Diary From The Road

archived entries from 2009



Sunday 27 December, 2009

Thankfully, today’s entry is penned from the relative calm of my own house, with only a few days of 2009 remaining: does the time fly by more, as one gains in years? It certainly appears to do so.

I arrived back in Edinburgh, Tuesday past (22nd), hot of the back of our final event of the pre-Christmas promotional run: Paul’s guest appearance, for a second time this month, on the Swedish singer Carola’s tour – on this occasion in Stockholm. Although I had fully intended to unhook the negative terminal from my car’s battery (to stem the drain of any charge during my absence), when I left home on the 10th of this month, I – not untypically – found myself racing to the station to catch my train, praying that the battery would hold out for the twelve days I was away.

In fact, Stella had turned the car’s engine over for almost an hour, on the 17th, so there should have been enough charge left to start it upon my return. Alas not. Nevertheless, it’s amazing what you find out about your car when you’ve had it almost three years – in this particular instance, that the battery is located in the spare wheel compartment, and not where I had presumed it to be: in the forward engine compartment. When your vehicle is facing downhill on an ice-covered driveway, that fact can prove to be a major advantage to “jump starting” the car.

Apologies for wasting two paragraphs there, banging on about my car troubles! Suffice to say that – living on the outskirts of Edinburgh (and at the top of a hill) – the house and driveway was blanketed in a thick carpet of heavy powdered snow. Still – no major panic, as I was going no further than the centre of the city, for the rest of the week.

Wednesday was spent running around town, dealing with various bits of last-minute Christmas shopping: this took up the majority of the day, as I was determined not to have the need to travel back into town on the 24th. As it transpired, what remaining “odds and ends” of food shopping that were required, were sourced from the general store in the village, hence mission accomplished.

For Christmas day lunch, Stella kindly invited us over to her apartment - and it was there that we decided would be the best location to have Jade open her Xmas presents – and many of them there was, the most notable being a spanking new laptop, to assist with her university studies.

The last two days have just been spent in the house, attempting to avoid any exertions connected with my work – and, in the process, devouring far too much food. Next week, the 29th to be precise, I have to fly to Tokyo, where Paul will feature as the special international guest on a New Year’s Eve edition of the infamous Japanese TV show, “Unbelievable”: Paul has of course been a guest of this show, earlier this year, therefore he must have made a good impression on the programme’s producers, to have been considered for the star attraction on their New Year show.

And so another year approaches: a year in which I am finally debt-free, probably – if I am brave enough to admit it to myself – as a result of any tangible involvement in professional football! In the next few months, I feel the impending need to make a clear-headed decision as to my future involvement with the football side of my business. Many a football agent has “gone under” this past year – which is a stark reminder to me to stick to what I do best! See you all next year! BFN.

Sunday 20 December, 2009

While, admittedly, in the past, many of my weekly entries – penned on a Sunday – seem to have been undertaken from 36,000 feet, today’s entry is written from the staggering height of around two feet! To explain, we are en-route (cocooned in rather fetching Mercedes saloon) from Luxembourg to Brussels airport, in the hope of catching an early flight to Stockholm, for Paul’s final pre-Christmas engagement: another special-guest appearance on a Carola live show.

However, almost Europe-wide in would appear, many major cities have experienced a heavy overnight snowfall: we are therefore not exactly making for Brussels airport at lightning speed.

Having said the above, I’m now onboard the Brussels to Stockholm SAS flight (it is currently 10.41 pm) which was delayed leaving Brussels, by over two hours. At least now we only have around 45 minutes flying time to Stockholm, where the captain has just advised us of a -10C temperature! Thank God I am “all tooled up” with overcoat, glovers and scarf!

This past week saw us stay an extra day in Oslo on Monday (14th) as Paul had been diagnosed as being in the early stages of an ear infection and a heavy cold and the doctor that we visited advised that he stay put for twenty-four hours and, even after that, not to fly for a further forty-eight hours. This necessitated the (rare, in Paul Potts world) postponement of an event in Baden Baden in Germany, planned for last Wednesday evening – but which Paul hopes to re-instate in the earlier part of next year. This left us with a fair logistical dilemma in having to then make our way from Oslo to Leipzig, but unable to utilize air travel to do so.

Consequently, we found ourselves boarding the first of three trains on Tuesday, out of Oslo at a chilly 07.00 am in the morning, bound for Gothenburg in Sweden.From there, we switched to a Gothenburg/Copenhagen train which put us into the Danish capital’s main train station at just before 3.00 pm in the afternoon. All was going fairly well up until that point, when we boarded our third train of the day, intending to travel from Copenhagen to Hamburg.

However, this third train journey of the day,  which generally includes a 45-minute ferry crossing (Rodby to Puttgarten) – where the train carriages actually “board” the ferry – our southbound train developed an unexplained fault, which resulted in everyone in hauling all their personal luggage onto the ferry itself and then having to disembark in Puttgarten to make our way to the southbound ferry-terminal train platform where (with still no concise explanation forthcoming) we stood around for a good 45 minutes until we were able to board the next southbound train.

This, in turn, resulted in us pulling into Hamburg at just after 10.00 pm, two hours later than originally scheduled, at which point the Sony driver met us and drove us down to Leipzig, where we arrived at just before 02.00 am, on Wednesday morning, at our Leipzig hotel: all this in preparation for a 2.00pm soundcheck “later” that day, for the Jose Carreras Gala, the live transmission of which went out on Thursday evening (17th), with Paul as one of Jose’s guest acts.

On Friday morning we endured another three-train journey from Leipzig to Luxembourg, this time arriving at our destination at a more sociable 6.30 pm. Glamorous lifestyle?! Not every day! BFN.

Sunday 13 December, 2009

Well, well – winter is finally upon us and if you were in Oslo right now (which is exactly where I happen to be) you would be hard pushed to take issue with me – because it’s bloody freezing here!

I was fortunate this week to have spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday past (7th, 8th and 9th) back home in Edinburgh before flying off to Zurich on Thursday evening, in preparation for a private engagement, which Paul was booked to appear at, in a small town called Zug – no more than 40 kilometers distant from Zurich and a mere hop, skip and jump along the motorway.

However, folks, the highlight of the week (maybe the year?) was a little dinner, attended by two fine women, on Tuesday night: young Alice, all freshly coiffured, and almost-as-young Stella, the occasion being her, Stella’s, **th birthday. Now, come on lads – when did you ever have the opportunity to go out with the two women that you really fancied (and went out with) when you were a mere youth? Now, almost forty years later, they are both absolutely in their prime! I was sitting there at dinner thinking “if lightning strikes me now, what do I have to complain about?” - and, how about this as well, for a coincidence: as virile teenagers, Stella and Alice only lived a matter of doors away from each other, in a street called Brand Drive, in the “Christians” area of Portobello, a suburb of Edinburgh known locally (and only locally!) as the Scottish Riviera.

Stella, as most of you will know, is the mother of our children – and a fine job she has done on them, particularly when I wasn’t always around to ably contribute to the domestic side of things, in the early days, when Bradley and Jade were younger (as a result of my extensive travels). Alice is the mother of her own children who has also done a fine job (on me), since we have become re-acquainted. Heaven forbid there was ever a worldwide cull on the total female population, with God deciding to spare only Stella and Alice – and the pair of them knocked on your door for shelter, guys. Leave them not standing on your doorstep for a nano-second: usher them into your abode! Trust me: you will have no further need of weekly lottery tickets, as you’ve just landed the double rollover (does that sound right?! No matter –I know what I mean! I mean they are real women).

Anyway, now that both Alice and Stella have vowed never to speak to me again, I’ll return to the subject. Suffice to say, Friday night’s event in Zug, in Switzerland (undertaken for a Swiss investment house) went off without a hitch and, following Paul’s performance, we were dispatched to a local, charming, restaurant, to partake of dinner.

On Saturday, we flew from Zurich to Oslo where Alice (having managed to procure a ridiculously priced return fare on Ryan Air - £27.50!) was revving up for a wild Saturday night out on the town. I’m indebted to the fact that the “Saturday night feeling” has never deserted me, and therefore on the odd occasion that I have such a weekend night free – there’s no holding me back!

We are in Oslo to enable Paul to appear as a special guest of a notable Swedish artist called “Carola” (check her out on Google), a lovely, sweet, professional lady who – along with her very efficient touring team, made us most welcome at the shows (both a “matinee” and an evening show) and we look forward to going back to Stockholm, on 21st of this month, for a similar performance. So, folks, that’s it for this week – it wasn’t so much a “Ruby Tuesday”, as a diamond-encrusted one!

Sunday 6 December, 2009

For possibly only the sixth or seventh time this year, I am penning my weekly diary entry from my own home, since arriving back in Edinburgh, from an overnight drive, on Friday just past.

I should mention that – while I have made the drive (both ways) many, many, times, over the past thirty years - said trip did not prove to be much fun, as there are so many “50 mph limit” stretches on the northbound M6 motorway, that it’s difficult to stay motivated on the drive.

Having returned from the Stockholm TV show appearance, on Tuesday morning (1st) I collected a hire car that I would be using for a planned personal appearance, by Paul, at the famed “Fortnum & Mason” department store, that can boast a prestigious address on London’s Piccadilly.

Well, that was the original plan: drive down to Port Talbot on late Tuesday afternoon, hang in at the guest house on Wednesday, then drive Paul back into London on Thursday morning, to enable him to attend the afore-mentioned event. However, on Wednesday morning, I received a call just after I sat down to breakfast at “Mountainview” (the guest house in Port Talbot) – from Paul’s management company in London.  I was subsequently advised that a second event had been added for Paul to appear at on Thursday evening: namely, the Berkeley Square ball, which actually takes place in Portman Square (still trying to get to the bottom of that one) with only forty-five minutes gap between both “stage” times: Fortnum & Mason at 8.45 pm, then 9.50 pm in Portman Square

Knowing the fun I would have with the traffic in central London (even later in the evening, on a weekday – but keeping in mind “late night” Thursday opening for most shops) I elected to drive back up to London, early Wednesday afternnon, thereby enabling me do undertake a “recce” on each of the prospective venues. Paul, typically, was pretty cool about the revised arrangements and offered to jump on the train the next morning, Thursday, and make his own way up to London.

The above arrangement saw me reach London around 5.30 pm, and I made direct for Modest!’s London offices, to enable me to grab some quality time with Vibica, who manages all of Paul’s day-to-day affairs: of late, with me careering around Europe, I’ve not really seen much of Vibica. While at Modest!, I managed to find an inexpensive deal, through “LateRooms.com”, on a hotel in the Paddington area of London (Norfolk Square to be exact – the first area I ever stayed in, when I first came to London, with the Bay City Rollers: ah, the memories). Back then, I don’t ever recall any parking problems but how that has all changed! Where have all the good times gone? Indeed.

So, on Thursday evening, just before midnight, having completed the two events, Jake (probably “needing his head cooked”, as they would say in Scotland) drives Paul back to Port Talbot, from London – and then turns around and strikes north – a fair way north – for Scotland. I managed to reach north of Manchester and then pulled into Forton services (nicknamed “The Whirlybird” in my early “Rollers” days: if you’ve driven past it, you’ll understand why) to a few hours of seat-reclined, fitful, sleep. Yes, I should know better: however, at the risk of flitting along the shores of morbidity, I don’t have the years in front of me that I once had, therefore I don’t intend to waste a minute of it. Anyway, enough of that: where’s that AC/DC album gone? This opera stuff is OK folks, but the truth is that God put me here to rock – and rock I shall! You know I love you all.


