to Dijon, for our final French show last night. Once again we climbed back on the sleeper bus and traveled on to Düsseldorf, arriving at eleven this morning, with the rest of the day off, in preparation for tomorrow’s first German show. So far, so enjoyable and – as always – more than happy to share these times with you. See you in the UK next week: rumour has it that I might even manage a couple of days back in Edinburgh before the first show in Cardiff. You’ll find no complaints from me on that score. Thanks for being with me. BFN.


Sunday 29 October, 2005

Back on the road again!

You know, people often say to me “Why are the likes of Rod Stewart, Elton John and The Stones still touring at their tender age?” Fairly easy answer to that one: it’s in their blood. Nothing (no drug, no drink – possibly even no woman) must give them the same rush – or at least that unique sort of rush – that comes from standing downstage centre and being the sole reason for captivating the attention of fifteen thousand people. Now, if you magnify that example to an outdoor stadium situation, then it becomes even easier to understand.

The reason I’ve highlighted the above is that the same sort of rush permeates even those of us who regularly work with such entertainment luminaries.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were obviously very hectic days as we prepared the touring operation – and the new stage design – for the upcoming nine weeks of touring. As we had a ferry to catch to Belgium on Wednesday night, the band considerately called a halt to their rehearsing at 2.30 in the afternoon. It always takes lot longer to load a show of this magnitude out of production rehearsals, while the “pack” in each truck is figured out. However, once we’re rolling, after the first couple of shows (and provided there’s not a long “push” at a particular venue) our crew can load-out a six-truck show in less than two and a half hours.

They really have no choice but to be that organized as, if it takes much longer than that, we end up being late for the load at the venue the following day. When you consider that a tour like this will often do four “back-to-backs” at a time, it follows that it’s crucial that we make our scheduled load-ins; otherwise we endanger a “domino effect”.

Our first show on Thursday was at the Brabanthal in Leuven in Belgium – and, on a personal level - I struck out quite well, as I was able to meet with my football business partner in Belgium, Jean Bosco. It is always good to put a face to a name and we managed to grab 30 minutes together, as I am hoping to assist him with his good friend Mohammed Tchite, who is currently “setting the houses on fire” at the Belgian club Standard Liege.

The first show appeared to go real well – I honestly didn’t have a chance to watch any of it, as I’m just setting up the tour accounting systems to ensure that all runs well, from here on in (keep in mind that the position of Tour Accountant has been newly created within the Franz Ferdinand organization – further evidence of the lads’ increasing stature, within the business).

The last two nights (Friday and Saturday) have been at the Zenith in Paris, and most enjoyable it has been. Over the years I’ve personally come to the conclusion that Paris may be the world’s only real “international” city, for many diverse reasons. With that in mind, I threw all caution – and a fair bit of cash – to the wind and flew the blonde one out here.

Finally, just to mention FF themselves who are most courteous and most accommodating: already I can see part of the reason for their meteoric success. More on that next week. Au Revoir, gang.

Sunday 22 October, 2005

Greetings from a rehearsal facility, in deepest, rainiest, Yorkshire.

The first few days of the week were spent with my head buried inside my laptop, at my little office in the house, modifying many the files and systems that I use as a Tour Accountant, in order that they dovetail to the requirements of the Franz Ferdinand organization.

I left Edinburgh on Friday morning and took the train South, connecting through Leeds, to reach the crew hotel by early evening. Our hotel was situated about 30 minutes drive from the rehearsal facility, but across the way from a somewhat lively shopping centre cum “entertainment village”.

Well (almost regardless of age or location) I’ve always said – a Friday night’s a Friday night. With that in mind – yet heedful of the fact that I needed to be sharp at my first day at rehearsals, and hopefully create a favourable impression – young Beverley and myself trooped across the road to partake of the local revelry.

On reflection, a quite night by our standards but enjoyable nevertheless. It was one of these (increasingly numerous) occasions when I was wont to ponder upon my youthful, weekend, behavior. Was I that bad when I was younger? Friday was also “spot the woman without a tattoo” night. Now, I’m obviously out of touch here, but why would anyone succumb to a fashion item that (unlike say, a “choker” – showing my age here) requires the services of at least an industrial sander to remove it?

Ironically, I’m reminded of a popular Yorkshire saying: “There’s nowt as strange as folks”. Indeed.

So, off to the rehearsal facility bright and early on Saturday morning to meet up with the rest of the crew (the band are not due in until Tuesday, 25th) many of whom I know from previous tours. The Video Engineer was out on Westlife; there are a good few lads from the recent Oasis Stadium Tour; a cameraman from Lord of the Dance – there’s even a guitar technician who worked with me on a Bernie Torme tour (that name will mean little to you unless you’re a forty something) - this last acquaintance stretching back 22 years! The man’s memory is far better than mine!

We loaded in the rigging, the lighting and then the stage on Saturday, followed by the video, the set and the sound on Sunday.

This is a newly designed stage set that will be utilized by Franz Ferdinand for the upcoming European and UK tours, from now until Christmas. Pretty impressive I would have to say, and we’ll see what you think yourself, if you manage to make it along to one of the shows. The whole shebang packs into six trucks, so the crew has their work cut out, with many “back-to-back” shows in the weeks ahead.

There are no doubt two late nights ahead on Monday and Tuesday at rehearsals before we head out to Brussels on Wednesday evening for the first show in Luewven on Thursday night. Well, after a couple of months of “domestic rambling” the Diary of the Road is about to come back into its own!

Sunday 16 October, 2005

Now what about my football team’s result yesterday, huh? A one-all draw with the mighty(?) Celtic.

Still top of the league and long may it last. Have we really managed ten games without defeat? YES!

I didn’t have a chance to actually attend yesterday’s game as, when the tickets had originally been made available to me, I had envisioned that I would be on my way to Europe with Oasis. Damn.

I’ve spent the majority of this week trying to tie up the loose ends relating to the two football players that I’m still trying to place with British clubs – I need to start easing my football head off and my Franz Ferdinand head on.

The first tour date is in Belgium on 27th of this month and between now and then I’ll have to zip down to London for introductory meetings with the bands’ accountant and the booking agent. No doubt I’ll return to Scotland laden with a couple of heavy files but nevertheless with a good grounding on the Franz Ferdinand touring operation.

Although I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past few weeks dealing with my two African players, at least I’ve had a chance to spend some time with my son and daughter, the former measurably less than the latter unfortunately. Ah, such is life, when they reach this sort of age.

Back on the subject of Franz Ferdinand, I’ve been sent through a list of their touring staff (the band are currently finishing up a North American tour) and it’s good to see a few familiar names on that list. Looks like a couple of the video crew were also out on the recent Oasis stadium shows.

I should count myself lucky: I have a profession that I still enjoy and a passion that I still cherish.

I believe I’m honest enough with myself to admit that I may never fully realise this vision of mine of the ultra-professional, music business orientated, player management operation. However, I’m thankful to that vision for keeping me enthused through some of the quieter (and darker) times.

Many of today’s younger aspiring players (and their parents) are hesitantly swayed by the heavy sales pitch of many an “unqualified” agent – licensed or not. Maybe I can change that some day.

There was me saying “back to Franz Ferdinand” a couple of minutes ago but, instead, I go off again at a tangent, on my orange box, bemoaning the seamier side of the professional football business.

Well, many of you will be pleased to know, the diary will, in the main, revert to being a “Diary from the Road” (although if I do secure a contract for my Zimbabwean player, I’ll be shouting about it right here). I will look to return to the old format of a day-by-day travel journal based upon my ongoing rock ‘n roll experiences. This tour will take me nicely through until mid December, as – with a bit of luck – I really need to be free in January to help other foreign players find professional clubs in the U.K.. But, until then, there’s a few miles to travel and (therefore) a few tales to recount. BFN.

Sunday 9th October, 2005

Well, what do you know? Respectability returns – Jake’s back in gainful employment!

And the lucky recipients of my questionable talents? None other than those Franz Ferdinand lads.

As the band’s career continues to impressively escalate – and with it the type and size of venues that they are invariably selling out - their management has decided it’s now time to engage the services of a Tour Accountant.

Of course, there is a solid Scottish connection with this band: I can’t actually remember when the last time was that there was a countryman of mine, within the artistic ranks.

So, once again, the time beckons for me to don my “touring head” once again and, I would have to say, I’m very much looking forward to it: it’s a pity the Oasis gig didn’t eventually materialize but, being the eternal fatalist that I am, it was obviously meant to be.

Taking a squint at Franz Ferdinand’s tour dates through the end of the year, I noticed that (for the time being anyway) I have been spared the long trip to the Land of the Rising Yen. Now, should I be fortunate enough to enjoy the patronage of any Japanese readers to my Web site, I would ask that you do not take this as any personal slight against your wonderful country and it’s unique culture. The truth is that my next visit to Japan will rank as my twelfth and therefore I feel that I have experienced most of the sights and sounds that your engaging country has to offer.

Think of it this way: if the “shoe was on the other foot” – and you had visited the UK over ten times – would you be in any hurry to go there again? Just watch this – someone will probably offer me a lucrative touring position next year that includes a “residency” at the Budokan! See you there.

On the football front, things continue to progress at an agonizingly slow rate. I discovered this week that a noted African-continent international player that I was pursuing (and who will remain nameless, although he hardly deserves it!) turns out to be the ripe old age of thirty-two, having previously purported to be five years younger than that. Naturally, we did not glean this startling fact from the player himself: more by way of a local, informed, journalist. Many thanks to that man.

I’m currently concentrating on assisting a Scottish Premier club, with a view to them giving training facilities to a (bona-fide) twenty-six year old Zimbabwean international. However, you may not have caught the recent press report regarding a Zimbabwean football team that traveled to Bradford, here in the UK, for an exhibition match – only to return to Harare a few days later and a few players lighter, eight to be exact: present whereabouts, within the UK, unknown. You can well imagine that the British High Commission in Harare is acting extremely cautiously as regards my application for my player’s visitor’s visa.

So, there you have it – the trials and tribulations involved with bringing foreign players to these shores. Fear not, oh Web site disciples, I’ll soon be back (arguably where I belong) rolling down the highways and byways of life: back on the road again! I’m lucky to have such opportunities. BFN.

Sunday 2 October, 2005

Oh, oh – I’ve slipped back into my old ways (only temporarily, you understand) as I sit here retrospectively penning last week’s entry.

And, what of the very week in question? Well, I’m just going to have to own up here: I’ve been so immersed in hacking my way through administrative red tape, relating to the impending arrival of my Zimbabwean player next weekend (yes, finally!) that I may have blown the Oasis job that was on offer to me. My fault entirely, however I should know for sure within the next forty-eight hours.

I may have mentioned an anonymous quote that I happened across in some business manual a few years back, to the tune of “he (or she) who risks nothing, risks everything”. In my case, however, I may have taken that to the extreme, namely foregoing gainful employment in the music business to once again seek my fortune by way of football. Ach, it gets in your blood, so it does.

What I really need to do – in an ideal world – is to secure a deal for this particular player (by the way, his name is Francis Chandida and he is from Zimbabwe), make sure he is settled – and then jump back out on the road for a while. Why, there are Christmas presents to buy. How do I know that? Easy – the shops are stocking up already. I just can’t get my head around that. More national debt.

I’m conducting something of a balancing act with Francis, being that I don’t want to actively “market him, in” to a club before I’m sure (as sure can be) that he indeed qualifies for the all-important UK Work Permit. At the time of going to press, I await some general indication from the UK Work Permits office that I’m on the right lines, in regards to paperwork I have forwarded to their office.

One has to feel some sympathy for Francis himself. If he can secure a deal, for the next 3/4 years, with either a Scottish Premier League, or English Championship, club then he is well on the way to being able to provide long-term financial stability for his family back home. He is now twenty-six but, even if he stays in good shape, he can only realistically anticipate another six/seven years of playing football at the highest level. This represents a huge opportunity for him.

Once Francis arrives in the country next week, I will probably spend a fair amount of time with him until he becomes reasonably acclimatized in his new surroundings. I doubt he has ever experienced the sight of falling snow (or indeed the amount of rainfall that some areas of the UK are susceptible to!) therefore things that you and I would routinely take for granted will come as a real eye-opener to our intrepid international footballer from Zimbabwe.