Sunday 29 November, 2009

“Way Aye Man!” (I should explain to some of my foreign readers that the aforementioned expression hails from the North East of England – Newcastle in particular - where the local people are known as “Geordies”: essentially it can be viewed as a form of well-intentioned greeting, roughly meaning “How’re you doing?” – and, yes, Newcastle is where I am today. Only technically really, as my southbound train from Edinburgh to London has just pulled out of Newcastle station.

Once again, I am guilty of digressing – but one more observation relating to Newcastle: if you have ever happened to be in this vibrant, charming, city of a winters weekend night, you will be most familiar at the sight of scantily clad teenagers (of the fair sex, in the main) strutting around the city streets in little more clothing material than would cover a dinner plate. It’s something to see.

Anyway, what earth-shattering revelations do I have for you this week from the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll? Well, apart from the odd occasion when our Musical Director/Piano Player, Chris Taylor, spontaneously lets rip with some boogie-woogie piano (the boy’s very good at it too) during an otherwise mundane sound check, it’s all opera, opera and more opera in my world right now. As for drugs, I’ve only succumbed to temptation twice during my time with Paul Potts (two years, by the way, as of Thursday past, the 26th) and on both occasions it was caused by a heavy, on-tour, cold. Thankfully, on the sex front, things have taken a turn for the good. What?! A guy can’t tell it like it is? Naturally, particularly in my business, I understand the need for discretion in such matters and I must therefore ensure that Alice’s identity remains under lock and key.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes, we’ve just pulled into the delightful city of York, with just under two hours to run until the train arrives at London’s Kings Cross station: then a brief cross-town taxi trip to another main-line London station (Paddington) after which a journey of just under twenty minutes will see me into Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Tonight I’m staying in The Sofitel, directly adjacent to the aforementioned Terminal 5. Ten minutes to the British Airways departure desks in the morning – you’ve got to love it (especially, when your flight takes off at 7.15 a.m.)!

This past week definitely ranks as the one when I have spent more days (five) at home, than any other week in the last nine months. So, the process continues - to work through the myriad of domestic, personal and administrational tasks that invariably mount up, when one has spent such a protracted time away from one’s home city. Arriving back from Frankfurt on Monday past (23rd) I spent the next four days wading through the backlog of accumulated paperwork. Prior to Bradley’s return to Australia last week, he had gone some way to easing the task at hand, by separating the mound of paperwork into workable piles, neatly arranged around the office floor – and even extending as far as “next door”, to the kitchen worktops. At least the office floor is now clear!

So, off to Stockholm first thing tomorrow morning, where Paul will perform the track he has recorded with the Swedish singer Carola, on her forthcoming album. Carola is a very sweet lady, with exquisite taste in shoes which means, yes; she has certainly got my attention! Seriously though, check Carola out on the internet – a thoroughly professional performer, with an equally professional group of people working with her.  I’ve just realised that I’ve “strayed” into next week! You see - that’s what a great pair of heels does for me. But let’s leave it there, shall we?!!

Sunday 22 November, 2009

Well, would you believe it - and you probably will if you are a regular reader of this column - I actually managed to spend three days, out of the last seven, at home in Edinburgh, at my house!

As you may recall from last week, I arrived back in Scotland on Sunday past (15th) having flown in from the “second” Dusseldorf airport, namely Weeze, due to the fact that the internet carrier Ryanair operates a direct service between there and Edinburgh.

This past Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was then spent attacking a mountainous – however prioritized – list of domestic orientated tasks that any household would generate in the absence of the owner, over almost a nine-month period. This house is way too much to maintain when one is the sole occupant (not strictly true of course, as Jade’s friend is staying there while she attends University in Edinburgh: however she cannot be expected to take on the role of landlord, in addition to that of “lodger”).  Is “lodger” a purely Scottish term? I’ve always wondered that.

Thursday morning was something of a sad occasion: although both Bradley and I made our way to Edinburgh Airport at some God-awful hour of the morning (me to fly to London to meet up with Paul, from where the two of us boarded the 09.05 am BA flight to Dusseldorf) my son was in pursuit of his heart and returning to Australia, via Thailand. While my flight departed at 06.30 am, he was booked on the next BA flight, just over 90 minutes later, which would see him connect – later on the Thursday morning – to a Thai Airways flight en-route to Bangkok.

Well, what can a yearning parent do, I ask you? We can but finance them through University (coming hot off the back of eighteen years of annual financing as they grow to their late teens!)  on a course of their choice – and then pray for financial independence for them – and us parents! What is it I recall the after-dinner speaking saying at a football lunch I attended at Glasgow Rangers stadium a few years back?. “Gentlemen” opined Mr. Craigie Veitch (a one-time sports correspondent for the Edinburgh Evening News)  “Surely money is not everything – however, it does guarantee that your children will stay in touch”. A poignant observation, indeed.

Back to Thursday, which proved to have many eventful hours in the day for us - our (Paul’s) first involvement of the midweek trip being to turn on the Christmas lights within “CentrO”, in Oberhausen, Europe’s premier – and largest – retail indoor shopping complex (and the site of a previous “Flashmob” event featuring Paul, broadcast from the facility’s massive food court.

Immediately upon the completion of that engagement, which also featured Paul singing “Nessum Dorma” and “O Holy Night”, we were driven to a small town in the Thuringia region of western Germany (Bad Orb), in preparation for a corporate event (for a major German fabrications company), due to be staged on Friday evening past (20th). We were received, and treated, most warmly by our genial host – and the owner of the company, Mr. Heinz Roder – a true gentleman.

I decided to stay back in Frankfurt for a couple of extra days to enjoy some (what I believe to be richly deserved) “R ‘n R” – although, it was slightly unfortunate that the incredible hotel deal that I managed to secure, landed us deep in the heart of the Red Light area! Until next week...

Sunday 15 November, 2009

Well, folks, you are going to struggle to get your head around this but yes, I’m in my own house!

Having said that, it’s obviously something of a strange feeling, having not set my foot over the door for almost nine months, save two days. Thankfully, my “lodger” (Jade’s friend, who attends Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh), Jade herself – and my son on the odd occasion – have all frequented the house, to a lesser or greater degree, over those nine months. Thank goodness.

Since leaving off last week in Leipzig, where Paul completed a “Flashmob” event within the “Hauptbahnhof (main train station) – which I believe can now be accessed via YouTube – we stayed in Germany for another televised event, “trained it” down to Salzburg in Austria, then flew back to Dusseldorf, from where I arrived back late this afternoon. The details now follow. 

So, Monday past (9th) we made the short drive (Julie Ann with us) to the charming town of Wiemar, in the Thuringia region of Germany. The occasion? None other than the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Friedrich Schiller’s birthday: think of him as a sort of German Shakespeare (with a culture vulture like me, the sky’s the limit, huh?) who, according to legend, had a secret association with nearby Rudolstadt for many years. I have a theory that “secret” might have some association with a woman, but I probably need to read up a little more on this.

I have to say that the Theater Rudolstadt, from where the event was broadcast, must have been close to the smallest venue that Paul has ever appeared at, during the time I have been working with him: the theatre held no more than two hundred and fifty people. Very cosy, very engaging.

On Wednesday we were driven to the small town of Saalfeld (45 minutes distant from Wiemar) to join the Munich bound train, to then connect from there to Salzburg in Austria. I have often professed to be a long-time fan of train journeys – particularly in unfamiliar territories.

Our reason to be in Salzburg was to pre-record an Austrian Christmas “Special”, due for transmission on Christmas Eve, to a primetime, Austria-wide, TV audience. However, while the majority of those type of programmes are recorded within comprehensive TV studio facilities, it was refreshing to learn that, in this case, the event was to take place at Austria’s most famous animal sanctuary, "Gut Aiderbichl” (www.gut-aiderbichl.com>) and what a most pleasant facility it turned out to me, nestled on the lower mountain slopes, twenty kilometers east of Salzburg. The work carried out by their team of dedicated animal lovers is humbling to behold. Good on them!

Leaving Salzburg earlier the next morning, we made the 90-minute drive to Munich airport to pick up a Dusseldorf-bound Lufthansa flight, in order that Paul could fulfill a special invitation to appear at the annual (German) UNESCO Gala. I – being me – was particularly pleased to note the presence of another glittering attendee: none other than the charismatic Jane Fonda! How about this: how many of an entourage do you think Jane had in tow with her, as she stepped off her overnight transatlantic flight from the US? None! Zero! Zilch! The woman is indeed a legend!

In summary, it’s great to be home for a few days. More of my thoughts on that next week! BFN.

Sunday 8 November, 2009

How about this? Hot on the heels of last night’s final UK tour performance, I found myself boarding a private plane (at 06.35 am this morning!) en-route to Leipzig in Germany, where Paul has a televised lunchtime event to attend, as part of a Telekom-sponsored promotion.

So, finally, nine weeks of (European and UK) touring comes to a close, meaning that last night I bade (bid?) goodbye to all of the touring crew that have been with us throughout. At this stage of my touring life – and with the obvious exceptions of Bradley and Jade - I think I have more “family” on the road now, than I do at home.

The remaining shows of the UK tour, undertaken this past week, were Sheffield (Monday); the prestigious Albert Hall in London (Wednesday); Bournemouth (Thursday) and – finally – Bristol Colston Hall, last night. If the truth be know, I’ve only managed about 30 minutes sleep in the past twenty-four hours: the combination of the final tour date (with all of the clearing up that such an occasion entails) and a “crack of dawn” start to the next six weeks promotional campaign, doesn’t auger particularly well for one’s already-fragmented sleep patterns. Such is this life.

At this juncture I have to make special mention of London’s Albert Hall. Originally erected in the year of 1871, the venue (as many of the original advertising posters in the backstage hallway will attest to) has played host to an astonishingly diverse array of events, over the past 150+ years – everything from car exhibitions, to sit-down dinners for upwards of 600 guests, to iconic rock gigs (Eric Clapton/Bob Dylan/Robbie Williams), to indoor tennis tournaments, to “Cirque du Soleil”  –even an ice-skating competition! Utterly amazing, when you think that the majority of those colossal achievements were accomplished before the word “computer” even entered the English dictionary. Changed days however, as I gazed around the production office on Wednesday night and surmised that it looked more like an “Apple Mac” training day, so populated was it with a plethora of shimmering silvery laptops (pretty poetic, huh?).

So our final show last night, staged at Bristol’s Colston Hall reminded me of a show I did there in 1980, with Ozzy Ozbourne (before he married Sharon – and long before they started a family) when Ozzy elected to return to the stage for the encore, dressed only in his underwear! Ah, those days of the wild rock ‘n roll touring shows: where have all the good times gone? Things are far more business-like in the touring world now, although the occasional spate of bad behavior or unnecessary petulance will inevitably surface from time-to-time, in this “young” business of ours.

The next six weeks, as afore-mentioned, will see Paul undertake a mixed-bag of engagements, comprising TV promotion, private engagements and a variety of Christmas-orientated events. We will certainly not be appearing every day, however the travel between the various events will certainly contribute to a situation where we really won’t have that many free days between now and 20th December. Trains, planes and automobiles (as the song once said) – we’ll do ‘em all folks!

How about this though? One week tonight, I sleep in my own bed – for the first time in almost exactly nine months. There was me thinking that last year would become a personal “record” for the amount of time spent away from home, but this year may yet eclipse that. Auf Wiedersehen!

Sunday 1 November, 2009

Good afternoon from the English city that gave us Joe Cocker and the Human League (amongst several notable others, no doubt): yes, if you hadn’t guessed it already: here we are, in Sheffield.

Since writing last week (when I left off in Harrogate, having just finished a show in Liverpool) we have undertaken shows in Harrogate, Ipswich and Southend – now we await tomorrow’s show here in Sheffield, at the City Hall: a venue with much history for me, however more about that next week.

We actually ended up staying three days in Harrogate, as a result of the way the tour itinerary was planned, housed in a quaint little restaurant/hotel, called the Harrogate Brasserie, which features some form of jazz-type music, each evening in their downstairs restaurant. I personally don’t mind jumping off the Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott roundabout once in a while (albeit, those are very credible hotel chains) and choosing somewhere to stay with a little more character, even “unpredictability”.

Things to do in Harrogate? Well, you really have to visit “Bettys” tea room, a well renowned – and long established - location, in Harrogate: where one even has to queue in the middle of the day, to be able to enjoy one of their celebrated  “high teas”. So I can now say: “Been there, done it”.

Onwards to Ipswich on Thursday past (27th) and to play a venue, The Ipswich Regent, which – when I did shows there many years ago – was known as The Ipswich Gaumont: although the venue suffers slightly in certain acoustic aspects, it is nevertheless a lovely little theatre for this type of show.

Yesterday’s final show of this week, at Southend’s “Cliffs Pavilion”, was undertaken on a “hit and run” basis: drive directly there from Ipswich in the morning and – immediately the show is over (once Paul has completed his signing session in the foyer of the venue) – drive back up to Sheffield in the early hours of this morning. As I may have mentioned over the past couple of weeks, I have also been driving the mini-bus on this tour, therefore I was faced with another two-hundred mile drive after last night’s show. Initially - having been on the go since around eight o’ clock yesterday morning – I wasn’t sure I could complete the Southend/Sheffield trip in “one shot”. However, once I was behind the wheel and onto the M1 motorway, heading north, I found my “second wind” and we pulled into the Leopold Hotel in Sheffield, just before 3.00 am.

Once again, arriving into the centre of a UK city on the back of a Saturday night, Elizabeth, Paul and I were amazed to find Sheffield’s streets still teeming with hordes of drunken people with –typically - many of the women being so scantily dressed, they must have only been about one square meter of clothing material away from arrest. Alcohol obviously has the ability to negate the cold.

On the other side of the coin, having the opportunity to wander around a major city centre on a Sunday (in an area which is the personification of clamour for the other six days of the week – and London is surely the best example of this) and observe the relative tranquility, has always proved to be a strangely therapeutic experience for me. Sure, the weather wasn’t that great today, but that was by far outweighed by the quality of the company, as young Alice accompanied me around the city centre. The evening was rounded off with a visit to an Indian restaurant, located within the same complex as the Leopold Hotel, where we stayed.  And this was the week that was! See ya soon!


Sunday 25 October, 2009

This evening I greet you from a city with a rich musical heritage: none other than Liverpool

Technically speaking, right now I’m actually in Harrogate in the wee small hours (as we say in Scotland) of Monday morning, having arrived here at the Brasserie Hotel in Harrogate just under an hour ago – it took us just over ninety minutes to cover the journey from Liverpool to here.

So, what of the past week you ask me – as you teeter on the edge of your seat, in expectation?

Well, oh avid readers, this past seven days has seen us undertake shows in Oxford, Plymouth, Cardiff and, of course, Liverpool: and what can I tell you of my time spent in those above cities?

Well, we departed Birmingham Monday morning past, off the back of last Sunday night’s show at The Symphony Hall. As an aside, I don’t know if – a few weeks back – I fully explained that I’ve also volunteered to drive the “band party” mini-bus on this UK leg of the world tour, meaning that I don’t have the usual luxury of a bus driver to take care of the parking of said vehicle, particularly in relation to hotels and venues. I’m now carrying a jar of “Patience Pills” with me for such occasions.

Birmingham, as it happened, was a particular example of how involved it can become just to find a nineteen-foot space in which to secure a Mercedes “Sprinter” mini-bus (being over nine foot high as well, deems that it will not “fit” into most multi-storey car parks, even at ground level). Still, I have taken a philosophical viewpoint on the matter, and accepted that at least one hotel a week, will throw up a parking situation that will be anything but straightforward, and it was “Brum” this week.

However, the point I wanted to make in respect of Birmingham was that – en route to Oxford – within twenty minutes of heading south out of the city centre in search of the M42 Motorway, we found ourselves motoring through some very pleasant countryside. Who’d have believed it?!

Oxford, in spite of its frustratingly restrictive inner roads system, certainly exudes an “oldy-worldy” sort of large market-town charm. My other immediate observation (as has been the case in the past as well) was to note a vibrant student contingent, hailing from many corners of the globe – how is a young boy meant to concentrate on his studies with all those young women floating about?

The next city stop on the tour – Plymouth – is yet another lively University town, once attended by the studious Mr. Paul Potts himself. As Paul still knows a few people down that neck of the woods, we elected to leave for Plymouth directly after the Oxford show: a fair drive of some 200 miles for me, I admit, however one that I would much rather attempt when the overnight roads are quiet.

Cardiff, on Friday night past, the 23rd, completed a run of three back to back shows (Oxford/Plymouth/Cardiff) and gave Paul the chance both to hook up with several family members before he took to the stage in the CIA (Cardiff International Arena) and also to return to Port Talbot – to his own bed, in his own house – after the show. How about this? By the time I get the chance to climb back into my own bed, it will be almost nine months since the last time I did so! Who said our lifestyle is the embodiment of glitz and glamour. Step forward that man/woman! BFN.

Sunday 18 October, 2009

Back in the land of the enemy again! Only joking of course – we Scots love our English neighbours.

There’s that old joke (even my fading memory can recall I included this in one of last year’s diary entries) that says “the only good thing to come out of England, was the train to Scotland”.

Can you believe that I still never actually made it up to my house (probably only four miles from the Edinburgh hotel, in which I stayed) and there were a few factors responsible for this: initially, with Paul wanting to spend a little time in the Loch Lomond area, just north of Glasgow - once he had finished recording “The Hour” TV show, for Monday night transmission on STV – we did not make it back into Edinburgh until late Sunday afternoon. Furthermore, bizarre as it may seem, I do not have in my possession, a key for the front door of my house: Stella has one, Jade another and the “lodger” the third one. With Stella at work (and straight off to the gym afterwards – tone those thighs girl, tone them!), Jade at University in Glasgow - and Anna off visiting her friends in Stirling for the day, I was unable to gain access to my own property. Only that could happen to me.

It was actually Paul’s birthday on Tuesday past (13th) on the day of the Edinburgh show. Jade and I had actually managed to locate one of those specialist cake-making shops in Edinburgh last Saturday afternoon, after I arrived from Newcastle. We ordered a large cake in the shape of a “Tuxedo” suit, which the cake-maker (David, of 3D cakes in Roseburn Terrace, Edinburgh) assured us, would be ready for collection on Tuesday afternoon. He was as good as his word and this allowed Elizabeth Marvelly, our guest soprano on the whole tour to surprise Paul by parading the cake onto centre stage at Edinburgh’s Playhouse Theatre, at the end of Tuesday night’s show.

The following day, we made our way south towards Manchester, for our next show at the “famed” Apollo. As a result of having a day off in between the Edinburgh and Manchester shows, Paul elected to spend a day in one of his favourite UK locales, namely the Lake District. It was really not much of a deviation to take the A66 exit off the M6 motorway and head for Lake Windermere where Paul had booked himself into a cosy little hotel within a stone’s throw of the lake shore.

From Windermere, I vectored my way back to the southbound M6 motorway and continued into Manchester, checking into the “Malmaison” hotel just before 6.00 p.m. To be honest, that actually worked out quite well parking wise as – with this mini-bus being about 25% longer than the average metered parking space – finding suitable parking during business hours can be a fair challenge.

Immediately following the Manchester Apollo show, I elected to drive the eighty-seven miles to Birmingham (while the M6 motorway was fairly quiet) and check into the hotel just after midnight.

So, here I am – sat in the Birmingham Symphony Hall production office – fairly pleased with myself that I’ve actually caught up with my diary entries (and also my tour accounts – it took most of the day, yesterday, but the money is in good shape!). I’ve always liked this venue: something about all that red leather makes it very easy on the eye and – it would appear – very easy on the ear as well. All of this and less than a fifty yard walk to the hotel, after the show: the sooner I have the administrational side of my life totally under control, the sooner I can start to get creative again!!

Sunday 11 October, 2009

Well, my tried and trusty followers: you’ll never guess in which city I will be laying my weary head this evening. None other than Edinburgh! Albeit, I’ll still be in a hotel – however this is the first time I’ve been back in Edinburgh since 17th of February this year. That’s seriously hard to believe.

Sure, I arrived back from Basel last Sunday, 4th October: however, as I was due back in Newcastle on the evening of 7th – and I still had to collect the mini-bus, in which the “band” party would be travelling - it just didn’t make any real sense to go racing back to Edinburgh to be able to spend only forty-eight hours there. As it was, Bradley did manage to make it home for those few days: arriving back in the early evening, he went to close the living room curtains only to have the curtain rail completely dislodge itself from the wall! (I’m almost glad I stayed away for those few days).

So, what has changed in Edinburgh since I’ve been away those eight months? Well, if you are a resident of Edinburgh, there can only be one conclusion: the traffic upheaval caused by the implementation of a new “tram” system in the city centre. Now, I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable as I should be on this subject, having been away from my hometown for so long, however – by all accounts (and I doubt this will come as any surprise to any city dweller, anywhere) the project is slipping way beyond it’s completion deadline and certainly way beyond it’s originally budgeted cost. Even worse – those last few days I haven’t spoke to one Edinburgh local (be it taxi drivers, theatre staff, hotel staff or whomever) who approves of the project. Massive waste of money, I say.

Right, off my soapbox I get – and back to the goings on of the past week. As I mentioned in the first paragraph today, we arrived back into Heathrow Airport last Sunday afternoon, when our transportation company conveniently delivered the “band party” mini-bus to Terminal Five, and off I drove – with Paul and Julie Ann - back down to Port Talbot, arriving at their house around 4.30 pm.

Once I had dropped Julie Ann and Paul (and Paul’s younger brother Tony, whom we had collected on the way through to Port Talbot) at the house, I headed down the hill to check in at the Mountainview Guest House, where I always stay when I’m in Paul’s neck of the woods. The next two days (Monday and Tuesday past) were spent tidying up the accounts on the European Tour and then fine-tuning my “prep” notes for the upcoming UK tour. On Tuesday night I collected Paul and Julie Ann’s luggage from their house, to enable me to make an early start on the trip up to Newcastle the following morning: Paul and Julie Ann had already decided to entrust themselves to British Rail for the journey to Newcastle on Thursday morning. Let “the train take the strain”, I’ve always said.