Apologies for the fact that recent editions of the diary have contained little or no “road chat” – hopefully I can make it all up to you once more, when I go to work for Debbie Harry (in my dreams!). I know from years of experience that my phone can ring anytime - at which point I can suddenly find myself winging my way to some far-off locale to pick up the pieces of some disjointed touring operation (invariably to find that I’ve been dropped right in the ka-ka and it’s going to take me weeks to catch up). So, folks, there we have it for another week. Fear not, this football lark will surely soon run it’s course and it will be time once again for me to seek the refuge of a proper job. Until next week …


Sunday 25 September, 2005

You know, generally, I will always check the previous week’s diary entry before making a start to the current one: just to check where I left off and maybe to pick it up from there.

In perusing the final paragraphs of last week’s effort, I have to question myself as to my state of mind at the time. I trust Sue will forgive my rantings (thankfully, she knows what I’m like). As for the blonde bombshell – she will just shake her head sagely and caution me to calm myself somewhat.

You see, while some men are undoubtedly “men’s men” I am unashamedly a woman’s man. Probably more due to my career (and therefore my life style) as much as anything else, I really don’t have a home-based social life to speak of. The last time I went “out for a drink with the lads” back here in Scotland was the last time the moon passed in front of the sun. Away from work, I really only have what I would consider to be one male friend: he is Charles Burnett, the Commercial Director at Livingston Football Club, formerly with Hearts – in the same position – many years ago.

The fact is, I hardly even see Charles nowadays, save for the odd Livingston home game I have managed to attend this season. During those two and a half years I was with Westlife I really did not spend much time back here in Scotland. Even when I am back here, I hardly leave the house! There always seems to be such a backlog of domestic chores that have to be attended to and – let’s face it – I’m essentially “out every night” when I’m on the road, therefore I’ve had enough nightlife to last me three lifetimes.

On the work front, I’m playing something of a waiting game at the moment. I believe the Oasis Tour Accountant’s job is still there for me, should I wish to take up the position – but they won’t wait for me forever, as the European leg kicks off in mid-October. I have heard whispers of a couple of other opportunities that may transpire within the next week or so, hence the reason I’m a somewhat undecided. I’m continually aware of the inherent dangers of “playing both ends against the middle”.

Of course, as always, I’m hoping that I might get a break on my football project. At this time, having waded through (and satisfactorily completed the paperwork associated with) a mass of red tape, relating to bringing the Zambian and Zimbabwean players to the UK, I’m now faced with the fact that their next African Nations Cup qualifiers are due to be played on Sunday 9th October.

Generally speaking, the international coaches are always keen to have their players together for 3/4 days prior to the date of the international game, which, in this case, means that my guys would have to report for duty on 5th October. Doesn’t leave me a whole lot of time to get them over here – and secure them a contract – before they have to jump back on a plane and fly to Nigeria (for the Zimbabwean game) and Liberia (for the Zambian game). Decisions, decisions – and some quite risky.

Alas, I’m fairly sure I’ll be in a position to confirm my next touring project by this time next week. I occasionally tell myself that surely – particularly where the football project is concerned – I’m due a touch of luck: but, really, compared with most people’s situations I should consider myself to be very fortunate. Yes, I worked hard for it, but I really can’t complain. Ah well, watch this space. Love Y’all.

Sunday 18 September, 2005

This was the week of transition, this was.

Before I go any further, can I just say a big thank you to everyone who took the trouble to drop me an e-mail to the website, to wish me all the best for the future.

As you will have ascertained from last week’s entry, the decision to part with the lads did not come easy: I just quietly suspect that I may at last be making some positive inroads on my football project and therefore I need to find a few hours each day to stay on top of it.

Already, I’ve passed up a month’s work with Oasis in the States because I feared my two African players would arrive here in the UK, only to find that I’m some five thousand miles away. I’m always banging on about our superior service levels and attention to detail – in regards to our client welfare on the football side - so it would simply be unprofessional not to be here to assist them.

There may be a possibility that I can rejoin Oasis when they return from the States (I’m led to believe that the Tour Accountant they are currently using over there is unable to make it back to Europe with them). The band returns around 6 October and then they are not due to leave for the European phase of the tour until 16 October. After three weeks in Europe, they then travel to Japan and Australia, before returning to the UK for various shows here throughout December.

So, I need to make up my mind fairly soon as “playing both ends off against the middle” can sometimes leave you missing out on both opportunities.

By most peoples’ standards, I guess I’m living fairly dangerously at the moment: currently (as a result of my bridging arrangement) I’m the owner of two houses – and I’m technically out-of-work. Well, you know what they say: “he (or she) who risks nothing, risks everything”. I’m certainly testament to that view at the moment. Ach, I don’t want to be looking back (leaning on my Zimmer frame) and thinking “what if”? At the same time, having messed up badly once before with my bar/restaurant business, I need to be cognizant of my family responsibilities – not forgetting the blonde’s one’s propensity for provocative/classy footwear. Still, I don’t mind shelling out for those!

Caught up with my old (young!) friend Sue yesterday and was pleased to hear that her restaurant (“The Creel”) in Dunbar, East Lothian, is going great guns (a recent, positive, revue in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, only serving to enhance their already-growing reputation). I was telling Sue that Beverley and I were going to turn up and surprise her one weekend, but nowadays we may have to book under an assumed name. Knowing what I know of Sue, I’m sure she’ll manage to fit us in somewhere. The girls have much in common and I’ve no doubt Beverley will probably talk Sue under the table.

Well, folks, pardon the somewhat rambling nature of this week’s entry: I should have far more positive news next week. Make your mind up time is fast approaching for me - and the blonde one has her eye on another pair of heels. Sometimes I think that woman has the ability to walk all over me.

Sunday 11 September, 2005

Well, folks, I finally reached a decision this week over which I’ve agonized, if the truth be known, for quite a while now: that being to turn down the offer to continue to work with Westlife.

In the main, the reasons are entirely practical: I’m right in the middle of attempting to bring these two Zimbabwean players to the UK, a process that seems to become more protracted by the day (I may yet have to concede defeat on this, but I’m continuing to give it my best shot in the meantime).

Upon reflection, looking after the lads in Westlife called for a sixteen-hour-a-day involvement which, in the beginning, did not bother me in the slightest: I’ve been in this business long enough to know full well that it has a tendency to consume every waking hour of your day. I did however believe that, once things calmed down a bit (based on the fact that I had jumped in at the deep end, at short notice, when I originally accepted the position), then I would have a little time to myself to occasionally devote a couple of hours to my football project.

Unfortunately, that never happened and over the period of the 27 months I spent with the guys (during which time I enjoyed very little time at home in Scotland, by comparison) I eventually – and unwittingly - drove myself into the ground physically. Sure, I’m now refreshed and energized once again, with the benefit of the three month “break”; although in that time I worked for Oasis for six weeks as their Tour Accountant – nowhere near as demanding upon my time, on a day-to-day basis, as that spent with Westlife. Hence, I had the opportunity to draw some very clear comparisons.

Furthermore, although sometimes I often wish it wasn’t the case, there’s no getting away from the fact that (and I’m not going to tiptoe around this subject at this stage of my career) at times I’m just far too principled for my own good. If you care, you care – and you’ll find it hard to change that.

Therefore, when I’m witness to well-intentioned, hard working, fans and concert-goers getting the rough end of the stick through no fault of their own (and, I have to say, through no direct fault of the lads in Westlife either) it still rails directly against my principles of fair treatment.

I’m saddened when I see such people being taken advantage of, purely (in most cases) for the benefit of good television. Two “recent” instances which jump immediately to mind are the “She’s the One” Lowry Hotel “arrival” in Manchester and the Ant ‘n Dec “under cover” stunt at Wembley Pavilion in London in February, the latter keeping thousands of fans standing out in the freezing cold while the television people delayed the doors to accommodate their needs. It’s just not right.

However, such isolated incidents aside, I would have to say I’ve had a blast working with the lads for over two years. I’m equally sure that, in time, I may have other, philosophical, observations to make - but those will just have to wait for my autobiography and that, in turn, will be shelved until the time when I don’t need to work in this business any more!! For the time being, sadly, it’s the end of an era.

Finally, if you were somewhat confused by the wording in the final paragraph in last week’s diary (as I was when I re-read it!) please be advised that “Michael’s deal was rocket science” should actually have read “Michael’s deal was not rocket science”. Check it out – you’ll see what I mean! Evening all.

Sunday 4 September, 2005

Apologies, oh avid readers and dedicated disciples of Jake’s written word, as I had started to “go off on one” towards the end of last week’s diary. Regular readers of my weekly contributions will of course spot an occasionally worrying trend.

Right, let’s see if we can stay reasonably on track this week – and pick up where we left off: namely on the hunt for some of the African continent’s undiscovered footballing talent.

Therefore, by the beginning of this week I can tell you that, while Jacob was making commendable progress contacting some of Zimbabwe’s more notable international players, things were still proceeding agonizingly slowly, by normal business standards.

The original plan (you may recall from a couple of weeks ago) was to have Jacob spend a few days based in Harare and then nip down to Lusaka – capital city of Zambia – to similarly spread the Showtime gospel amongst that country’s elite footballing ranks. Well, as yet, he’s not managed to make it down there.

Just applying for a visitor’s visa for two of the Zimbabwean players to visit the UK purely to take up trials with a couple of prospective English Championship sides, has proved to be a laborious (anyone spot that I have a US spell checker on my word processor?!) and time-consuming exercise within itself. Save in the instance where your Lottery numbers may have come up this week, don’t even think about offering to help out with my phone bill this month. Gorgeous as my daughter is, she may find herself the subject of any reasonable bid, when that particular bill leadenly drops onto the mat next month.

As both Zimbabwe (home to Rwanda, which they won 3-1) and Zambia (home to Senegal, which they lost 0-1) were playing their respective World Cup qualifiers this weekend, we decided that Jacob should at least stay on to take in these two games. As it turned out – and as a result of being Ghanaian by birth – Jacob was unable to obtain a temporary visitor’s visa, while in Harare, to make a trip down to Lusaka. Bummer, man.

Unfortunately, Zambia’s result puts paid to their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. However, when you study the Senegal squad and find that only one of their current internationals is “home-based” then that very much tells its own story. Zambia – and many other African continent footballing nations who similarly flit with greatness – need to seriously heed the signs.

So, what of our player recruitment drive in Zimbabwe? Well, even though our company is a few thousand down as a result of the associated expenditure in billeting Jacob in Harare for the best part of two weeks, we are confident we have sown the seeds of future business opportunity. Listen with the greatest respect to Michael Owen’s business advisor, Mr. Tony Stephens (one of the good guys, by all accounts) Michael’s deal was not rocket science. On the other hand, trying to prise a talented player from the depths of the African continent – now there’s an energy-sapping challenge. BFN


Sunday 28 August, 2005

Well, this was an interesting week, this was.

If you read last week’s diary, you will know that we were planning to send my African Scout, Jacob Amaning, up to Harare (capital city of Zimbabwe) to source a few of their rising, international, football prospects.

Jacob actually flew up there on Monday, via Johannesburg, arriving late evening.

Now, folks, you know when you maybe go on vacation to some faraway place (say, Thailand for instance) and it’s not always easy to phone home because the connections/lines are intermittent: well, you need to spend some time in Zimbabwe – and not a whimper of complaint will be heard from you ever again.

For every ten times I tried to place a call to Jacob in Harare – even to his hotel – I managed to get through maybe twice, if I was lucky. Even then, the static on the line can prevent any form of lucid communication. Of course, it’s only the privileged few footballers (the regular internationals) that can lay claim to being the proud possessor of a cellphone. As a result of this, Jacob spent the majority of the earlier part of the week tracking the down the three guys that we had initially targeted, off the back of Zimbabwe’s performance, when they won the Cosafa cup last weekend.

At this point, let me pull this whole “footballer’s earnings” issue into focus. In the week where Michael Owen seals a deal at Newcastle United which will probably earn him somewhere (safely) in the region of £85,000+ per week, Zimbabwe’s most experienced international player – with upwards of 50 caps – probably nets somewhere in the region of £600 [six hundred] pounds a month!

Is Michael Owen 142 [one hundred and forty-two] times better than the lad in Zimbabwe? Not even close. In fact, pacy as Michael Owen is renowned to be, the Zimbabwean player can probably outrun him over 100 metres!