So, the first show in Newcastle went off without a hitch on Thursday evening and, because, we were due to drive to Edinburgh – where we based ourselves for the Scottish shows - on Saturday morning, I just left us checked into Newcastle’s “Malmaison” hotel and commuted to the show in Nottingham on Friday. Sure, it meant we didn’t make it back to Newcastle until around 2.00 am (technically on Saturday morning), however it saved having to make an almost 300-mile journey during the day on Saturday. We therefore arrived here early afternoon yesterday where – for the first time in thirty-eight years – I met up with young(ish) Alice: and you know what? She hasn’t changed a bit! The rest, as is often the case folks, may have to be included in my autobiography. However, will the thing ever be published? Don’t bet massive amounts on it. See you in seven days.

Sunday 4 October, 2009

Well, it’s true: all good things come to an end – and this evening sees the end of the European tour.

Technically speaking, it ended last night in Basel’s Grosser Festalhalle – although (technically again) I am still here in Basel, at the airport as we speak. Might as well make a start to this week’s diary entry while much of the past week is fresh in my mind and the London flight is slightly delayed.

We have only managed a total of four shows this past week, however three of them were back-to-back in the middle of the week, so we are all feeling a little fatigued now, from the past four weeks: I’m sure I’ve mentioned this phenomena before, whereby – while one is on “full-on” touring mode – the adrenalin generated by the constant activity seems to keep any real symptoms of tiredness at bay. Conversely, the minute you take your foot off the gas, your body comes looking for some “payback” – almost rendering one into a state of collapse. Strange, I know folks – but true.

From Bremen, where we left off last week, we travelled overnight after the show to Regensburg, a city that turned out to harbour a character all of it’s own: I would best describe it as “quaintly historic” (you can tell I’m not at my most articulate today – something else I can surely put down to my severely fatigued state). Chris, Bob and I – having managed to get checked into our hotel in Regensburg at 11.00 am in the morning – wandered off, just after lunchtime, to explore the old city – ably helped by some very pleasant weather. By early afternoon, we were plonked down at the cathedral square open-air café, observing the passing by of life and people. More of this please.

Regensburg was our last German show, meaning we had to bid goodbye to several of the promoters’ staff who were linked purely to the German shows. The tour bus was unable to pull away from the Regensburg venue (The Donau Arena) until after 1.00 a.m., being that it was held up by me, completing all of the German accounting. At such a point of leaving a particular territory, one has to agree the final accounting figures with the promoter of said territory. As you can well appreciate – with substantial amounts of money at stake – there is no room for error or, even worse, disagreement at a later date. Rushing around and financial settlements are dangerous bedfellows.

So, it was goodbye to Germany and hello to Austria, another European territory where Paul has always fared well, both in terms of record sales and concert attendees. Vienna, of course, is one of this continent’s more impressive cities - with several awe-inspiring buildings on offer. Our hotel of choice has always been “Das Trieste” – right back from when we started our promotion in late 2007. A most conscientious and caring staff always warmly welcomes us back there – in fact, regular readers (how many of you are there left, I wonder?!) may recall that “Das Trieste” was the location of last week’s rather riotous end-of-tour party: details (maybe) to follow in my autobiography.

>Unfortunately, we were unable to spend much time in Vienna this time around, we had a show in Linz the very next night – Thursday - after which we re off overnight to our present (but not for long, as the plane leaves in fty minutes) location of Basel. Paul enjoyed a few drinks in the bar on iday night with the crew, just as a small thank you for their efforts over e last four weeks of the European tour. Although Paul retired early to his om, I believe I spotted a few delicate crew members the following day. y, I’ve always said: work hard, play hard! Until next week, y’all. BFN.


Sunday 27 September, 2009

Just had a thought: what if I actually run out of things to say one day?

Another week – another five shows. One day I will attempt to take a breath and actually analyse how I do it – because, yes, that question is often asked of me. Sure, if the truth were known, I still hanker for a livable income from my football involvement – but for the relatively near future I don’t see that being a realistic possibility: I’ve only just about dragged myself out of the mire of debt that my last concentrated period of football activity created. I have no intention of going back to that dark place, as much because I will not be enabled the sort of opportunity again - similar to that which I have enjoyed with Paul Potts – of recovering from my misgivings a second time.

So where does this late Sunday evening find me? Never thought you’d ask. We are currently motoring overnight from the show we just finished in Bremen, to the southern German city of Regensburg: a quaint old city I’m led to believe – but that’s for next week folks.

Since leaving off last Sunday, heading north from Munich, I have flirted with another week of frantic activity. Originally, in adhering to the German tour schedule, we were meant to make an overnight trip to Frankfurt last Sunday night (20th) into a non-show day on the Monday, with Frankfurt’s Jahrhunderthalle as our next show on Tuesday past. Although that remained the case, Paul had the offer of a TV appearance in Cologne last Monday, so we ended up actually “driving past” Frankfurt and booking into the Cologne Grand Hyatt (for at least my sixth time in the past fifteen months) for all of six hours: come 2.00 pm in the afternoon, we made our way to the TV station on the outskirts of Cologne – spending the rest of the afternoon there,  after which, around eight in the evening, we were on our way to Frankfurt, checking in just before midnight!

While last year’s Frankfurt show was held in the Festhalle, located in the old exhibition grounds, smack bang in the centre of town, that facility’s hundred year celebrations this year precluded our promoter from being able to secure us another show back there this time around, due to severe constraints on the venue’s availability. This time around, we played a venue about twenty-five minutes north of the city centre, oddly called the “Jahrhunderthalle” which – if my schoolboy German serves me well – means “hundred year hall”: I’m still slightly confused by all of that. Add it to the burgeoning list entitled “things I really must check out at some point in my life”.

Back-to-back with Frankfurt was another charming city, Bamberg: however the need to “hit and run” Bamberg – to see us into Stuttgart the next day (Thursday) for our third show on the trot -precluded us from seeing any of Bamberg whatsoever: will I ever go back there, I wonder? 

Now, The Porsche Arena in Stuttgart does not figure as one of my favourite German venues I’m afraid (far from it) as it is so damned expensive. Funny that, isn’t it?  It’s the same with their cars.

From Stuttgart it was overnight again into Hamburg, on Friday – with the show last night: meaning our week was therefore completed with the show tonight at Bremen’s “Halle 7”, said show only having just finished a couple of hours ago. So now Regensburg beckons and – with my accounts almost up to date – I might even have the opportunity to look around the place. Ooh la la!. BFN.

Sunday 20 September, 2009

Bavarian greetings to all!

For the only time on the continental European tour, we have played two nights in the same city – namely Munich. As we speak (write) I am about 60 kilometers north of Munich, heading overnight on the tour bus to Cologne, where we have a TV show appearance to attend, tomorrow afternoon.

I would have to confess – in my younger years of course – to having had a riotous time during my initial visits to Munich (mainly to undertake TV shows with the Bay City Rollers) in the early days: one day I may be able to elaborate – buy not while I rely on this business for my livelihood!

Since leaving off last week in Oldenburg, we have travelled to Düsseldorf (Wednesday), Kempton (Friday) and (yesterday and today) Munich.

The show in Dusseldorf was held at the Philipshalle, a venue with fond memories for me over the years: I first did a show there back in 1976, with Jethro Tull – I can even actually recall an incident from that very show (it’s odd the things that stick in one’s mind, is it not?) involving one of our lighting crew who had just returned from a US tour with the band “Yes”.  In those days, it was only just becoming possible to purchase certain “novelty” items over the counter in US “Army and Navy” stores – items which were previously on very limited availability to the general public.

In the case this lighting guy, he had managed to procure (unbeknown to most of us on the “Tull” tour) a set of genuine, NYPD-issue, police handcuffs – he later confessed that he had swopped a couple of hot tickets, for the “Yes” show in Madison Square Gardens, for the handcuffs, which had belonged to a New York City traffic cop (also an avid Yes fan, it would also appear!).

Anyway – back to the Philipshalle in 1976 and me finding my briefcase handcuffed to a pipe in the production office when I returned from lunch. My sheer apoplexy was a source of great amusement to the other members of the crew – but that memory has endured across over thirty years.

Back to the tour - and the next stop after Dusseldorf was a charming old town in the South West of Germany, called Kempton (sounds more British than German, does it not?).  Arriving at the Bayerischer Hof hotel there, overnight from Dusseldorf, at just after 10.30 am the next morning (Thursday), the hotel were most kind to offer us breakfast – although it had officially stopped at 10.00 am – while we awaited our rooms being serviced. Thankfully, the good people in this world still seriously outweigh the bad ones (if it ever becomes the reverse, then we’re all in trouble).

So, here we are, Cologne bound, having spent an enjoyable two days in Munich – an arrangement which the crew were very pleased about, since they did not have to load out the gear after the first of the two shows: there appeared to be a couple of “fluffy” heads this afternoon at the Munich venue when everyone reconvened in preparation for tonight’s second show. Hey, I’m all for letting off a little steam, particularly when you see the hours that our guys have to keep. I’m proud of the fact that I spent years on the production crew, which enables me a realistic understanding of what is involved in dragging these huge shows from city to city. See you next week in Bremen!

Sunday 13 September 2009

A fine Sunday evening to you from Oldenburg in Germany: I’m actually sat outside, across from our hotel (“Altera Hotel Schmitz”), penning this entry. When we arrived here late this afternoon, having left Berlin at 11.00 am this morning, we discovered the hotel was perched on the side of what appeared to be the market square, where – believe it or not – there was a red wine festival in full swing! So, I’m sat here at one of the tables, a glass of Merlot at my hand, happily writing away.

I’ve consciously gone a little easier on my red wine intake over the past twelve months (not that it was ever excessive) since I suffered that attack of gout, almost a year ago this week: as we speak I have superstitiously clutched the wooden table top, to ensure that said ailment is not revisited upon me. I did a fair bit of reading up on the condition of gout (isn’t the internet brilliant in situations like that?) and – being that I haven’t touched red meat in almost two years now – figured that helping Paul polish off the odd bottle of excellent red wine, in the nine months previous to last September, may have had something to do with the initial onset of the gout attack.

Of course (both hands clutching same wooden table top now) I tell myself that cutting back over the previous year has definitely made a difference: but, hey, no reoccurrence as of now!

Back to the road: since signing off in Malmo last Sunday evening, we’ve undertaken one show in Uppsala – also in Sweden, on Monday past - two shows in Denmark, Aarhus on Wednesday and Copenhagen on Thursday and last night’s show in Berlin’s Tempodrom. Interesting in Denmark that both shows were located immediately adjacent to the hotels in which we stayed: I can’t remember the last instance of that happening two days in a row (at Thursday’s Copenhagen show at the Falconer, I made it from my bedroom to backstage in under a minute!). Listen, when you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you notice little anomalies like that! Have I been doing it too long? Mmm

My quest now is to work as hard as I can to bring myself smack bang up to date, and in doing so rid myself of the minutiae of detail that constantly clogs my creative thinking processes: my own fault really, for taking on the dual role of Tour Manager and Tour Accountant. There are a few quieter moments (worryingly, on the slight increase) when it dawns upon me that I have taken on too much: however it is a situation that undoubtedly benefits me, as I weave an opening through this log-jam of football debt that I managed to accumulate over the last few years (thankfully, also – as with other Artists I have worked with – it benefits Paul, as it saves him having another person out on the road with us, with the resultant “doubling” in hotel and travel costs). Onwards and upwards.