No, we as a footballing nation here in the UK have just spun completely out of control. Listen to me (and this might sound strange coming from an “agent”) – in real terms, no footballer is worth the amount of £16,000.000 (you can buy a medium sized housing estate for that!). No wonder clubs are up to their eyes in debt. Entertaining and talented as Michael Owen is, he’s only human and he’s only skin and bone. While he is supposedly surrounded by equally consummate professionals within the ranks of the Premier League competition that he will once again face, week in week out, don’t for one minute think that some seasoned defender isn’t already planning to sort out Mr. Nice Guy as he comes tearing down the wing.

God forbid that boy picks up anything like a serious injury and he ends up on the sidelines for a few months: that’ll put a quick end to the singing and dancing in the St James Park’s boardroom. Some clubs never recover from such huge investments. Right, no more bitching. See you next week.

Sunday 21 August, 2005

You know, now that I recollect it, I made no mention last week of how well my “own” football team is doing (supported them, man and boy, I have, lass – probably needs to said with some form of Yorkshire accent).

We are of course talking about the one and only Heart of Midlothian, in danger of suffering a nosebleed as they loftily sit top of the Scottish Premier League, after three games. Where are Celtic and Rangers in all of this, you could be excused for asking? I’ll give you clue – look down the way. Heh heh.

Listen to me, sounding like a typically impassioned football supporter – ah, but, as any Hearts supporter will confirm – you have to take it (and bask in it) while it’s going!

On the football front generally – as far as my own project goes – I recall I said last week that would probably be some developments in my search for quality African-continent players – and, I’m delighted to report – there has.

Initially, all I can say is thank goodness for telephone discount cards. I must have spent upwards of ten hours on the phone this week, with our Chief African Scout, Jacob Amaning, who is based in Windhoek in Namibia. If I had just picked up the telephone and dialed direct each time I was looking to discuss football matters with Jacob, I would have had to re-mortgage the house to pay for the next phone bill. Thankfully, these phone discount cards give you much more time, for much less cost.

So, what of the developments this week? Well, after lengthy discussions with Jacob, we decided to target the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia – as I anticipated from last week’s diary entry.

To this end, Jacob climbed on a plane on Friday morning in Windhoek and flew to Harare in Zimbabwe, connecting through Johannesburg.

Zimbabwe recently triumphed over Zambia (1-0) in the Cosafa Cup final, the Cosafa Cup being an international tournament for the southernmost twelve countries on the African continent. I think it would be fair to Zimbabwe to state that they overturned the formbook, as Zambia have been doing particularly well of late (they are only one point off qualification in their current World Cup section).

Jacob will spend most of next week based in Harare, during which time he will “commute” down to Lusaka (Zambia’s capital) for a couple of dates – the intention in both cases being to speak to certain members of both countries international squads, who are deadly serious about continuing their football career(s) here in the United Kingdom. Of course, these are early days yet, however we are quietly excited about the prospect of assisting both countries to develop their international footballing profiles in this country.

I would have to say this is not an inexpensive little operation however, as they say (I’ve always wondered who “they” are?) you have to speculate to accumulate. Next week, I’ll hopefully have a positive update on this – and a couple of the aforementioned players already in the country. BFN.

Sunday 14 August, 2005

Now, what might be the highlight of the week, I wonder? That, folks would have to be the fact that I’ve actually had a firm offer on my place of dwelling: the house, she is sold!

However, I will still have to “bridge” for the month of September but that I can live with (in two houses).

And, what of the week generally? Well, this past week has very much been devoted to football matters – rather than those of music. While I must remain confident in attempting to source the requisite finance to be able to launch this innovative player representation venture, I also have to try and figure how I could kick-start (pun intended) the project with an initial injection of funding of my own - and then build from there.

To the above end, there is possibly a way: the African Continent market. The African Continent comprises some fifty-one member states of C.A.F. (Confederation of African Football).

Certain of those countries (Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Cameroon for example) have done consistently well over the years and are therefore generally well within the top seventy of the monthly football rankings. However, countries such as Zambia, Angola and Ghana do not normally enjoy such lofty positions, although the recent exception to the rule there would be Zambia who - based upon their average monthly position over the last two years – are able to boast an average ranking of 70. In fact, their actual ranking this month of August is 56, their highest individual monthly ranking on record.

Therefore, what this all means (if you’re still with me) is that Zambian international football players, being eligible for a Work Permit, can now ply their trade here with a professional UK club.

So, next week, I intend to put some work into procuring the services of 2/3 Zambian players, with a view to bringing them on trial to a club in the UK. Actually, Zambia’s next-door neighbours – and perennial international rivals are actually sitting at an average position of around 50 in the rankings, which may cause us to similarly investigate which of their international footballers may qualify to make the trip over here.

I’m sure I’ll have a whole lot more to report, relating to the above, in next week’s diary.

On the music front, I continue to “spin a few plates” in the hope of keeping my options open for my next touring project: it’s no secret that, while I obviously enjoy working in a business in which I’ve now spent over thirty years, my true passion definitely lies with my football project.

Do you have a passion of your own? It’s an amazing thing you know. While there is the danger that it may completely consume you, there’s little you can do about it when it actually does reach that stage.

And, on that point, I’m off to scour the African continent (not literally, you understand). BFN.

Sunday 7 August, 2005

Ah, another week in the trenches.

Believe it or not, I am now more personally organized that at any time since I moved into this house in June 2002. My Deep Purple commitments seemed to canon straight into my two and a half years of Westlife after which recently – as I was just starting to get organized – I jumped onto the Oasis tour.

However, I’m hoping I now have a couple of weeks to immerse myself totally into the football project. I’m not sure whether Oasis have found a Tour Accountant to cover phase two of the North American tour, which commences 8th September. Unfortunately, I’m just not in a position to commit at the moment as I’m hoping to bring an international Zambian defender into the UK for trials with an English championship club, later this month.

As with anything involving African-continent players, the arrangements and logistics involved in making such a move happen, are far from straightforward. This latest one is no exception.

For those of you with more than a passing interest in football, you may find it of interest to know the criteria required to enable a non-European Union football player to be able to secure a full-time professional contract within the UK.

The requirements for issuance of a Work Permit to a non-European Union player, to allow him to play for one of the U.K. clubs, are indeed stringent including the stipulation that the player must have featured in at least 75% of his country’s international competitive games within the two years prior to the Work Permit application (“friendlies” aren’t counted). The player’s international footballing side - in this case, Zambia- also have to be able to demonstrate that they have attained a position within the top seventy of the FIFA rankings, taken as an average over the last twenty-four months.

Currently, Zambia’s average position is that of seventy-one (71) however we are again confident that a successful UK Work Permit will be forthcoming, based upon the recent, successful, application of Collins Mbesuma (albeit after submission to an Appeals Panel).

As Mr Mbesuma has now been awarded that Work Permit, we are confident that our company can assist in procuring the same for Lloyd Mumba, a central defender of particular note.

Well, I’ve certainly digressed big time this week: hopefully I’m not losing my diary readers, left right and centre. I’m confident that I can unearth even more contacts this coming week, in relation to starting to put the framework into place to secure the long-term funding required for this project.

I’m also trying to assist the Under-23 South African international goalkeeper to land a club here in Scotland, to enable him to put himself in the “shop window” as he has played his football for the past two years for the top club in Durban. He should actually have arrived here in the UK, before I pen next week’s edition of the diary. Breathless though you currently may be, I’m afraid you’ll just have to be patient to learn the outcome until this time next week! Luv y’all. Thanx for sticking with me.


Sunday 31 July, 2005

Now, if you’re thinking that I may be prepared to continue where I left off last week, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disapoint you. There’s young people read this diary, too, you know.

Well, I know it now – as a couple of their mothers gave me something of an ear-bashing for certain of last week’s risque references. Guess I had better lay off the wine until I finish this week’s entry.

So, what to tell of the past seven days? Fairly mundane, I would have to say. However, most of the post-Oasis accounting clear-up is now complete and therefore, save a few hours on Monday, I’m free to give next week over to my football project.

In amongst all of this, I’m hoping to move house at the end of August. I’m just in that all-too-familiar position (dictated by the current housing market) of wondering just exactly how long my house is going to take to sell.

I don’t want to lose the house I have offered on: it is situated in the much sought-after Edinburgh suburb of Balerno (although it might not be so sought after, once I’ve graced it with my presence!) where, coincidentally, it is only two thirds of a mile away from my daughter’s new school. As her brother seemed to excel when he moved to Balerno High for the last year of his schooling, Jade has decided she will study there, for her fifth and sixth year’s of education.

The housing market has certainly slowed somewhat and my situation is no different: I have the “bridging” funds available to me, if required, however the prospect of paying two mortgages until I have a legally binding offer on my own property doesn’t exactly enthuse me. As always, I digress.

Where is Jake in Jakes life? Well, as I mentioned above, Oasis is effectively put to bed. What now?

I don’t think I would be blowing my own trumpet too much in asserting that, provided I don’t make the classic mistake of playing both ends against the middle and ending up with nothing, there is the possibility of work in the near future with both Oasis and Westlife. I just can’t help feeling that if I don’t take a breath now and spend a couple of weeks unearthing many of my “active” contacts on the footballing front, I may not have a similar opportunity in the next few months – particularly if I jump onto another tour at short notice.

So, this Sunday (yes folks, let the record show that I’m actually writing my weekly diary today, on a Sunday, 10.20 am to be precise) I’ll try to sit quietly and mull over the alternatives. It has long been my life’s ambition to actually read all of the Sunday papers on a Sunday. This might just be the day.

Not really much of a “Diary of the Road” this week, I’m afraid. More a “Diary of Jake at a Mini Crossroads of Life”. Part of me likes to think the window of opportunity may be lurking just around the corner. If so, I need to discipline myself to open it wide first and ponder the view – rather than jump straight through it, Hollywood style. Pretty deep, huh? Hey, it’s a big decision. Finally, just to re-assure all my website correspondents: I don’t always reply, but I always read your e-mails. BFN.

Sunday 24 July, 2005

Well, I arrived back here, in bonnie Scotland in the early hours of Monday morning and (typical to how it happens when your tour-induced adrenalin reserves abate) collapsed into my own bed for twelve hours.

I mean, what’s the world coming to? You’d think that Helen Mirren could at least have had the decency (or, indecency, even) to be – feverishly – awaiting my arrival home with some warm massage oil. Ah, a boy can but dream and – believe me – this boy does. It’s the only reason he’s still here.

The mention of Newcastle, in last week’s addition of the diary, indeed brought back some warm memories of the last time spent there, with the famous Irish foursome.

That time, I was indeed fortunate in two respects: firstly, the blonde one deftly negotiated the highways and byways between that quiet hamlet of Northwich and the bustling metropolis of Newcastle (and all in the same day!) to be able to join me – the second being that it was a weekend, and in Newcastle that can only mean party, party! Damn - I should have “gone blond” a long time ago.

In the course of visiting several of the more prominent hostelries in The Toon, we happened across the lovely Grace, a truly hospitable Geordie lass, who we had every intention of inviting to the show the next night, with some of her buddies. Alas, in my fervent excitement at the thought of being in the company of several tasty women in the same millennium, I managed to mis-key Grace’s number into my cellphone memory. So, if anyone can help us trace young Grace – and in doing so offer our heartfelt apologies for standing her up – then we would be most grateful. Goodness Grace-is me.

You know, I would have to say: this “Evangelo” red wine (God bless the Greeks) is heartwarming stuff. You don’t think Helen Mirren will take offence if she reads my opening paragraph, do you? Listen, she can tale a gate if she wants – as long as she gets here.

Yes, Newcastle lasses certainly know how to have a good time (much in keeping with those girls from Wigan – or so I’m led to believe). Now ladies, I admit you will have to make some allowances for me: after all, I am but a mere male and, yes, we males are occasionally prone to the Temporary Wandering Away Tonight syndrome but (c’mon admit it Linda) we can still almost charm you at will - although the last time I did that, Will just didn’t want to get involved.

In fairness, ladies, you have to agree: there’s nothing like a suave, sophisticated, debonair, eloquent man and – yes, you’ve guessed it – I’m nothing like a suave, sophisticated, debonair, eloquent man.

As the red-haired lady I met in the hairdresser admitted to me last week (as I nimbly leaned over the wash hand basin to check her temperature): “if a man can make you laugh, he almost has the power to make you do anything”. Within minutes she was clutching her sides as my rapier wit all but floored her. Alas, my eagerly anticipated blow dry was out of the question. So that’s it for this week folks. Just to say this to the somewhat mysterious Trish: honey, you need to get out some more and, well, if you need a couple of appropriate suggestions, we’re both here for you! BFN

Sunday 17 July, 2005

Right, where were we, when we last spoke?

Ah, yes, having just finished the Milton Keynes shows last weekend, we headed for Newcastle.

Monday was designated a travel day however, being the old road dog that I am, I decided to come up overnight directly from Milton Keynes, and check in to The Malmaison in Newcastle, in time for breakfast on Monday morning.

Now, to say I’ve done a bit of traveling would be akin to saying Elton John has recorded the odd decent song. However, throughout my thirty years of globe hopping there are not really that many places I could cite, that I could put some roots down (for a while anyway).

Newcastle, whay aye man, is definitely one of the exceptions: there’s just something about the place, something about the “vibe”, that allows me to feel very much at ease with the place.

I’ve always subscribed to the “work hard – play hard” ethic and there are few better places that can boast a better nightlife than Newcastle. I mean, I was there on Monday night – and the place was way livelier than my home city of Edinburgh. I just have a genuine affection for the place: a brief glance at my website C.V. will attest to a couple of tours with Jimmy Nail, a man steeped in the North East culture.

Jimmy has a song on one of his albums called “Big River” that says much about what Newcastle once was and – in other respects – still is. That’s a man I would welcome the chance to work with again. Like myself – although in greatly different measures in Jimmy’s case – he has been through much in his life and what he has now – what he has achieved through graft and guile – he holds dear to himself. I can both relate to – and respect – such belief. A true gentleman. I wish him all the best.

However, I digress, as I’m wont to do. Get back on the track, Jack (Jake). The Metro Arena shows, as the name suggests, were played “indoors” therefore, having just come from two huge outdoor venues, a fair amount of “guddling” was involved in squeezing eights trucks of gear into what is, essentially, a four/five truck venue. The video screens were not required for this gig; consequently they were trucked directly to Dublin from Milton Keynes.

After the second Newcastle show on Wednesday night I again traveled overnight, this time to Dublin, via the Holyhead ferry crossing – not the first time the Stena Line staff have had to rap on my windscreen, over the last couple of years, to alert me to the fact that boarding has begun.

Marlay Park in Dublin heralded our last stadium show on Saturday evening: sadly, that’s it for me for the moment with Oasis. I only jumped onto the tour at short notice to help out and I now need a couple of “clear” days to figure out where I go from here. This line of thinking will be somewhat expanded upon, when we next meet as Jake, just like every other human being on the planet, tries to figure out what it’s all about. When (if) I find out, I’ll happily share the knowledge around.

Sunday 3 July, 2005

Strangest thing. I don’t ever recall flying into my own country (on a transatlantic flight anyway) to do a show.

That’s the way it was last Monday morning however, as we touched down in Glasgow having flown in overnight from Newark.

As I had left my car at the airport two weeks previously, prior to flying out to Toronto, my plan had always been to zip through to Edinburgh to check everything was OK at the house. I have someone who checks the place out for me every couple of days (and occasionally stays there) but I still need to be able to personally sort through my mail and pay the inevitable bills.

Having done that on Monday, I then collected my son “halfway” from Falkirk and was back at Hampden by 5.30 early evening. Being our first UK stadium show, there was trucks and equipment arriving from every different direction. Add to that the fact that it was the first time that all the elements of the stadium shows had been in the same place at the same time: hence the need for our immediate production crew to have to be on site from midday Monday – although the show itself did not take place until Wednesday.

Even if I say so myself, when a Scottish audience takes to a band, they do so in a big way – and in that respect, Oasis is absolutely no exception. It’s always reassuring to have the first show, of any sector of a tour, go down well – if it starts well, it generally stays well.

Just as the first load-in proved to be slow, so was the first load out. While it may bode well for the artist (financially) to undertake two stadium shows “back-to-back”, it is nevertheless very tough going on the technical crew – particularly when the first of those two back-to-backs is the first show of the stadium tour!

As if it wasn’t bad enough that the load-out didn’t finish until just before 4.00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, one of our crew sleeper buses ground to an untimely halt (with gearbox trouble) only thirty minutes south of Glasgow. With all the crew due at the Manchester load-in for 8.00 a.m., Michael O’Connor (Oasis Production Manager) had no choice but to “double-up” his technicians – 24 people on a 12-berth sleeper coach - for the remainder of the journey. See? This rock ‘n roll lifestyle is not always as glamorous as it’s made out to be.

Well, the guys made it to The City of Manchester Stadium by 11.00 a.m. but thankfully, as Michael had had the foresight to send our Assistant Stage Manager ahead earlier in the day on Wednesday, the load-in was not unduly delayed. Suffice to say everyone slept well on Thursday night – Friday was a “day off” - although the lads in the band came into the venue to rehearse, late afternoon.

There was a total of three shows in Manchester and the middle one (on Saturday) – the first one that went up for sale - was probably the better of the three. Next week, the Oasis extravaganza rolls into Southampton and Milton Keynes, and all (well, almost all) will be revealed right here.


Sunday 26 June, 2005

Now, where were we? Ah yes, the good ol’ United States of America where, if I’m not wrong, I was in Chicago when we last spoke (so to speak).

The show in Chicago was at the UIC Pavilion, a university facility – however (typically for many an American campus) a sizeable venue with a capacity just under 9,000.

While the rent on such buildings tends to be very reasonable, they occasionally suffer from certain production drawbacks – in this case, a “one-truck-at-a-time” loading dock. Not only that, but a downward slope as well.

Now, a little touch of (downward) gradient at the load-in can certainly prove to be advantageous, as the equipment appears to glide effortlessly from the truck. However, in the words of Confucius -that noted Lord of the Load-in – “upward gradient mean only bitch of load-out”.

End result? We didn’t get the doors closed on the last (4th) truck until 3.45 a.m. Normally, with an average US-tour overnight run of 350 miles, this would not have presented us with any major difficulty. However, even though the next day was a “day off” (and some wise old road rat once said that “there’s no days off – there’s only show days and non-show days”) – we were nevertheless facing a 790-mile drive to New York City.

Worse was to come. Only two hours out Chicago, and heading due West, we end up at a virtual standstill on the freeway – for almost another two hours – as a result of a tractor-trailer having caught fire and needing to be “craned” off the highway. In these situations, we owe a lot to our bus drivers. Can you imagine being held up at the venue in Chicago for two hours, then – thinking that you’re finally on your way at last – having to sit, stationery, in a long queue of freeway traffic, then (worst of all) still facing over six hundred miles of a drive to New York?

Consequently, we didn’t check-in to The Roosevelt Hotel until after eleven o’clock on Tuesday evening. New York: the only city in the world where they probably pre-charge your credit card for the total your party’s stay at their establishment – without ever having talked to you personally – and then won’t release your room key until you produce picture ID.

The next day’s show was at the legendary Madison Square Gardens, in contrast to the last time I was in the Big Apple with Oasis – when we played Radio City Music Hall.

After the MSG show it was up to Massachusetts overnight, arriving Boston mid-morning on Thursday, for a show at the Tweeter Center the following day. Overnight again on Friday night (this time “back-to-back”) to Penns Landing in Philadelphia. When that show was over we journeyed back north to the Embassy Suites hotel in Secaucus in “Noo Jessey”, in preparation for our homeward flight to Glasgow, from Newark Airport, on Sunday evening. Next week we start the UK stadium tour where we are anticipating a hectic schedule for the first 4/5 days but, hey, if you want to know what happened next then, by now, you know where to come to.

Sunday 19 June, 2005

Back on the road again (indeed).

I would have to say (as I may have mentioned on this site at some time in the past), that I have a definite fondness for touring on the North American continent: I sensed a special spiritual comfort the first time I set foot on US soil, way back in June 1975, with Jethro Tull. I’ve often wondered if, maybe, I actually lived here in a past life!

Like every country the world over, in the U.S.A., there’s definitely a fair few things that are askew with the indigenous culture. However (for me, anyway) those few grating aberrations are far outweighed by the enjoyable aspects of this gigantic land.

Sure, the “have a nice day” approach can threaten to wear a little thin at times but – bless them – the yanks, in the main, are actually a pretty well-intended bunch. They are certainly not backward at coming forward. Shrinking violets definitely tend to number in the minority.

What else impresses me about this li’l ‘ol country? Well, they could certainly teach us Brits a thing or two about service standards. I’ve always maintained that if you grow up in a service-orientated environment then, almost subconsciously, you inherit those traits. I recall queuing up at Detroit Airport coffee shop where there were six or so already-poured glasses of Coca-Cola, with the obvious intention of timesaving. When the guy in front of me requested that the counter attendant pour him a fresh coke, this was done without question or enquiry. Try that at Edinburgh airport and you’ll probably be labeled as some form of mild troublemaker!

Back to the diary: this last week I’ve now done three shows with Oasis. We kicked off the North American leg with a club show at The Koolhouse in Toronto (for the brewing company Molson) on Wednesday night. We then moved on to play the Molson Amphitheatre, a large indoor/outdoor venue – again in Toronto – on Friday night. Our first “over-nighter” of the tour then followed, as we jumped on the sleeper bus and headed down to Detroit.

Although the actual road distance between those two shows was not excessive (280 miles) we were faced with a border control, as we passed into United States. What was once a ten-minute procedure has now evolved into a 45-minute process, which includes fingerprinting and re-establishing a photographic record.

As our immediate Oasis crew numbers twenty-one (on two sleeper buses), we were at that border crossing for over ninety minutes in total – resulting in our late arrival for the load in at the show on the outskirts of Detroit, namely at The Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, in Rochester Hills.

After the show, we once again climbed on to the tour buses (touring culture normally deems that the crew will always travel overnight to the next city, irrespective of whether it’s a “back-to-back” show or a non-show day. A wise touring veteran once observed that, when it comes to rock ‘n roll touring, “there are no days off – only show days and non-show days”. Damned right, boy. Until next week, I leave you with this thought: don’t go confusing your career with your life. Deep, huh? BFN.

Sunday 12 June, 2005

Let the madness begin.

As I mentioned last week, my next diary entry would be penned from Toronto, where I begin a fourteen-day/seven-show run with the inimitable Oasis, from Monday 13th onwards.

If you’ve checked out my C.V. on the Web site, you’ll know that I worked for the lads in both 2000 and 2001 and was happy to help them out, initially through the end of July, as my predecessor have to call off at short notice: however, come the end of this week I’ll be able to relate the story of my first week on the road with the lads.

To this last week: well, on the football side, my trusted African continent scout, Jacob Amaning, believes he may have discovered 2/3 very good international players, within two “southern” African countries, who – for various contributory reasons – qualify to be able to ply their trade in the U.K.

Briefly, any such player – who is not in position of a European Union passport – must be able to demonstrate having featured in his full national side for 75% of their competitive games within the immediate two-year period prior to submission of his U.K. Work Permit application. Even then, it still requires much time, effort and co-ordination to process the considerable paperwork, to enable the player to finally take the field with his chosen U.K. team.

The above was much the case with one Eliphas Shivute, whom I brought to the Scottish Premier league club, Motherwell FC, in the spring of 1997. I have to admit to gaining some form of gentle, harmless, amusement in catching football off-guard. By this, I mean unearthing an exceptional footballing talent that no one has heard of – never mind the fact that certain managers struggled to correctly pronounce the name of his home country (namely Namibia).

I’m sure that the majority of the Motherwell support will warmly remember Eliphas, during the time he spent at the club. From my point of view he furnished me with the most magical moment in my-almost ten years in the player representation business, when he opened the scoring for Motherwell against Glasgow Rangers (at Ibrox Stadium!) – and all this on his birthday!

Unfortunately, due a combination Eliphas’s protracted “disappearance” back to Africa for the African Nations Cup (Namibia did particularly well in 1998 – reaching the last twenty-four) and a change of management at Motherwell FC, he fell out of favour with the new management set-up at the club and – as John Robertson, the infamous all-time record goal-scorer at Hearts poignantly observed: “in any dispute between a Manager and a player there’s only ever going to be one winner”. So, that was the beginning of the end for Eliphas who, incidentally, was last heard of plying his trade in China – not a deal that I was involved in, I have to say.