In spite of the constant workload of my dual role, I still – after thirty plus years – attack it with enthusiasm and pride: maybe that’s because I spent a few years away from the “coal face” of this industry when I – severely mistakenly – deluded myself that my then “Midas touch” extended to the bar and restaurant trade. However, as a result of some odd twists of fate, I have been given a second chance (a third, some might say, when you vector in the football project?) therefore – if only out of respect for those entrepreneurial spirits who, like myself, genuinely threw their body and soul into similar heart-driven projects (but who, sadly, were never able to enjoy the luxury of a another chance) I therefore strangely feel that I have to come good again, to honour the supreme efforts of those kindred spirits. So, yes, the fight goes on: I just have to hang in there. See ya!

Sunday 6 September, 2009

What a difference a week makes (although I do believe I’ve used that opening line before)  - as here I am a week later on, from penning last week’s entry in Tokyo’s Narita airport - to having just finished a show in Malmo in southern Sweden, this Sunday evening.

Since then, we’ve undertaken a “warm-up” show in Margate’s Winter Gardens in Kent (Tuesday); a show in Amsterdam’s Le Carre Theatre (Thursday); a show in Antwerp’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (Friday) – and here we are now on a fine Sunday evening in the Swedish city of Malmo.

Following Tuesday night’s Margate show, my party (myself, Paul, Julie Ann, Chris, Bob and our European guest act, Elizabeth Marvelly, drove up to the Ramada Hotel, close by to London City Airport, from where we flew to Amsterdam, on Wednesday afternoon. City airport has a very relaxed and unhurried air about it  - a welcome alternative from the hustle and bustle of Heathrow.

One other point of note here – just to check if any of you may have experienced this – is the amount of time it takes to taxi from the outer reaches of Schipol airport in Amsterdam, to the main terminals! I keep meaning to look on Google and see if the airport holds some sort of record for this (first noticed it when I flew back from Amsterdam to Edinburgh, a good few years back – on “Easyjet”.) Must remember to take a look at a plan view of the airport and satisfy my curiosity.

Paul enjoyed the attentions of a sold out crowd at Amsterdam’s Carre Theatre on Thursday past: another charming little operatic venue. One of many around the world that I have now experienced and would not have managed to do so on a rock ‘n roll tour (those long-haired types, I suspect, would not get past the front doors of some of those theatres – never mind staging a performance): so, yes, the operatic world has certainly opened my eyes to a whole new range of amazing venues.

On Friday, we made the short trip to Antwerp in Belgium, to play a show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall: one of those venues where the Artist dressing rooms and Production Office were located three floors above stage level (the Playhouse Theatre, in my home town of Edinburgh, suddenly springs to mind) and therefore not the type of venue when one should wear one’s cowboy boots. It’s now three days later, since that show - and I can still feel the resultant twinges in my calf muscles.

Now, it’s a fair distance between Antwerp in Germany and Malmo in Sweden, therefore I’m glad we had a day off, yesterday, in between the two shows, particularly as the journey involved two small ferry crossings (Puttgarten to Rodby and Helsingor to Helsingborg). If I had ten Euros for every time I’ve crossed those ferries, then I could have afforded to employ a “ghostwriter” for my diary.

The undoubted good news of the week is that our tour-bus turned up the day after the Amsterdam show – Friday morning past – so it’s a welcome departure (no pun intended) from dealing with airports, for a while. So, as I sit here, one hour out of Malmo, on the tour bus, headed towards Uppsala, for tomorrow night’s show, I look ahead to another four weeks of fairly intense European touring: but, hey, that’s what I do. I’m still enjoying it – especially as I career towards my target of being “debtless” by 31st December this year: I’ll probably have just enough to buy myself a glass or two of New Year cheer – but folks, I can’t tell you how good it’s going to feel. Until next week...


Sunday 30 August, 2009

Another day, another airport lounge, in this case Tokyo’s Narita airport and the JAL lounge.

However, get this: I sit here now at 11.15 in the morning (what? In the actual day you’re meant to pen this very entry, I hear you gasp?), we are about to board a midday direct flight to London – daylight the whole way – arriving back in London at 4.35 pm this same afternoon, Monday!

Now I will definitely admit to struggling with the old jet lag a little more than usual, however my (flagging) reasoning tells me that I’ll wait until I’m back in London later “today”, until I fully assess just where I am on “JetLag-o-meter”. Might it all cancel itself out, by chance? I somehow doubt it.

So, can I now tell you the difference between the paragraph above and this one? About ten days actually! There I was, tearing through my diary entry on the very day it was meant to be published (30th August) only to be side-tracked – and now here I am, almost two weeks later, trying to finish it. Where have the intervening days gone? Why has it taken me so long to catch up? Beats me.

Anyway, here I am – recalling the events of the week ending 30th August. That week, we spent four days down in Tokyo, to enable Paul to undertake some recording and promotional activities, having connected in Heathrow the very morning we landed there, from Lima, on Tuesday 25th – a fairly tight connection of only ninety minutes, thankfully aided by the Iberia flight landing into terminal three at Heathrow, and the Japan Airlines flight taking off from the same terminal.

Now, if you are planning a future trip down to the land of the rising sun (well, you never know, do you?) and surely your initial port of call would probably be Tokyo, then why not just go the “whole hog” and completely indulge yourself, by spending a few nights billeted at Tokyo’s Ritz Carlton. Of course, as well you are aware, I’ve stayed in a few hotels in my time – and it would unfair not to include the above hotel in my top ten of “all time greatest”: the attention to detail is almost frightening. Picture this: the safe deposit box is not only of sufficient dimensions to accommodate a fifteen inch laptop, but said safe deposit box also has a power point inside, so that you can charge the computer, while it’s locked away! Of course, such painstaking detail all comes at breathtaking (breath losing?) prices, so don’t leave home without your (or your partner’s) plastic!

We arrived back in London this morning (30th) from where I (conveniently, for me – as I was en-route to Margate) dropped Paul off at his relation’s house in northern Kent, where they were in the midst of a weekend family celebration. I then drove on to check into the Ramsgate hotel, where we will be based, for both the “technical rehearsal” day tomorrow, 31st, and Tuesday’s “warm-up” – the main purpose of said show being to enable Paul to familiarise himself with the orchestra that we will be utilizing on the UK tour, scheduled to kick-off in Newcastle on Thursday 8th October.

So, yes, it’s been a hectic week – and it’s not going to let up much over the next two months. As I career/stumble towards the end of the year (31st December, specifically) to attain the position of being “debtless”, I need little more incentive to drive me on: come that time, however, I may just need a few days to catch up on my sleep: hardly an unfamiliar end-of-tour situation  for an old road-dog such as myself. Every now and then, it’s kinda hard to tell – but I’m still alive and well!! BFN.

Sunday 23 August, 2009

Right folks,the news this week is that if you’re looking for somewhere a little more outof the way for a holiday destination, I now have a suggestion: theenchanting country of Peru. Read on...

Oddly enough,on the slight down side of things, there are no direct scheduled flights outof London: in our case we flew back on Iberia via Madrid – not exactly apainful experience (although listen to he who is extremely fortunate to beflown business class, by his Artist: however – you know what? – I think I’veearned it, after twenty years traveling extensively in economy!).

Sure, thereare some areas you would have to avoid in the sprawl of Lima city (but whydo we kid ourselves that’s not the case in some of our own UK cities?) butwe were lucky to be housed in the Miraflores part of the city, where thebeach was only a twenty minute walk from the hotel.

However,let’s backtrack to the beginning of this week, when Paul and I flew outahead of the rest of the lads, to Bogota in Columbia, on Monday past – againutilizing Iberia through Madrid. Sadly, Bogota is one of those cities thatdoes not boast a very friendly – or clean - downtown area, hence we were(very comfortably) billeted in the Grand House hotel, in the northern partof the city: I figure it was the area “to be in” as the likes of theHardrock Café was only a matter of ten blocks distant from the hotel (whichI happily walked on my own, to have some dinner there, as Paul had developeda bit of a cough and elected to spend the evening in the hotel, to have anearly night).

The venue inBogota has, I’m afraid, seen better days – in spite of that, our Columbianpromoter did her level best to create a habitable environment for the show –even going to the trouble to commission the services of a “dressing roomdesigner” (a new one on me I have to say!) to turn what started, basically,as a team shower room - into something resembling more of a boudoir!

Typical ofvenues in that part of the world, there is little regulation as regards realsafety standards - as you would have, for instance, with the Brent Councilin London, when undertaking a show at Wembley Arena: where every aspect ofthe production of a live show – which bears any relation to safety (i.e.width of stage steps; barrier height and placement; routing of multicorecables to the out-front sound desk; overhead lighting structures etc) iscarefully scrutinized, both prior to the performance – and on the actualday, before the show is allowed to proceed.

Not so, down‘ol Colombia way my friends, where your esteemed writer almost did a backsomersault from behind the monitor mixer position, in the absence of asafety handrail: so, one just has to be a little more careful in the venuesin those parts of the world: added to which the Artist – as a result of notso many of his fellow craftsman visiting that neck of the woods – is reveredmore than he would normally be (in other words, every one “wants a piece” ofhim).

FollowingThursday night’s Bogota show, we flew down here to Lima, where – in contrastto our time in Columbia, we were actually located in a cool part of town (Miraflores,as mentioned earlier) where within twenty minutes walk of the front door of the hotel, you can find yourself staring at the Pacific Ocean in unpalatable wonderment. Yes, team, I do like it here and any city that can boast the venue only being two blocks from the hotel, gets my additional vote. Until next week.

Sunday 16 August, 2009

“I must have got lost, I must have got lost, I must have got lost – somewhere down the line”.

The above lyrics are taken from a J.Geils Band song, probably at least thirty years old now: check the band out on Google – they were a good time American rock band, possibly latterly known for their single “Freeze Frame”, issued about twenty years back. Oh, where are they now?

The reason that the subject of being lost momentarily came to mind was as a result of me falling a couple of weeks behind again, with my diary entries – where has the last two weeks gone?

This past week was certainly not the “heaviest” of weeks that I’ve ever had: at the beginning of the week we travelled to Gothenburg, for an outdoor TV promotion, where the theme was based upon “sing-a-long” tunes. Aside from Paul, there were a wide variety of guests featured on the show, including a Norwegian duo that won the Eurovision song contest about twenty years ago!

However, everyone in the Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg, had a very pleasant evening: the amusement park is one of the oldest, and largest in the Northern hemisphere. For a second or two Paul and I did consider checking out a couple of the rides, but good sense prevailed – and we decided to concentrate on the performance at hand, prior to partaking of “all the fun of the fair”.

Did I ever mention how constrictive “cancellation insurance” is (much more so with live touring shows, than television shows). As a brief aside, let’s just assume we were playing a live show in Gothenburg, at the Scandinaviam, and - during the early afternoon - Paul decides to ride the giant rollercoaster three times in a row: with the result that he becomes violently sick, develops a fever and is unable to take to the stage for that evening’s performance. The “loss adjuster” – appointed by the underwriting insurance company with whom the cancellation insurance was placed - will argue that the cancellation of the show was not “beyond the Artist’s control” (the basis for all legitimate show-cancellation insurance claims) because the Artist should have known better than to take to go on such a large fairground ride – particularly three times in a row – on a show day.

Believe me, if you were talking about an outdoor stadium show with the Artist on a guaranteed fee in the hundreds of thousand dollars range, then the insurance underwriter is not going to pull his cheque book out, to settle the claim, until he’s reduced his liability as low as he possibly can.