Well, gang, just how will my first week on tour with Oasis work out? Keep a watchin’ this space. North America is probably my favourite country to tour – I felt so “at home” when I first landed here (in Portland, Oregon, with Jethro Tull in summer 1976!) and that vibe still exists today. B.F.N.

Sunday 5 June, 2005

Well, this might just be an all-time record – although, this week, I have a reasonable(?) excuse.

I can honestly say that my head hasn’t hit the pillow before 1.30 a.m. any day this week (and on a couple of occasions, a few hours later than that). However, in respect of my latest project – this Oasis Tour Accountant’s job that I accepted at short notice – I may just be over the worst. Maybe.

A Tour Accountant essentially has three main areas of responsibility. Firstly, prior to the tour, there are budgets to prepare to enable the Artist (and the Artist’s management) to ascertain just how much they stand to make from their endeavors: profit’s not a dirty word. Generally, the first version of the budgets (and I say budgets here, because of the differing tax situations from territory to territory) do little more than establish the various cost components and their approximate, associated, costs. From there, with some rough figures, we move on to “version 2”.

This will give you an idea of the complexity of what’s involved; on Oasis (whose touring period will essentially comprise May through December this year) I have no less than nine different budgets on the go, in some form or another, at the present time. To regular IT enthusiasts, it will come as no surprise that I’m heavily reliant on Microsoft Excel to enable me to keep track of such detailed workings. I then have one master “World Budget” file which references the various territorial budgets and allows me to keep the lads management regularly appraised of the “global” position.

Once the world tour gets underway, I will then liaise with the band’s London-based accountants, on a daily basis, to track the “actual” expenditure versus the budgeted cost, for each territory. Quite often, on a world tour of six months or over, we will still be fine-tuning certain budgeted costs for, say, the sixth month during months one and two. It may be that, for instance, once the tour gets underway the Production Manager finds that he can squeeze the equipment into seven trucks, instead of the initial eight that was anticipated – therefore we can adjust our “forward” budgets accordingly. Of course, it can quite easily go the other way! After the first couple of weeks, the band may feel the need to increase the stage-monitoring system (to increase stage sound levels).

In the case of the above, this may have several, incremental, knock-on effects on the budget. The additional equipment could “push” us into another truck; we may need to add another sound technician to assist in the set-up of the extra gear (this incurs a salary, hotel and travel cost – quite significant); our insurance underwriters would have to be advised - although this would probably only represent a negligible increase in the premium; finally, there is the cost of the increased rental cost of the sound equipment items themselves.

Now, will you look at that? There I was, about to describe the three main elements of the Tour Accountant’s job – and I’ve only just made past the first one. Too much detail?

Fear not, intrepid readers, I’ll be happy to elaborate upon the other aspects, at a later date. I’m off to Toronto on Monday, to start the first leg of the North American tour – so look forward to the next edition of the diary (albeit written a day late) being penned from shores afar. Love ya.


Sunday 29 May, 2005

In the words of a notable songstress (not that notable – as I’ve forgotten who she was) – “what a difference a week makes”.

There I was, firing ahead with various aspects of my football project when – right out of the blue – I receive a phone call from Alec McKinley, one of Oasis’s two managers. Their hitherto present Tour Accountant had suffered bereavement within his close family circle, and had asked to be replaced on their current tour.

As I’ve worked for the Gallagher brothers before (back in 2000 and 2001) my name was immediately in the frame. Funnily enough, I had popped into their show at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Sunday 8 May – as much to catch up with some of their crew guys, as to see the bands’ performance.

However, I was as surprised as anyone when I was offered the job, at relatively short-notice.

As you will see from their comprehensive website ( the Oasis lads are currently undertaking three smaller ‘surprise” venues in Madrid, Brussels and Germany, followed by three outdoor festival, multi-act, shows. They then depart on 13th for Toronto and the commencement of Phase 1 of their 2005 North American tour. That’s where I come in.

As the crew is finishing up with an outdoor appearance at Imola on 12 June, I believe they will fly from Milan to New York and then connect, onwards, to Toronto. I will probably take the (aptly named?) Zoom Airways flight from Glasgow to Toronto, at the beginning of the week after next.

To explain: because this week’s European shows are in smaller venues (essentially these shows are part of a pan-European promotional push) - and because next week’s shows are part of big outdoor festivals - then there is no requirement for me to actually be “on site” with the band.

Until my departure for Toronto on 13th of this month (to commence an initial string of six North American dates) I will be working away, from the Oasis office, on a variety of “standard” Tour Accounting tasks: budget preparation; tax clearances; cash flow projections; settlement programmes etc. etc. At the moment, my last Oasis date is the outdoor show in Dublin, at Marlay Park on Saturday 16 July.

Beyond that, I’m considering several options. The dilemma is always the same: once I go back on the road, the work on my football project slowly grinds to a halt. However, with one child (child?) at University - and the other one looking like she’s possibly heading there too - the bills are there to pay. So, careful thought required over the coming weeks as to how I proceed from August onwards.

Many thanks, as always, for your time taken to e-mail me via the web site. I always endeavor to acknowledge receipt of your messages, if only a quick word of thanks but, once again, mayhem is about to reign. I appreciate your patience. One day it will all come right for me – and for all of us!

Sunday 22 May, 2005

Well, folks, you heard it here first: I do believe that, since the inception of the diary, I have actually managed to write two consecutive weeks’ entries both on a Sunday (when it’s meant to be).

So, what of my fortunes over the past week? I’ve pretty much chained myself to the desk, but with no complaints. Provided you can summon up your self-motivation characteristics, there is much to commend having an office located in one’s residence.

Hailing from the 16-hour-a-day background, as I do, putting in a second shift of work after dinner presents no problem. From the point of view of preparing reports and proposals for my football project, the evening shift is definitely more advantageous as the phones are noticeably quiet.

In my own mind, I was searching for an analogy that would encapsulate what I’m trying to achieve with my football project and I came up with this (for want of a better one!): if a road construction company starts work on a new roundabout where, say, there previously existed traffic-light controlled crossroads, they have to approach the main body of the work in two phases.

Phase 1, the preparatory phase, involves introducing temporary measures to maintain traffic flow, before work on the roundabout itself can start in earnest. Once said preparatory work is complete (probably a diversionary road, in this example) then Phase 2 – the construction of the roundabout itself – can be started and pushed through to completion, with the maximum of efficiency. Listen, if you’ve got a better analogy, then bring it on!

Anyway, in my current situation [Phase 1] I’m in the process of revising business plans, industry reports, marketing plans, overview summaries etc., so that when I start to pursue, and reactivate, possible avenues of investment interest, then I can be quick off the mark with any relevant follow-up documentation. Sure, I’m itching to dive headlong into Phase 2 – getting out there and meeting the interested parties face-to-face – however, here’s my thinking on this: the household bills keep coming whether you’re gainfully employed or not, therefore (until I secure the funding for the football project) I can’t afford to ignore my stock-in-trade. Should something come up, touring-wise, at least I would have all my literature ready – after which it’s very straightforward to dispatch any relevant documentation from the road. Thank the Lord for e-mail attachments.

Yes, much has been accomplished this past week and even though I’m endeavoring to escape the clutches of “Phase 1”, I certainly would be in a worse-off position, had “No. 1” daughter Jade not put in three days of sterling work helping her father. She even charges reasonable rates for it.

Finally, by utilising simple arithmetic formulae (distance, divided by time = speed) might I take this opportunity to issue some well-intended advice to the blonde one: slow down. Well, on the road anyway. Finally, what do you know? A weekly diary entry without the mention of W******E!

Well, regular readers, I know you won’t take this personally but, hey, I’m outa here. There are potential investors lurking in them thar hills and, darn it, I intend to dig ‘em out. I do love you all.

Sunday 15 May, 2005

Although these diary entries are logged under the “Diary From the Road” page on my website, it occurs to me that, as a result of being off tour for the time being, the upcoming entries will probably lean more towards the footballing side of my business, over the coming weeks.

Even though I’m back at my little office in the house (great name for a TV programme: “Little Office in the House” – somehow seems familiar) I’ve been putting in the hours, to the point where I believe I am more up to date with my personal – and football – business, than I have been since I moved into this house in the summer of 2002.

This past week I have concentrated heavily on “housekeeping” the vast majority of my computer-based football files, with the intention of formulating and updating some of my original presentations, which can then be forwarded to the media, potential investors and many of the football clubs themselves. It’s time to (re) spread the word again.

I continue to believe (I have to) that I have a unique angle on this business of player representation that, as yet, no one else has happened upon. By way of a music business analogy, you can record the greatest song in the world, but if you never have the opportunity to play it to anyone, then it will never be a hit: hence the reason I am currently planning a rejuvenated marketing push in regards to the football side of my business.

I reckon that within a fifty mile radius of my home, here in Murieston in West Lothian, there are probably twenty successful businessmen/entrepreneurs who could underwrite my project before breakfast: I’ve just got to root them out. I’ve got to exploit the various marketing processes available to me, to let them know I’m there. Wakey, wakey – here comes Jakey!

Of course, as a result of working solidly over the last three and a half years (Oasis and Deep Purple immediately preceded my two year stint with Westlife) the football project has had to contend itself with gently simmering, on the back burner. This is the best opportunity I’ve had, for a long time, to be able to concentrate exclusively on my second love – can’t call it my “first” or the blonde one will get her cute little nose out of joint.

This football project is my passion – and passion is a great energiser. This particular passion has kept me going for over ten years now. Sure, I’ve had to concentrate on my “day job” because the bills have to be paid – and because the last time I was consumed by a passionate longing to succeed at something (convincing myself I could run a bar/restaurant operation with frighteningly little previous experience) I lost my house, which ultimately led to the break-up of my family.

This time, being on a sound financial footing – and a proud house owner once again – I can afford to dabble in my football ideas, while keeping a firm focus on my main line of employment.

I read this once, somewhere: he (or she) who succeeds, but then stops trying, will ultimately fail – but he (or she) who fails, yet keeps on trying, will ultimately succeed. Pretty deep, huh? BFN. xx

Sunday 8 May, 2005

They seek me here, they seek me there: but - you’ll be glad to know - here I am.

I feel like I’ve returned from Fantasy Island although, in fairness to the Scottish weather, the sun is also shining here in the homeland (although I detect a slight difference in the temperatures between Koh Samui and Edinburgh).

As a result of a slight airline cock-up (otherwise we were pretty impressed by EVA AIR) we had to spend the last night in Bangkok, en-route to London. Once checked into the Bangkok hotel, on Saturday afternoon, we went off for a wander round the shopping malls - then in the evening we ventured down to the Pat Pong area, where the phrase “anything goes” is a severe understatement.

Nestled right alongside the myriad of clothes/CD/food stalls are a wide and varied selection of bars, nightclubs and (apparently) dodgy clubs. In spite of having the blonde one in tow, I was nevertheless plagued by a succession of questionable individuals looking to lure me into their alleyway establishments, with the promise of wild girlies. Got one of those, thanks.

While we were fortunate to travel out to Bangkok on an overnight flight when we left London, the return flight departed Bangkok just after lunchtime and landed in Heathrow early evening – meaning daylight the whole way. I wouldn’t say it was a long flight, but they managed to show four full-length movies – and serve two meals and a snack – before we landed back in London.

Before I forget, can I just apologise for “squeezing” two weeks’ diary entries into one, when I was away on vacation. Apart from the fact that you can only write so much about lying around in the sun, I left my laptop at home, concerned about it’s safety - particularly when I anticipated spending so much time away from the hotel room.

Also, as a result of the above, I was unable to access my incoming website e-mail – a situation which I rectified yesterday by starting to work my way through a whole stack of messages (40% of which I have to say are just junk: I’m amazed that people have the time – and the energy - to trawl all these websites, like mine, for e-mail addresses, in the hope of selling their various wares: there’s no doubt some way of automatically piggy-backing their messages onto unsuspecting carriers).

Now that I’m back at my desk, I intend to solely concentrate on my football project over the next couple of weeks, in the hope of hooking up with any seriously interested parties to lay out my vision.

I have to remain confident that my potential investor is just around the corner, possibly even lurking somewhere within my extensive contact network – or someone I’ve come into contact with, as a result of my Westlife endeavors.

Finally, for this week, I’m seeing lots of e-mails - regarding the lads splitting up - arriving on my website. This is nothing I know anything about, however while all the guys are enjoying an extensive break, it would not surprise me to see such rumours surface from time to time. See y’all next week.

Sunday 1 May, 2005

I'm still here (well, if you can call Thailand "here"). I've been here one week now, and I'll be back in the UK this time next week.

I intend to pen this brief entry to cover the last two weeks, as I don't have my laptop with me and I'm therefore currently sat in an internet cafe in Koh Samui.

The week before I left, I was determined to clear all Westlife business off my desk, to then enable me to make a clean start when I return, particularly in relation to my football project. This determination resulted in some fairly late nights, the week before I left to fly down here, via Bangkok.

Don't know if you have ever been to this island on holiday, but it's a very lush part of the world. The idea of holidaying on an island held a certain appeal for me, as I was definitely in the mood to "get away from it all".

Although only approximately 15 miles long by 12 miles wide, there is still plenty to do and plenty to see. If all you want to do is laze around the pool for two weeks and have dinner down on the beach, under the stars, every night - then this place will suit you fine. Alternatively, if you're in the mood to rip it up every evening, then there is a wide variety of entertainment on offer, including a wide variety of clubs/bars, weekly moonlit beach raves - and even Thai Boxing Championships.

We are staying on the busy side of the island, in the Chaweng Beach area where it seems that the shops are able to boast copies of copy merchandise! No price tags of course as the name of the game here is barter: a pair of copy Nike trainers, which are initially offered to you for 2000 Baht (UKL 28.50) can generally be bartered down to about 60% of that price.

We'll everyone, I'll hopefully be able to atone for the brevity of this latest entry when I'm back in the UK next week, penning the entry dated 8th May. At that time I will also be able to catch up with all my web-based E-mail, as I'm unable to access that site from down here. So, hang in if you haven't received a reply (even though some of my replies can be somewhat on the brief side!) as I'll work my way through the backlog of mail, upon my return.

See you when I get back from my hols!


Sunday 17 April, 2005

Possibly for the first time on record, I’m penning my diary from my own home (albeit one day late - however, as regular readers will know, that’s pretty good by my past standards).

The last two Westlife shows on the 2005 tour were indeed memorable performances: first off was last Wednesday’s show in Bahrain, actually played outdoors, within the Ritz Carlton hotel complex. Now, should you ever be planning to take a vacation in Bahrain, I can thoroughly recommend the Ritz Carlton complex for the ultimate in vocational pampering.

Furthermore, if your trip comes close off the back of a substantial lottery win, then why not go the whole hog and rent one of the beachside villas, complete withy their own private beachfront, pool and butler service? Why the requirement of a lottery win? Only the small matter of said villa’s cost, at £1,750 (a night – not a week!).

The lads played their last show, also outdoors, at Dubai’s Media City, on Thursday evening. As we all wanted to head home at the earliest opportunity, we were fortunate enough to take advantage of the British Airways “sleeper” flight that departed at 01.20 am in the morning (Friday morning in our case) and arrived back in Heathrow at 05.55 am.

From there, we all went our separate ways, homeward bound. Due to the fact that the lads are planning a three-month break, it certainly felt like the end of a two-year era, for me personally.

At this time, I’m thinking carefully about whether I will return to work on the promotional campaign to back the next Westlife album release. Sure, I’ve had a blast over the last two years, however the most rewarding times have been those spent on (and preparing for) the lads’ tours. The fact is, I’m a Rock ‘n Roll Tour Manager and Tour Accountant to trade which, until my involvement with Westlife, meant that I would work solidly for 3/4 months then take a break for a few weeks before embarking upon my next touring project. In contrast, the last two years have been fairly full on and have allowed me little time, either to myself or to develop my football project.

Additionally, my children are not getting any younger and I need to spend more time with them: not as easy as it once was - if only because they now reside thirty miles apart.

Currently, I am likening myself to one of these sand-filled egg timers (the youngest amongst you may have no idea what I’m on about!) in the sense that I have to let Westlife filter completely out of my system and then take a refreshed view on my position.

I‘m confident that if I give two solid, Westlife-free, weeks to my football project then I can make some positive inroads as regards sourcing the requisite funds. That’s after my ten-day vacation.

So, indeed, a time for recuperation and reflection: I’m sure I will not have made any hard and fast decisions, come this time next week: however, as always, I’ll be happy to divulge my state of mind. xx

Sunday 10 April, 2005

Greetings from afar (Johannesburg Airport to be precise) as we prepare to board a flight to Dubai and onwards to Bahrain, where we have the first of our two UAE shows on Wednesday evening - the following day we fly back to Dubai for a show on Thursday evening, and then that’s it for a while!

I have to say I’m looking forward to spending a night in my own bed, this coming Friday evening (only my sixth night at home this year – that almost borders on the ridiculous). I’ll probably need a road map to find my way home from the airport.

On the touring side, I have to admit to having spent a most invigorating week down here in South Africa, a country that I first toured way back in 1980 with the Bay City Rollers. Yesterday, I was able to meet up with Duncan Faure from those early days, and I spent a most enjoyable afternoon yesterday, with Duncan and his wife Laurie, recalling many happy (and wild) times.

We kicked off our shows with an outdoor appearance at Westridge Tennis Park in Durban, the city where I spent my New Year, twenty-five years ago. I think I can speak for all the lads when I say that we were completely overwhelmed with the extent of the reaction from the 7000+ audience that attended the shows, particularly as the lads’ last visit to this part of the world was way back in 2001.

As a result of the extensive distances between many of the South African cities, we were given Wednesday off, to allow enough time for the equipment to make it down to Port Elizabeth. The original plan was to have played Port Elizabeth on both Wednesday and Thursday nights: as it transpired we played two shows on the Thursday, with the Matinee starting at 5.00 pm.

The next day we traveled down to Capetown and played a show at the Bellville Velodrome, a gig I played with Michael Flatley back in 1998. The lads enjoyed another amazing reaction from a capacity crowd of upwards of 8000. Capetown is indeed a charming city, so much so that we elected to stay down there on our day off, on Saturday (we would have played Johannesburg on the Saturday but, again, the distance between the two cities, 790 miles, just made that impossible).

We took full advantage of the excellent weather and chartered a rather flash yacht for an afternoon trip around the bay. That evening we all had dinner in one of the many Chinese restaurants in town. Now at this point I have a slight confession to make, in that it was my birthday on Thursday – an event that I thought I had concealed from all and sundry, as I wanted to avoid any undue fuss.

However, somehow the lads got wind of it by Saturday so that they surprised me with a birthday cake at the end of dinner. As we had to be up at a reasonable time the next day to fly to Johannesburg, we took it easy on Saturday night and just spent a couple of hours at the casino, before heading back to the hotel.

The show in Johannesburg – at the Coca Cola Dome - was something else, with a capacity 18,000 sellout crowd. I don’t think the guys will be leaving it another four years before they’re back here!!

Sunday 3 April, 2005

Greetings from the “Volvo Hilton” (as we tend to refer to our tour bus, when we have no time to book into a hotel).

My week started with an early morning flight from Manchester to Stockholm with Nicky, as a result of his participation the day before in the Tsunami appeal football game, where he was one of a host of celebrities, teamed up against a formidable array of Liverpool “Legends”. Now, while the celebrities obviously had youth on their side, the former Liverpool greats just proceeded to call on their once-awesome (yet still very apparent) wide array of skills.

With about twenty minutes played, our Nicky, with his inimitable competitive nature – and frustrated at already being two goals down at that point, decided to stamp his authority on the game, or rather – in this case – on Jan Molby.

Now, a word of advice here (even from a once-unimpressive amateur goalkeeper): tackling the might of Jan Molby has about the same success ratio as trying to retrieve the potato peeler from the waste disposal unit.

Hence the reason, I guess, why Mr. Byrne is still nursing a little pain - over a week later!

So, after the show at The Globe in Stockholm, we “overnighted” into Horsen in Denmark, went straight to the venue and afterwards overnighted again into Amsterdam for Wednesday night’s show at The Heineken Music Hall. After a few days of such a schedule, the tour bus would certainly not be nominated for a “House & Garden” award in the cleanliness category. As we hurtle through the night, country-hopping like madmen, I tend to steer clear of the upstairs back lounge where you can always be assured of at least a couple of insomniacs partying into the small hours. I’m generally well snuggled up by this time, vainly attempting to challenge the theory that it’s possible to sleep through 120 decibels of MTV.

Thankfully, we enjoyed a day off (alas, mostly spent traveling) on Thursday, before undertaking two German shows, firstly in Munich and, secondly, in a pleasantly warm Halle. As we were booked on the evening British Airways flight to Johannesburg – departing from Heathrow on Sunday – we elected just to overnight out of Halle, via the Calais/Dover ferry, and just make straight for the Airport Hilton at terminal four (must give that hotel a quick plug: very together, very helpful, very relaxed).

However, I spent most of the day sorting, re-packing and mailing a whole load of European tour accounting paperwork that I really didn’t want to drag all the way to the Southern Hemisphere.

My goodness, I almost forgot Beverley this week, but I’m sure she won’t hold it against me (although, maybe if I asked nicely…). So, it’s off to South Africa for the next eight days and a poignant trip down memory lane for me. I would tell you more, but it will only have an eventual detrimental effect on the sales of my autobiography! I could probably lay claim to seeing tigers but I would only be lion.


Sunday 27 March, 2005

Always look on the Brighton side of life – and, last Monday, that’s just what we did (for the second time on this tour). I have to tell you that I suffered one of the most memorable of my teenage traumas when my parents took me to Hove (Brighton’s sister town) – where my granny stayed – only to be confronted by a PEBBLED beach!

(Even my parents had kept that one from me: shattered, I was – all bucket and spaded and nowhere to dig!) I recall I spent many an enjoyable day, just wandering the wide streets of Brighton, car-spotting. In those days the last two letters of car registrations actually identified in which region of the UK the car was originally registered. Now, any woman reading this who can recall that system is certainly of Jakey’s era and may wish to tell me lots more about herself.

Back to Brighton in 2005: after the show we traveled up overnight to Nottingham and managed to have our eclectic little party tucked up in bed in Harts Hotel by 3.00 am. Interesting hotel, interesting location - and worth checking out (try to secure one of the garden rooms).

Therefore, Tuesday and Wednesday saw us play the last two shows of the UK leg of the tour after which the lads dived onto the tour bus and raced to Holyhead to catch the 2.30 am ferry to Dublin Port. Caroline and I endured rather a long and restless night as we also had to drive to Holyhead to put the sponsored cars onto the ferry (thankfully, without us actually having to make the crossing) and then sit huddled in Holyhead Port railway station until we could catch the first train out of there at 5.20 am. I connected through Chester to Liverpool while Caroline carried onto London.

My reason for making my way to Liverpool centered, of course, around Nicky’s upcoming, Sunday 27th, appearance in the Tsunami Soccer Appeal game at Anfield.

When I arrived at the Liverpool hotel at about 8.30 that morning, Thursday, they were good enough to let me check into my room straightaway – and, after a quick shower and shave, I buried my head into accounting world, eager to catch the Post Office by the end of the day (which I did – 4.55 pm!) knowing that fine establishment would be closed on Easter Friday. It always feels good to dispatch the tour accounts back to the business management office. Almost better than – well you know.

On Friday evening I was joined by the impeccably coiffured Beverley (I had earlier fallen apart) and, having divested myself of all the UK-tour accounts, we took to the thriving nightlife of Liverpool, as a fitting reward for my endeavors of the previous forty-eight hours. Beverley happened across her old friend Jack (I’m sure he said his surname was Daniels) – and a memorable night ensued.

Saturday was spent attending to all the final arrangements relating to Nicky’s celebrity appearance the following day. I thoroughly enjoyed the Tsunami game on Sunday: to witness, first-hand, so many past greats on the same field of play – with much of their talent of yesteryear very much in evidence – was indeed a unique experience. Europe, here we come, and back to “real” touring to some degree (back-to-back shows). I’ll be sporting a severe case of “bus-face” by this time next week. Ta Ta.