Anyway, I digress: upon our return from Sweden on Tuesday morning – and with Paul having a studio commitment on Thursday afternoon – I had one of those occasional “will-I-won’t-I-go-home-to-Scotland” dilemmas. I would not have made it up there until Friday and I had to be back down at Heathrow this evening (as our flight is 0720 tomorrow morning, to Madrid - and then on to Columbia) I just “hung in” at Port Talbot for a couple of days, and caught up with my accounts.

So, at the crack of dawn tomorrow, we are off to the wilds of South America, specifically Columbia and Peru (we had originally planned to precede those two countries with a show in Venezuela, however the political unrest in the country has rendered that option unsafe. By I the time I pen next week’s entry, I will be about to travel from Peru to Tokyo! See y’all next week.

Sunday 9 August, 2009

And a fine good evening to you from another British Airways lounge, in this particular case – as you would have guessed, had you been reading last week’s entry – in the city of Thailand.

I’m awaiting a ten minutes past midnight flight out of here, Heathrow bound: the flights are unable to leave here much earlier than midnight, otherwise they arrive at too unsociable an hour in London. As it is, this flight arrives at 06.20 am tomorrow morning, following which I have to make my way over to Terminal 3 (from Terminal 4) where I will hook up with Paul and we’ll be on our way to Gothenburg for a TV appearance, arranged and coordinated for us by Sony in Sweden.

I’ve had a “mixed-moods” week, this past week, trying to kick-back as much as possible and formulate some sort of focus as to where I’m headed in life. Much of that is mapped out for me over the coming three months as, following a trip to South America this month (16 to 24th), I have to scuttle down to Japan with Paul to undertake a few days of intense promotion – as only the Japanese know how!.  Arriving back in the UK on 30th of this month, there’s just enough time for us to make our way up to Margate for our European “warm-up” show on 1st September. After that, it’s essentially a month on mainland Europe, followed by a month in the UK, which takes us up to 7th November. I’ve no doubt that, by that time, the remainder of November will be “spoken for”.

Such is my lifestyle that I have little time to myself when I’m in the middle of “full-on” touring - however in a desperate attempt to clear my “football debt” before the end of this year, I’m willing to throw myself into those remaining months of this year and hopefully stand debt free by the 31st December. OK, I’m going to have a fair tax bill, but to be debt free for a short time? Yeh!!

Although there are many that would say I’m in fairly “good nick” for fifty-seven (notice how I wrote that in longhand, so it didn’t jump off the page too much) I know within myself that there is room for improvement, particularly when it comes to my personal health. I mean, I’ve not touched red meat since 1st January 2008: the next challenge is to stay clear of bread and potatoes for a while. I recall Robert de Niro telling Nick Nolte (in the film, “Cape Fear”, if my memory serves me well – with Jessica Lange, oooh baby!) that a man gains one pound every year, after he turns fifty.  I’m sure there’s no great truth in that, however it’s funny how it’s stuck in my mind.

My life often resembles one never-ending game of “catchup” – however, I have to believe that I am inching ever closer to the point where, administrationally (both in my work and domestic life) my desk is totally clear. My head is something of a four-drawer filing cabinet and right now some of those drawers won’t even close as a result of “organizational overload”. I know I am creatively capable of coming up with some good ideas – both on the music business and the football front – but it’s difficult to reach that position when you are racing form city to city.

Stringent and disciplined time management is what it’s down to: avoiding those periods of “time suckage” (as I belive our American cousins refer to it) that siphon valuable minutes from your day. When everyone else succumbs to the temptation to just collapse on the couch and watch a favourite movie re-run, you just have to find the strength to walk away and apply yourself elsewhere. With the help of my children, I know I can pull this of. Wish me luck. See ya soon!

Sunday 2 August, 2009

Here’s the thing: do you ever really know how tired you are? Let’s take me as an example.

I shoot down here to Thailand, for this short-notice holiday, finally ending up on an island called Koh Phangen – strangely enough, not terribly far away from the largest of the these islands, Koh Samui.  However, having enjoyed a well earned holiday on Koh Samui itself, a few years back, in the middle of my “Westlife” days – and then in Beverley’s company – I did not want to sour the poignant memories of that holiday, so off to one of the other islands I have come.

The only possible drawback of being here on Koh Phangen is that, come 6th of this month - a mere few days from now - the island plays host to the (supposedly “world famous”) “Full Moon Party”.  Now, I’m sure that the vast majority of the legions of people who are flocking to this island, as I write, would make a great case for attending such an event: however, I suspect that the incessant marketing and the great climate are just masking what is basically an “all night piss up”.

To go back to my opening gambit about, relating to one’s actual level of tiredness: the reason I raise that subject is because I’ve done a lot of sleeping since I’ve arrived here! Am I looking too deep into this thing, trying to absolve my newfound self-guilt, looking for some deeper answer?

When the subject of my frantic lifestyle raises it’s head, in the company of those who keep reasonably normal hours, I’ve often been heard to claim that I have no reserves of strength left – and that I’m fueled purely by my adrenaline, as I’m able to endure repetitive sixteen hour days. Could I be closer to the truth than I think? I need to find some quality time to delve into the Internet and follow through on this thought. The Internet has all the answers: it’s just finding the time to trawl through its wealth of information and weed out some of elusive answers.

Beautiful as Thailand is, there’s no escaping the overriding sex tourism that flourishes in the main holiday areas. When I arrived in Thailand last Monday morning (27th) I decided to spend one night in Pattaya (staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, and finding none other than Wacko Jacko staring down at me, from an over sized mural above my bed) to see how much Pattaya had changed in the twenty-seven years I had been away (last spent a couple of days there, with the band “Japan”, in 1982, when the Thai promoter had thrown in a couple of days holiday, following the completion of two shows in Bangkok). It was madness! I booked a flight out to Koh Phangen the very next day.

Young beautiful Thai women (as most of them are) obviously are a major attraction to the majority of over-fifties unattached Western males. As I wandered through Pattaya’s more populated nightlife streets, there were times when I almost thought I was one of the youngest guys on those streets! While I am, by my own admission, far from a “guy’s guy” I nevertheless (and my few, dear, women friends will vouch for this) cannot fathom the preoccupation of older guys, for measurably younger women. Sorry to say, but I believe I’m in the minority. I’ve now come to the stark realization that nothing beats a white woman of advancing years who excels in the art of conversation (that’s in no way a racist remark is it?). If said woman just happens to have a walk-in shoe cupboard, then – suddenly – the lottery is of no importance!  You know, I’ve lost more good women in my life, than the average man ever finds. Oooh la la! Until next week, oh patient readers.


Sunday 26 July, 2009

Good afternoon from a (sadly) “worn out” Terminal 4 at London’s Heathrow airport: since the advent of Terminal 5, this particular Terminal – once the jewel in BA’s crown – has slipped into a state of noticeable disrepair. There is certainly cordoned-off areas of the main departure hall which appear to be undergoing significant reconstruction, but the place has lost it’s identity now.

We rarely use this terminal nowadays, however I’m flying to South East Asia today and the particular flight I need to take to Bangkok (BA, oddly enough - although 90% of their traffic goes out of Terminal 5 these days) still departs from Terminal 4.

Now, hold on to your Zimmer frames, as I impart two snippets of astonishing news: firstly, I’m actually penning this diary entry on none other than the 26th July (although, it ain’t finished yet!) and, secondly, I’m going on holiday for twelve days! Why Bangkok in particular, you may ask?

Well, to start with: since finishing the US tour in Washington earlier this week, Paul was booked to play an engagement (two nights: Friday and Saturday past) for the Czech National Orchestra, as part of their annual “Proms” celebrations, hosted from several prestigious venues in Prague. So, suddenly realising that Paul has a break of ten days or so coming up, I found myself, on Thursday afternoon when we arrived at the hotel in Prague, scrabbling around looking at holiday options for myself – my initial criteria being to utilise the substantial air miles that I have accumulated, to keep the cost of any flight to a minimum (the second being to head for a climate where I can at least enjoy my dinner in the open air – come on now, how easy am I to please?).

First thing that I had failed to notice, immersed as I was in the machinations of a US tour, is the current combination of high season in most vacation markets, children’s school holidays and decent global weather: all of which have cunningly conspired to severely limit “mileage seats “ on BA.

Rather than spend hours trawling through the various (possible?) options on the BA Frequent Flyer site, I took advantage of the fact that my level of Frequent Flyer membership allows me to book with the relevant BA department, at no extra charge: that is, they do the trawling for you!

At forty-eight hours notice the guy who took my call at BA, was holding out little hope for me. However, as luck would have it (for a change!) a seat to Bangkok popped up on the system (some other passenger was obviously conscientious enough to alert BA that he no longer required his “mileage” seat. Now, I did fancy checking out the Dominican Republic, but very few airlines fly direct there – and certainly not British Airways.

Therefore, in respect of the British Airways seat to Bangkok, it was very much a case of “grab it now before you lose it” – so I did. The main other advantage of the Bangkok-bound flight is that it leaves later tonight from Heathrow, where I just landed form Prague, a few hours ago: that definitely had a bearing upon my decision! So here I am – immediately after completing and uploading this entry – figuring where I go from Bangkok! There are a few decent choices currently on the go – mainly some of the more peaceful islands. So, I best push off and get on with it, because the last thing I want to do is spend the night in Bangkok tomorrow. Don’t touch that dial!

Sunday 19 July, 2009

Chicago: most definitely, my kinda town (Fwanky baby new what he was on about – he shoe-wa did).

Funnily enough, it’s only “recently” that my affection has grown for the windy city: what undoubtedly awoke me to the real charm of the place was the week that I spent there, a couple of years back (in the company of a younger woman – although she’s getting on a bit now) when Franz Ferdinand – my then employers – locked themselves in a studio in nearby Ann Arbour, to record a series of “demo” songs they had been working on. We took the trolley bus tour around the city, although with the blonde one hopping on and off at every available opportunity, she spent more time off her trolley, than on it. Never a dull moment, however: and that’s the way I prefer it.

The weather here today has been almost perfect: a gently-enveloping warmth, supplemented by light breezes sneaking in off the lake – another place to be added to the “I could live here” list. Ah, so many cities to live in – and so little time.

I believe I left off in Tampa last Sunday, which necessitated that – on Monday morning past - we jump into the hire cars that we had rented in Orlando two days previously, and make the 228 mile drive to Hollywood (Hollywood, Florida, that is folks) – through alligator country, indeed: check out the heavy duty fencing skirting the highway for mile after mile on Interstate 90 (I kid you not).

At least the Hollywood show wasn’t scheduled until Tuesday (14th) which meant there was no mad rush for us to leave Tampa on Monday morning: when you’ve been on the road fairly constantly, for the best part of two years, then such days are greatly appreciated. However, as you would expect at this time of year, Florida temperatures are currently up in the “high eighties” so God knows how one would cope if the rental car’s air conditioner decided to call it a day. Fry and die?!

You may distantly recall that it was in the Florida facility (The Seminole Hard Rock Casino) where – on last year’s tour – I managed to cajole around $1,400.00 from one of the Casino’s slot machines, only to have some sort of Florida “foreigner” tax levied upon me, leaving me with under $1,000.00. Still, there could be worse things to complain about, could there not?

But, here’s the good news in this week’s diary: guess what arrived in the back parking lot at the Hollywood venue, prior to the end of Tuesday night’s show?  Unfortunately not a deep black stretch limo containing Helen Mirren (in that red bikini swimsuit of hers), slithering around on the back seat gasping “Take me, Jake, take me!”.  No – but the next best thing (and don’t take this wrongly Helen) – a TOUR BUS! Halle-bloody-lujah! Listen to an old graying relic that’s been around the business for thirty years (no, not the tour bus – me!) – it’s the only way to travel folks.

That took care of our first overnight up to Atlanta, for a “hit ‘n run” show, then onwards overnight again to Atlantic City, with a day off before Friday’s show. The overnight trip, after the Atlantic City show, into Toronto, was a long and testing one, including a US/Canadian border crossing. Once again, there was no need of a hotel, as we wanted to push on after the show, to enjoy the benefits when we arrived here, from lunchtime onwards today: that we have and, as mentioned at the beginning of this entry, it is indeed a mighty fine city. I’m off to dinner with the lads! See ya soon!

Sunday 12 July, 2009

Greetings from a warm and balmy Tampa, where this evening we played the first of our two Florida shows at the Ruth Ekhard Centre in Clearwater, twenty minutes across the causeway from our base here at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tampa (those of you who may be familiar with Paul’s last US tour. will recall that we actually played a date here in Tampa itself, in March last year).

Since writing to you last week, we travelled from Dallas on Monday last, to Houston, directly after the show at the Nokia Theater. It was one of those situations that we regularly face when touring in this “mode”, being that – with Chris, Bob and Mark needing to be in the venue, to commence the equipment set-up, by one o’ clock in the day, then – where they go, we go (with everyone travelling together). Furthermore, if you’re going to have to deal with a four-hour trip like that, then you might as well go after the show – and avoid the traffic. One of the not-so-glamorous nights!

As result of a severe shortage of applicable venues in Houston, Paul actually undertook a performance in the city’s recently-opened House of Blues! I would be misleading you if I said the show was rocking but I have to tell you that it was a very enjoyable evening! The House of Blues staff could not have been more helpful and I do recall thinking “I’ve got to get a picture of this” as I found myself waiting stage right for Paul to finish the first half of the show – only to have a quick mental snapshot of the orchestra in full “swing” against the “House of Blues” stage curtain.

But, alas, time just flew by that evening and with Thursday’s New York show at the Beacon Theatre already generating a guest list from as far away as Houston, I just never got around to it.

Getting around to things that normal people manage to accomplish, is certainly at the back of my mind (and, I keep telling myself) slowly edging it’s way forward, to the extent that I may actually attempt to do something constructive about it, in the not-too-distant future. In my dreams.

Yes, New York, New York: so popular, the work is twice as much (as any normal show). There is, of course, the over-importance of the afore-mentioned guest list: so worried are many of the Big Apple regular (un-paying) concert goers that they even send bike messengers over to the venue, mid afternoon, to ensure that they don’t suffer the ignominy (right word?) of being asked to wait at the “will call” office as some box-office underling (darling) dares to question their standing.

You can tell I’m into all that social climbing, can’t you? Anyway, I’ve gone and got carried away again. Let’s not dally on the New York show – you’ll never hear the end of it from me. One day. Up to Boston we went on Friday morning, spirited there in a fleet of (well, three) self-drive cars: no choice but to drive ourselves really as – with the tour bus not showing up until next Tuesday (15th) – and the thought of checking in all the equipment onto what amounts to little more than a “shuttle” flight to Boston, we opted just to rent our own vehicles and be done with it.

Yesterday, however, with a rather a longer trip than the 228 from NYC to Boston (1142 this time, in fact) we had little choice but to take to the skies, then once again – upon our arrival into Orlando – rent another three vehicles and self-drive the ninety-odd miles to Clearwater. The same cars at least will be utilized to drive down to Hollywood (in Florida, that is) tomorrow, in preparation for Tuesday’s show at the Hard Rock Hotel.  Until next week, dear (patient) readers.

Sunday 5 July, 2009

Well howdy from Dallas, y’all: now I know you would probably have been more excited at the prospect of having these notes penned by JR: but, hey, you now have the next best thing - JD!

Unfortunately, we were unable to travel to Mexico for the two proposed shows there (Mexico City on 2nd July and Monterey on 3rd July) mainly as a result of the swine-flu scare. Paul was most willing to push on and complete the shows – in spite of cautionary advice from his management, to the contrary – and then, just last week, we received word that one of our former European-tour personnel had contracted the virus and that really brought home to us, the true risk factor.

We are only a small, concise, touring operation and we have another four months of touring activity ahead of us (and, with respect to Mexico, in some of Paul’s largest touring markets) therefore even if our Musical Director (Chris Taylor) or our Orchestra Conductor (Bob Willis) came down with something – without even considering the risk to Paul himself – then it would seriously hamper our ability to continue touring. Tough decision, but it had to be made.

However, we are hopeful of re-scheduling at least one of the two postponed shows into the period when the proposed South American tour goes ahead: as always, with Paul’s time being in such demand, from many different territories across the world, such an exercise will not prove easy.

With Mexico being eased out of the picture for the time being, the decision was made to hang back in Toronto for a couple of days this past week (Wednesday and Thursday, to be precise) – and then fly into Dallas a day earlier than originally planned. As it transpired, Paul received an offer to appear on the CBS “Early Morning” show, live in New York, on Thursday morning this week – necessitating that we three jump in a car and drive down to New York (Paul and Julie Ann were keen to spend a few hours in Niagara Falls, therefore it made sense to make the trip by car).

As it happened, our flight from New York to Dallas on Friday evening arrived into Dallas/Fort Worth airport only minutes before the rest of the guys landed from their Toronto flight, which enabled us to give them a help with loading the equipment into the van, en-route to the hotel.

The weather here in Dallas – while very warm – is incredibly humid: you just couldn’t walk any more than 3/4 blocks without being soaked through with your own sweat. There’s many a time you’ve heard me wax lyrical about wanting to spend more time in the sort of climate whereby I can sit outside to have my dinner in the evening: unfortunately, I’m not sure that would be comfortably manageable in the sort of climate we are experiencing here at the moment. Just too damn hot!

Of course, as somehow always seems to happen when I’m on the road, on the odd occasion you have a “free” day, to try to catch up with the likes of your calls, your production “advancing” or your accounts - you just can’t reach anybody because, in this particular case, it’s a national US holiday!

All of the above apart, I’m just pleased as punch to have caught up with my diary entries, following what has probably been the lengthiest gap I’ve experienced, since I began penning these entries – which seems like a long way back now. Really don’t ant to let that situation happen again. See ya!

a> June

Sunday 28 June, 2009

The tour is underway! Three shows played already, in fact: Calgary earlier this evening, Edmonton last night and – to kick things off – Vancouver’s Performing Arts Centre, on Thursday past.

How has it been? Well, to be honest, not quite as smooth as I had anticipated. Our origin asl intention had been to take a tour bus, immediately after the Vancouver show, and make the long drive (750 miles +) overnight to Edmonton, to arrive early afternoon Friday, with no show that night in Edmonton (we actually made the “reverse” journey on last year’s Canadian tour).

Unfortunately, I received a call from our bus company early on Tuesday morning (just as we were preparing to enter our last day of production rehearsals, in Vancouver) informing me that the bus we had been allocated had developed a transmission problem and that Prevost – the Canadian bus manufacturer – could not ship the parts to Eugene, Oregon (where the crippled bus lay) in enough time to have the repair effected and the bus on it’s way again in enough time to reach the Vancouver show, to make our pickup. Not even close. Cue frantic attempt to find another bus.

Regrettably, with this being probably the busiest touring period of the year, we were unable to come up with an alternative vehicle and so – being the fool that I am – I volunteered to drive the equipment, in a small rented “Budget” van, overnight to Edmonton: a situation into which I roped my unsuspecting son (not only did I have concerns that the equipment would be allowed onto a flight which I had hurriedly booked for Paul, Julie Ann, Chris, Mark and Bob – there was also the cost element of the excess baggage to consider).

Vancouver to Edmonton is a long way! I have to also say that there’s no way I would have attempted to make that journey in the winter (unless absolutely unavoidable), witnessed by the repeated signs, on the way through Kamloops and on to Jasper, warning truckers of the need to “chain up”: whereby the truck drivers have to wrap chains around their wheels, to enable their vehicles to maintain some sort of grip on the treacherous road surfaces during the winter. Wild.

Anyway, we made it to through the mountains to Edmonton (and experienced some breathtaking scenery on the way – not to mention a good few deer, and the odd elk: don’t tell them I said they were odd) and actually arrived at the Edmonton hotel, a mere 45 minutes behind the “flyers”!

Thankfully, we had the rest of Friday evening to rest up, before Paul’s performance, last night, at the Winspear Theatre there, the same venue we played on last year’s tour. After last night’s show I managed to find a local tour bus to whisk us down here to Calgary, a journey that only took just under three hours. Tonight’s show here in Calgary was performed in a different venue (namely The Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium) than our last visit. As Paul mentioned during tonight’s show, it’s refreshing to find two excellent venues, in the one city, that are serving the popular arts.

Tomorrow we fly to Toronto, where we will base ourselves for the show in Kitchener, sixty miles south of the city. Once again we are being advised to consider the sensibility of continuing on to Mexico for our two upcoming shows on 2nd and 3rd July: there is a move afoot to re-schedule the shows into the period when we play the proposed South American shows. Don’t move that dial!

Sunday 21 June, 2009

Well, I’m in trouble now – I’m sitting here in Dallas, on 5th July, writing up the diary entries for 21st and 28th June!  How could I have allowed myself to fall so far behind?!  How I wish I knew.

The start of any world tour – even allowing for being sat in the one place in production rehearsals for a few days – is a frantic time: the heat is on and the first day of the tour eagerly beckons.

So, please bear with me for a few minutes while I back-track on the last couple of weeks, in an attempt to bring the diary entries smack up to date - in the space of the next few days.

Sunday 21st June: where were we? We were in Vancouver, having arrived from Hong Kong last Friday evening, 19th June: a most weird situation, whereby we left Hong Kong at 0005 - technically on Saturday morning - and arrived in Vancouver at 9.30 pm on Friday night. It all makes (reasonable) sense if you take a look at the world time zones - and in particular the “international dateline”. Boy, it must have messed up those early seafarers when they were crossing the Pacific!

Monday and Tuesday past were spent in Korea, where you may recall we arrived last Saturday, 13th June. The highlight of those four promotional days in South Korea was undoubtedly last Tuesday’s appearance – outdoors – in the city “square”, a large man-made park performance area, smack bang in the centre of Seoul. In fact, so it would have been quicker to walk to the performance stage, down the hill from the Westin Hotel where we stayed, than it was to drive. However, the South Korean authorities take the matter of visiting-Artist security very seriously, so that suggestion was met with some very nervous reaction. Don’t want to get on the wrong side of the constabulary!

Onwards from Seoul to Hong Kong on Wednesday for another two and a half days of intense promotion, culminating in a media showcase – combined with a wine tasting! – in the Mira Hotel in Kowloon, where we were based, during our stay. On Wednesday evening, once safely checked into the hotel, I ventured down the “over-neoned” street on which the hotel was situated, in search of international phone cards (you’re probably aware of the problem I have with paying hotels their inflated in-house, international phone charges).