Sunday 20 March, 2005

Fear not, regular diary readers: normality (or as close to normal as it gets) will prevail this week.

Armed with nothing more harmful than an alcohol-free hot chocolate, I will, as always, transport you to Westlife world, where – in those swirling, sultry, backstage corridors – fine looking men are indeed absorbed in the many complex facets of life on the road. Such cries as “What? No sausages!” or “Where’s my cell phone?” regularly echo around those walls.

Last week, of course, we ventured back to “Jockland” for another two shows at the S.E.C.C. where Sarah (“the angel from Snakatak”) was on hand to feed my son’s posse as they sauntered into the backstage area on Monday evening, before you could say, “this week’s allowance is spent already”.

Still – let’s face it – there’s nothing like a cost conscious-son: and my boy is nothing like a cost-conscious son. My daughter Jade turned up the next night, hand-in-hand with her boyfriend Mark. Looks like that’s the last chance she’ll hold my hand for a while.

With two free days following the two Glasgow shows, we decided to stay one extra day at the Glasgow hotel and then head down to Sheffield on Thursday afternoon. With the prospect of a long day on Friday, recording the tour DVD, most of the lads turned in early in preparation for said show.

Our crew actually started the load-in a 5.00 am next morning, to enable the video crew as much time as possible to rig all their camera positions and their “audience” lighting. If you were there, I’m sure you’ll agree it was a great show. When the lads climbed on the tour bus after the show, they were completely fried as they always try just that little bit harder for the sake of the final product.

In fact, so pleased was everyone with their efforts, an impromptu party was convened in the Hilton’s ground floor function room, the scene of many a past over-zealous Westlife shindig. While I was waiting for the lads to show up at the party (I do a fair bit of waiting in this job and – to make things worse – the tips are dire) I wandered down the street for an hour or so and checked out this pretty cool club called Kingdom. When I returned to the hotel bar, things were going like a train. What happened later? Ah, well, those goings-on will indeed have to wait for the publication of my autobiography (which, of course, cannot be published until the time when I don’t need to work again!).

After Saturday night’s Sheffield show, we elected to shoot back to London and check into the hotel there at about 2.00 am in the morning so that the lads could lie-in the next day and not have to deal with a daytime motorway run.

Beverley kindly offered to accompany me on the trip South and then promptly offered a most impressive study of “blond asleep in front seat of BMW”. However, her brief nap actually served to energise her system so that, by the time we reached our London hotel, she was soon ready to rock. On reflection, the nail queen has not featured too much in the diary this week. I apologise: she’s been kinda tied up most of the week. Knot to say that she was complaining. Pretty ropey jokes, huh?

Sunday 13 March, 2005

Hello, hello I’m back again (as Gary Glitter once said – although surely ol’ Gary is well before most of your times).

After our second show at the NEC, I offered to drive Nicky directly to London, as he had a dental appointment the next day, and quite an important one at that. Have you all spotted what a fine set of gnashers (correct spelling?) he is sporting these days – all the better to nibble with, according to the big bad wolf?

No, I’ve not been drinking. Well, you can hardly call a few glasses of champagne drinking, can you?

Anyway, while we’re in fairy story mode, I’m reminded of a badge that I used to wear in my wild and younger roadie days, which pointedly stated “Snow White thought Seven-Up was just a drink until she tried Smirnoff!”. Also, these wise words, recently heard at a football dinner that I attended: “If you can keep your head, when all around you is losing theirs, then you’ve obviously no ******* idea how bad the problem is!”.

Yes, yes, I know I’m being somewhat risqué (and risky, probably, if the lads read this!) with my above ramblings this week, but you guys would be the first to tell me that the concert-going audience nowadays for Westlife is certainly a more mature and broad-minded bunch than those of yesteryear. I’m probably about to incur the wrath of a couple of irate mums but, hey, when you’re a guy in my position (suave, mature, single, drunk …) you use whatever avenues are available, within reason, to break into mumworld.

Mums not need be afraid. I’m an advocate of Billy Connolly’s “Old Man’s Day” idea which, ladies, is thus: you are allowed to walk around and gently touch a host of charming, beautiful, women and then they sit you down and give you a nice cup of tea. What’s the harm in that, c’mon? OK, so in my case, I want to spend a few extra minutes rifling through their respective shoe cupboards, but I’ll be back – albeit with an increased heart rate – before my cup of tea is cold.

Now, where were we? Ah, Westlife ….

Enthused by the pleasure of being able to collect Jade and take her to school on Wednesday morning in Edinburgh, I climbed into the cockpit of the Jakemobile at 11.15 pm on Tuesday evening, after the Brighton show, and proceeded northwards like the wind (must eaten my dinner too fast) and before you could say “untie those ankle straps” I was pulling into Edinburgh at 05.42 am the next morning – eat your heart out Davey boy! (That’s Davey Coulthard, not Davey Last).

Thankfully, Beverley joined me in Newcastle and, true to form, an entertaining evening unfolded. As I sit here, the petite Beverley is calling me down to dinner. But – wait – what is this I see on the plate before me? Food of the non-swimming variety! Yes, Beverley, you have excelled yourself but – pray tell – why are we eating in the bedroom? No, no Beverley … don’t tell them that much!! Mmmm.


Sunday 27 February, 2005

Now, where did I leave off last week?

Technically speaking, this week's diary actually started with me somewhere on the road to Rosslare, in southern Ireland (a few of the traditionalists may dispute that terminology) heading for the 08.45 am Monday morning ferry, with the incorrigible Caroline in tow.

When we arrived at the ferry terminal, around 4.30 am in the morning, the place was of course deserted, so we both parked right at the front of our respective ticket-office lines, left the motors running, turned up the heat and immediately passed out.

I was rudely awoken, about three hours later, by a tap on my window signaling that I could move forward to the ticket window and then proceed on to the boat. The crossing took just over three hours and by 12.00 noon I was thundering eastwards from Fishguard en-route to the big smoke.

Did you manage to attend either of our two concerts at the “new” Wembley Pavilion? There seems to be varied reaction to both the facility itself and to the Westlife performance(s). Due to certain technical limitations under the main stage, we had no choice but to position our four “man lifts” right at the front of the stage, which did not enhance the view for those person sat in the front rows in the middle of the floored seating section.

In our defense - although we should have anticipated this problem well before time - Westlife were only the second act to play the Pavilion and, as such, were at the mercy of several of the facility's emerging production limitations. In our case, the most galling of those was the inability to house our man-lifts in the usual location. Quite a few of the Wembley concert-goers have contacted me, via the web-site, to explain their dissatisfaction with the restricted view and I really believe we should try to make it up to those of you whose enjoyment of the show was curtailed: however, as many of you will be aware, my dual role of Tour Manager/Tour Accountant leaves me very little time to effectively deal with issues such as the above - but we should not be ignoring such complaints.

On Thursday the lads flew to Dublin, under the tutelage of Caroline, where they collected their fourth consecutive Meteor award for Ireland's best live act. Meanwhile I made my way direct to Manchester and spent Friday playing catch-up with the tour accounts. Saturday's show at the M.E.N. turned out to be a great night and afterwards - while some of the lads and their guests headed out to sample some the Manchester nightlife - I gracefully retired to the hotel bar, accompanied by the mischievous blond one, to seek out the evening's adventure.

The next day's checkout from the Radisson Hotel had all the hallmarks of a “reverse” movie premiere, with most of the registered hotel guests (most of whom, funnily enough, were all destined to be attending that evening's concert) lined up in the lobby to bade the lads farewell. This week's closing observation is that I actually played shows in The Free Trade Hall (now The Radisson) with the likes of Paul Young and Black Sabbath - but that, folks, is another story altogether…

Sunday 20 February, 2005

Yes, it is I – the delinquent in the Westlife camp.

Before attempting to empty my head of the last week’s flurry of activity, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am doing my best to answer all the e-mail which is sent to my own web site.

However, folks, I must once again stress that – purely on the basis of fairness – I can’t arrange Meet & Greets on this, or any other, tour. Meet & Greet arrangements are all generally routed through Louis Walsh’s management office, in conjunction with Sony/BMG’s marketing staff.

Keep in mind that I am both the Tour Manager and the Tour Accountant. It is rare that the same person, on such a large tour, undertakes both jobs. From the minute I arrive at the venue until the minute I pack up my office, in preparation for the “runner” after the show, I am constantly racing around backstage, dealing with the various pre-show issues that invariably occur, prior to the commencement of the performance.

Of course, we have a great crew, many of who have worked on every tour the lads have done. Our management team consists essentially of Steve Levitt (production manager), myself, Jason Danter (stage manager), Karen Ringland (production assistant) and – our newest arrival – Caroline Dulin, the lads’ personal assistant. Caroline was thrown in at the deep end at Belfast but, to her credit, dealt with our infamous first-night guest list with admirable composure: and, of course, you know what they say (you don’t?): if you can handle a Westlife Belfast guest list – you can handle anything.

I certainly enjoyed the two weeks spent in Dublin, a city that I know I could live in, were the need to arise. There are indeed some late night hostelries where a young boy (that’s me) can gaze with wonder on a diverse variety of the mature Irish female form: all, or most of the time anyway, with the mystery blond in tow.

The drive to Cork, on the travel day on Thursday, was a most enjoyable experience - although we did encounter a fair amount of traffic in the last ten miles or so. Lovely hotel in Cork (The Hayfield Manor) which I would happily recommend to anyone looking to spend a romantic few days in the European City of Culture for 2005 (Cork, that is).

However, as often we find in life, there is a price to be paid for hard-earned luxury: in the case of the Cork shows, this materialized in the form of a seventy-minute drive to the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet: all very picturesque on the first day, however (as I had to undertake a “double-run” most days) by Sunday I was quietly – yet respectfully – glad to see the three-show run come to an end.

As we had to bring both of the BMW tour cars back to the UK mainland, Caroline and I left Cork at 2.00 am Monday morning to drive to Rosslare, to board the 08.45 am ferry to Fishguard. From there we hi-tailed it to London, Now, if you want to hear what happened next, then tune in next week…

Sunday 13 February, 2005

Well, I may have set a new record in being late with my diary as (at this time) I would have to honestly admit to it being Tuesday 22 February. So, to bring myself up to date, there is much work to be done!

Actually, as everyone knows what last week’s tour dates were, I thought I might depart somewhat from the normal format this week and just have a general ramble – rather than make note of specific daily events.

It’s no secret that I believe the boys need to be more involved in the official Westlife website. Sure, the lads live a very hectic lifestyle - but we should still try to find the time to interact with our fan base on a more regular basis. You may have noticed that Brian certainly seems to be making an effort, on his own website, to be more personally involved than he was with the Westlife site.

As I was racing from The Point back to our Dublin hotel, after one of the shows last week, I stupidly managed to get stuck in traffic on the East Link roundabout: for a few seconds there, I gazed through the locked windows of my cosy BMW (not really “my” - more “theirs”) and reflected just how lucky I am to be where I am – and to have the job that I have.

Make no mistake; I’ve still worked pretty hard over the last 25+ years to reach this point (and, believe me, there have been some very tough times – you may have to wait for my autobiography to find out about those) but many people work as hard as I do every day of their lives – particularly housewives and mothers – and still don’t get to travel the world like I do.

So, last week, as I sat in that traffic jam I found myself affording a certain admiration and respect for all of those people pouring out of The Point, having spent their hard-earned wages to come to the Westlife show. However, like many other concerts they no doubt attend on an annual basis, it’s their willingness to part with that cash that – in a roundabout way – keeps me in a job.

Even though I spend much of my waking day attending to every imaginable Westlife need, I do try to take time to hear what the fans have to say, in regard to the boys’ recordings and concert performances. Yes, I can tire – as anyone would – of the some of the repetitive questions (“What hotel are the lads staying in, Jake?” / “When is the next album going to be released?” / “Will you be playing another show in Manchester?”) but it certainly doesn’t do any harm to keep one’s ear to the ground and keep abreast with the general vibe. However, I do draw the line at calls on my personal cell phone, requesting a “Meet & Greet” with the band!

So, as far as this year’s tour is concerned, I hope you feel you are getting value for your money. I’ve been reading many of your comments, that reach me via my own website - a few of which I endeavor to stick up on the dressing room wall at the shows.

I’ll steer myself back on track with next week’s diary entry. I just wanted to mention these things.

Sunday 6 February, 2005

I daren’t admit how late I am, in preparing this week’s entry (the only clue I will give is that it’s not “next” Sunday yet: you’ll probably figure out what day it is, as I go along).

So, we have our first week of shows completed, namely three nights at the Belfast Odyssey – we started last year’s tour in Belfast as well, therefore we knew what to expect (mayhem).

We spent all day Monday tidying up the loose ends on the show – and didn’t leave The Odyssey until almost midnight.

[By the way, I should say now that if some of my wording appears a little disjointed, that is due to the fact that the infamous mystery blonde is sitting right behind me, right now, administering the massage of all massages (what boy wouldn’t succumb, in those circumstances?). Still, being the consummate professional that I am, I intend to soldier on, despite her distractions.]

So the big question is, for those of you who were fortunate to attend the opening shows in Belfast: how does it compare with last year? In my view, as far as Belfast is concerned anyway, there was tremendous anticipation for the start of last year’s tour, in the wake of Brian’s departure: when the lads proved they could actually pull it off as a four piece, it was an amazing buzz and maybe that made for a better show in Belfast, last year. Who knows?

All in all, we had a great time in Belfast (and quite a “lively” band/crew party on Wednesday night at The Odyssey’s “Precious” nightclub!) and Friday nights show seemed to go particularly well.

On Saturday morning (make that early Saturday afternoon!) the lads all made their separate ways home for a couple of days while Dave Last, Caroline [the boys’ new Personal Assistant] and myself drove South to Dublin. Now, if there’s one city you can be assured of having a good time in, on a Saturday night, Dublin’s the one! You’ll have to read about what happened in my autobiography, as I might never work again, if I were to publish the details at this time!

I don’t know why, but I always find that when I spend a day-off on a Sunday in a major city (London, Dublin, Paris, etc.) it noticeably relaxes me. Oh, I wish it could be Sunday every day.

Around midday, I ambled into the city centre (mystery blonde in tow) however, within fifteen minutes of leaving the hotel, down came the Dublin rains. Time to divert to the nearest hostelry.

Next week sees the start of a seven-show run at The Point Depot, so I’ll have to be on my best behavior: there’s much to tempt a young lad (and his mystery blonde accomplice) as this is a city with a vibrant lifestyle.

On a closing note, I was honoured to be one of the first to learn that Gillian will be a mum by the middle of August! Ah, it takes me back: and, as all you parental types will agree, it changes your life.


Sunday 30 January, 2005

… and Sunday 30th it actually is (we’ll see how long this lasts).

Monday was our last day of “band rehearsals”, therefore the lads made an early start at the rehearsal studios – out of consideration for our technical crew, who then had the job of packing up all the gear and loading the truck in preparation for it’s run to the ferry at Holyhead.

That, of course, dictated that Tuesday was our “production load-in” day at The Odyssey where our touring crew are faced with the daunting of having to unload eight 45-foot trailers of assorted concert equipment (sound, lights, video, staging, special effects, catering and instrumentation) into the venue: that usually signals a long day - and, in many cases, night- for our technicians.

As the lads can’t do anything on a production load-in day, we decided to stay back one extra day in London, on Tuesday, and spend another day in dance rehearsals in Chiswick. However, we still flew out to Belfast that evening, in preparation for our rehearsals at The Odyssey the next morning.

I would far rather wake up the lads in the city where we are working that day - than be four hundred miles away and have to haul them onto an early flight.

So, now we are in serious rehearsal mode at The Odyssey - with the lads not finishing until around eleven o’clock every night. After four days (Wednesday until Saturday) we are now ready to undertake “full dress runs” from now on.

Today, Sunday, did not yield a great amount of rehearsal time in Belfast, as we were booked to appear on Childline in Dublin, where I sit right now, penning this week’s edition of the diary.

There’s a fairly impressive line-up here at The Point Depot, this evening: Girls Aloud, Lemar, 411 and, wouldn’t you know, Brian McFadden, amongst others. We are closing the show, with a four-song set and a finale of “Uptown Girl” for which the rest of the artist will join the lads on stage.

Although Mark and Kian will spend this evening in Dublin (and drive North early in the morning), Shane and Nicky are going to drive back to Belfast, directly after the show – well, to be exact, I’ll actually be doing the driving, as Shane wants to cosy up in the back seat with Gillian, and who could blame him?

It’s now technically Monday morning (1.06 am to be precise) and I’ve just arrived back at the hotel in Belfast. Knowing that tomorrow, being our last full day of rehearsals, will be “full on” I’m determined to finish the diary before the morning – or there’s every chance I wont get round to it until Thursday.

Well it all starts for real again, on Tuesday of next week and I would have to say I’m very much looking forward to it: back doing what I do best. My aim, over the length of this tour, is to make a determined effort to source the funding for my football project. Passion’s a wonderful thing. Adieu.

Sunday 23 January, 2005

Didn’t quite spring out of bed on Monday morning, at the villa, when the alarm went off – a little too much “sampling” of the other dishes at the dinner table at the Chinese restaurant last night.

Of course, you’ll be well impressed to know that I’ve religiously been making use of the gym facilities at the resort complex. My routine generally commences with a six-minute (OK – it’s a long time to me!) treadmill punishment, and punishment it is, if you’ve overdone it at the Chinese the night before. Trouble is that on Monday morning – and just my luck – there’s only a rather tanned and toned 40-something on the treadmill next to me, belting along there like she could quite easily manage a marathon before breakfast (and not the chocolate variety either).

Well, you know, I can’t be portrayed as some sort of jogging disaster alongside such grace and poise, can I? Therefore in true heedless-male fashion I increased my running time to ten minutes, from the normal six. I can still detect the hurt now – both physically and egotistically – even six days later.

At rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday, the lads concentrated on “cleaning’ the various routines while I, still breathless at midday on Monday, slouched in the corner licking my wounds and wondering if there was any possible way in the world to maneuver my way back into Marathon Woman’s affections.

Fairly pleased with our collective endeavors over the week spent in our secretive location, we all boarded the 12.10 direct flight back to Gatwick (very, very, thin clue there) where, upon landing, we made our way directly to the stylist’s headquarters to check on the progress of the majority of the new stage outfits. Finally, we reached our London hotel around about seven o’clock that evening.

On Thursday, phase two of our rehearsal schedule commenced which is with the musicians, running through the set-list - with particular emphasis being placed on the all-new medley section. The musicians actually started in the rehearsal studio on Monday, therefore by the time we pitched up on Thursday morning, the songs were sounding extremely “tight”, to the band’s usual high standard.

Determined to be completely ready by the first show in Belfast, the boys have been working hard at “band rehearsals” and spent several hours on Friday and Saturday, running through the new set-list. As the musicians had been in there since Monday – and because we have another hectic week in “production” rehearsals ahead of us next week, the lads made the wise decision to rest everyone today: which was perfectly fine by me, as I had a fair amount of catching-up to do, mostly involving the accounting part of my job. I’ve even afforded myself the luxury of compiling this week’s diary entry on the day it should be, which is a marked improvement on last week (which was only finished about thirty minutes ago!). Better late than never, as one of my past girlfriends used to assure me.

Eight days to go – and counting. I’m sure I’ll see many of you at the first show and not just those who live in Northern Ireland: I’m well aware than many of our “mainland” devotees want to be there for the first night, even though they also plan to see us when we are in their neck of the woods.

So, until next week – and a frantic week it will be – I bid you all good evening. Ha! Back on schedule.

Sunday 16 January, 2005

Well, the serious business of rehearsals got underway this week, on Wednesday to be exact – the lads arrived here at midday on Tuesday and were noticeably keen to make an immediate start to the work.

I spent the majority of Monday just preparing for their arrival the following day and stocking the two villas with the requisite provisions: there’s obviously a fair contingent of Brits holidaying in that part of the world, as the local supermarket was able to boast such items as Weetabix, Heinz baked beans, Tetley tea bags, etc.

The first couple of rehearsal days were utilized to concentrate on the medley part of the upcoming tour: the guys are well aware of how popular that section of the show is and consequently played around with several ideas for songs before settling on (what I believe to be, anyway) five tunes that will not disappoint the “bum-shakers” amongst our regular concert attendees. Notice how I (reasonably neatly) avoided the use of the term “fans”.

I’ll tell you: I always try to take the time to wander through the arena at least once during each night’s performance, just to pick up on the mood and the “vibe” of the audience. One thing’s for sure: the average age of our audience is definitely older than most non-Westlife people would assume (I also note a variation from city to city at times – this particular observation on the 2004 tour - with the average age in Newcastle being slightly older than the average age in Glasgow, but in both cases definitely being in the 25 – 30 age group). Not that I’m looking you understand, but I often come across groups of older [sorry, mature, I should say] women just determined to have a great night.

Back to southern Europe, last week: having pretty much “nailed” the medley by Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday were spent working on certain of the other songs which will be featured in the set, a few of which have been slightly re-worked by the lads’ themselves (in conjunction with Freddie Thompson, our Musical Director) just to provide a little interesting variation.

On Sunday evening we all treated ourselves to something of a “culinary blowout” at the local Chinese restaurant: very quiet it was, of course, bearing in mind the time of the year. This is obviously the time that they also allow the staff a couple of weeks off, because the guy who served us admitted to (and, indeed, looked very much like) being of Indian nationality! Crackers, if you ask me.

Can I once again say, as I periodically do, many thanks for all your e-mails to the website address. I now try to make a point of acknowledging that I’ve at least had a chance to quickly glance through them, even if I only have the time for a one-word answer: I’m sure – and I trust – that you understand. The fact that I’m almost a week late in penning this particular edition of my diary, gives you some idea of just how busy we are, preparing for the tour, at this present time.

Only just over two weeks to the opening show in Belfast, however we’re pretty much on track to be ready for the 1st of next month. Personally, I can’t wait to get back doing what I do best. BFN.

Sunday 2 January, 2005

Can I be excused (teacher) for allowing my diary to lapse, over the last couple of weeks?

Fact: at the last count, I’ve only spent 22 days at home, since 1 July “last year”, therefore, as I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a mountain of domestic chores/bill paying/house fixing tasks that have to be dealt with when you’ve been away that long.

Anyway, here I am, with most of the above tasks accomplished and “back on track” penning my diary on a Sunday again. Hesitantly, I’m going to predict that, now we’re entering a touring phase, I should be able to keep the diary entries up to date. Mmmm.

Can I also say that I spent a good few hours yesterday, cleaning up the backlog of e-mails on my own website and would therefore like to thank everyone who took the trouble to drop me a line last year. As regards the ticket fiasco at Wembley, I’ve little doubt that something is slightly amiss deep in the heart of Ticketmaster, which, if that were the case, even Ticketmaster would be most keen to eradicate. There could be a number of ways that front row tickets are being skimmed from the system and re-introduced via the likes of “E-Bay”: sadly, I believe that it would take a major investigation to entrap the wrongdoers and the fact of the matter is that acts like Westlife just don’t have the time (or, let’s face it, the expertise) to correct this situation.

Keep in mind that a £32.00 ticket may appear for sale on E-Bay at £350.00, however Westlife still only realise the face value of the ticket, namely £32.00. I sincerely hope I personally don’t come across as complacent regarding this matter, but it’s a very tough nut to crack.

One final note on my website e-mail: I have to be fair to everyone and that’s why I can’t help with the likes of meet ‘n greets, backstage access and premium seating. I trust you understand.

Well, I’m out of here this coming Wednesday, to start the first phase of rehearsals, relating to our upcoming tour: even now, it’s difficult to imagine that we will have done two shows in Belfast, by this time next month!

If the truth be known, I’m not really too keen on the promotional campaigns (although I always give them my best professional attention). I’m a rock ‘n roll Tour Manager/Tour Accountant by trade and it’s therefore during the touring stages where I come into my own.

So, I’m rested, refreshed and ready – as are the lads, no doubt. We’ll be back in the swing of things before you can say “Where’s the nearest Irish Bar?” Just remains for me to wish all of you a mighty prosperous New Year. As they say in Scotland: “Long may yer lum reek!”

…and, finally, a small note of commiseration to Beverley (“The Domestic Goddess”) whose culinary skills have come in for some unfair criticism of late. Suffice to say that, if food be the music of love, she can sauté my onions anytime she likes. Anyone for dessert, my dears? Ciao.

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