Rumour has it we have a South American tour on the verge of being confirmed: believe me folks, if there are any more than three different countries on that South American itinerary, it will take me the best part of three weeks to process the overall immigration requirements. Thankfully, you’re dealing with a professional here, therefore I will give the subject my ablest attention – however, I would be less than honest if I were to lead you to believe that it was enjoyable!

So, here we are in one of my favourite cities in the whole world – Vancouver. Yes, I could live here: can’t quite put my finger on it, but the environment is definitely appealing as somewhere I know I could feel spiritually at ease. Have I left it too late to “upsticks” and re-locate to a city such as this? Well, the thought of re-locating outside the UK does not frighten me unduly, even at this stage of my life – I just wonder if a US (Canadian!) West Coast city is a touch too far. I would want to be in striking distance of my children’s whereabouts – although it’s anyone guess where they will be in a couple of years from now! Might be easier to anticipate the lottery numbers! BFN.

Sunday 14 June, 2009

The boy’s got Seoul! Well, he’s coming to you this week from Seoul, let’s just say.

However, the majority of the past week has been spent based in Tokyo, where I can reveal that, within the space of six promotional days (Monday until yesterday) Paul has been seen on live television in Japan by more than the total population of the UK! Leading the charge, programme wise, is the infamous “Unbelievable” – with a staggering 18 million viewers – which, among many other aspects of the show, re-enacts the stories of individuals who have amazing stories to tell.

Enter Paul Potts.

It was only on this last visit that I had the opportunity to view the footage of the programme “special” that “Unbelievable” presented, following the live shows that we played, last September.

The re-enactment is achieved by using (what they believe to be lifelike!) actors/actresses in a variety of short, vivid, scenes to build the background story behind the person’s achievements.  However – in keeping with most popular media nowadays – everyone wants the “scoop”: the candid footage that (supposedly) reveals a side of the featured personality in places/situations, not normally be accessible to the public. Consequently, “Unbelievable” – without meaning to be insulting or intrusive in any way – focused on such periods in Paul’s life when things were not always as easy for him: certain aspects of his school life, the huge financial strain he and Julie Ann experienced as a result of illness and injury – and his early days as an amateur operatic singer.

This last week, Paul also made a live appearance at the Marunouchi shopping mall in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, where several thousand people turned out to witness Paul singing four songs, and receiving a rapturous reaction: so much so in fact , that he sang Nessun Dorma twice for them!

As a result of the wide media exposure which Paul’s visit to Japan generated, in the early days of this week past, we received an impromptu offer to appear on a popular Saturday morning, nationwide, TV show – en-route to the airport, while flying here to Seoul yesterday. We’ll take it!

Boy, the Japanese record company sure knows how to work an Artist hard: even by my old rock ‘n rollers standards, this has been a tough week! While I have had a glimpse at the Korean promo schedule, for the first four days of next week (before we fly on to Hong Kong, to complete the South East Asia promotional tour) it is nowhere near as intense as what we have just experienced this last week, in Toyko. It’s still “full-on”, but we are at least starting most days at 10.00 am.

And so the commencement of the world tour (in Vancouver, on 25th June) draws ever nearer and I prepare myself to “change hats” and make ready for the REAL road. A good part of me cannot wait, as I have the opportunity to once again hook up with the rest of our touring party (Chris Taylor: Musical Director and Piano Player / Bob Willis: Orchestra Conductor and Mark Littlewood: Front of House Sound Engineer. They will fly into Toronto on 20th of this month, the day before the start of rehearsals. Also, in attempting to “keep it in the family”, my son will join the tour as the Production Assistant/Wardrobe: however, more mention of that next week! See y’all soon!

Sunday 7 June, 2009

“Konbanwa” from the land of the rising sun and – specifically – the amazing city of Tokyo.

I should really make the effort to “tot up” just how many actual times I’ve been here now – but I’m sure it’s somewhere between twelve and fourteen: I’m also now hearing that we may have another (brief) promotional trip here, on the horizon, approximately towards the end of August.

The majority of the past week has been spent in London, initially (on Monday) undertaking a day of radio and TV promotion in Paul’s “own back yard”, in and around the Cardiff and Swansea area, but having to drive back to London again, on the same evening – in preparation for a live “GMTV” performance on Tuesday morning.

However, undertaking such an early start (call time of 6.15 am, at the studio) on GMTV with Paul Potts is a what lot easier than it was in the Westlife days: of course that’s no reflection on the lads themselves, it’s just obviously a lot easier to organize one guy than it is five. The production staff on the programme have pretty much remained the same team over the last five years and it’s always comforting to recognize (and be recognized by) several familiar faces. Mind you what’s even more comforting – certainly for me – is having Lorraine Kelly slip by one in those fairly tight corridors: somewhere in the vicinity of wardrobe works a treat, where it’s always more congested.

My God – I’ve just experienced a few minutes of writer’s block: can’t imagine why. Away with you, curvy Lorraine – I’ve got diary entries to catch up with, and a North American tour to plan. Where was I, now? I might just give you an “inkling” of that, when I write my autobiography but for the moment it will have to stay strictly between Lorraine and I.

Although, stop the bus! – and I’m bound to digress here – but I cannot mention the name Lorraine without immediately thinking of THE Loraine (note the different spelling) – the one who saved my life. Not sure I dare go into too much detail about that, at this point - only to say that she’s a very special woman to me and (sorry to have to break this to Lorraine Kelly – she’ll be heartbroken, she will!) but the latter Loraine is the unquestionable embodiment of womanhood. For a number of diverse reasons, I just can’t think straight when Loraine invades my consciousness. I’m just not worthy. I want her back in my life, however my “rehabilitation programme” has suffered something of a major setback, of late (i.e., I’m ashamed to say, I behaved like a jerk).

Better get back on track here, before I completely lose the place (that’s what she can make me do – quite easily).Wednesday, this week past, featured another day of UK promotion – followed on Thursday by a day off in London for Paul - and a chance for me to finalise my road accounts, with the intention of not having to drag excessive paperwork half way across the world. Job completed!

Prior to flying to Sweden on Friday evening, Paul made an appearance on “This Morning” where he sang “Senza Luce” off the new album. The visit to Stockholm was indeed a “flying one” as we were back in London by mid-afternoon yesterday, to connect to the evening J.A.L. flight, out here to Tokyo. A week of intense, yet high-profile, promotion lies ahead of us here in Tokyo - however the rewards are – in every sense – tangible. Wish us luck. There’s likely to be no sleep until Seoul! BFN.


Sunday 31 May, 2009

Well, oh avid readers, much as you found me last Sunday, I’m here again in Port Talbot: however we have undertaken a fairly extensive UK radio tour, in the intervening week.

Following the filming of a documentary programme for Dutch TV, in and around Port Talbot, for most of last Monday (25th) we headed up to Manchester in the late afternoon and checked into the Malmaison Hotel, just up the street from Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. Last time I stayed at that particular hotel, I was in the employ of the Gallagher brothers, therefore needless to say the place was overrun by Oasis fans, attending the Manchester City stadium shows.

On this UK regional radio tour of the last week, I volunteered to drive the “people-carrier”, specifically a Chrysler Voyager, normally able to accommodate seven occupants (including the driver) but – in our case – with the rear “bench” seat folded down to make way for the luggage. I had offered my services, in this respect, mainly to assist the record company’s budget (otherwise an independent driver would have pushed us into a larger vehicle). With myself, Paul, our make-up artist Kim Kiefer and our regional radio Promotional Manager, Clare Newsham, all the available seats were taken. That was our team for the three days of intense radio and TV promotion.

Essentially, Tuesday was spent in and around Manchester, then Birmingham was our next port of call on Wednesday, followed by a day in the Cardiff area – before heading back along the M4 to London, on Thursday evening, to ensure that we were ready for Friday’s live “Britain’s Got Talent” appearance in front of what turned out to be an audience upwards of fourteen million. Paul then enjoyed a deserved day off in London yesterday with Julie Ann, as we awaited the availability of Yvie Burnett, for a session earlier this afternoon. You may (or may not!) know that Yvie is Paul’s vocal coach, however she also is an integral part of the “Britain’s Got Talent” support team, therefore her involvement yesterday – in and around the show’s Final programme deemed that she was unavailable to spend any time with Paul. Hence the reason Paul spent some time with her today.

This evening I aim to make substantial inroads into my accounts, for the very reason that next weekend we fly eastwards, on Saturday evening – the 6th June – to commence an intense two-week promotional schedule which will encompass Japan, Korea and Hong Kong: therefore I have no wish to drag with me the ever-increasing mountain of receipts that are weighing down my briefcase. Today, being the end of the month, is also a viable reason for drawing a line under all accounting matters to date: apart from anything else, I will soon enter into the realm of tour accounting, a far more comprehensive exercise than mere “road floats” – so I really need my wits about me.

I cannot close this week’s entry without making reference to some of the brilliant weather we have benefitted from, here in the UK over the last week: no doubt I’ve touched upon this before, but what a refreshing difference effect warm sunny weather has on the British disposition – everyone just appears so much easier to deal with. I cannot spend the rest of my years languishing in our changeable climate as we experience in this country. However, of course, it’s a huge undertaking to “up sticks” and relocate to pastures foreign. Even then, how can one be absolutely sure that one has chosen the most appropriate location? This, folks, requires careful thought and careful thought, in turn, requires quality time. When, in the near future, is that likely to happen?!!

Sunday 24 May, 2009

And where might I be this fine day, you ask? None other than the international metropolis of Port Talbot, I would have to tell you: however, the sun is out, my daughter Jade is here and Brian’s “fish and chips”, in the centre of town, is today’s dinner choice – almost the perfect evening.

It does, however (I admit) seem a long way away from the Pestana Palace Hotel in Lisbon, where we left off last week and from where – on Monday morning past – we flew into Barcelona, for all of an eleven-hour stopover. Subsequently, at 10.45 pm on Monday evening, we caught the last “shuttle” to Madrid and did not check into the Madrid hotel until after 1.00 am in the morning. I have to tell you folks, that days like that struggle to attract the label “glamorous” – rather it requires unflinching application and dogged stamina to keep you focused on 18-hour days.

To be honest, I would have preferred to make the “whistle-stop” in Madrid and had the evening in Barcelona - as I certainly have a preference for the latter city, especially at night. Still, we’re not out here on a vacation and we have to graciously accept (and adhere to!) the itinerary as presented to us. Guys like me are pretty well paid for what we do (although, if you were to divide our daily rate by our daily hours worked, I doubt you would find us terribly far in front of the hourly rates enjoyed by such skilled tradesmen as carpenters, electricians and plumbers (especially those plumbers on emergency call rates – I definitely can’t match those figures!).

Anyway – as is often my “Achilles heel” – I digress. Back to the road, to find us flying back into London, from Madrid, on the first BA flight of the day, on Thursday morning – to be whisked straight from the airport into central London, so that Paul could record an interview with Simon Bates, a long standing BBC radio disc jockey, who in his younger years, was prime time on Radio 1. Actually, there is a tangible connection between Simon Bates and Paul’s new album, Passione, in that one of the tracks on the new recording is a song called “Un Giorno Per Noi” which – in; it’s instrumental form – was the signature tune associated with a memorable part of Simon Bates original prime-time Radio One show, aptly named “Our Tune”. The subject matter of “Our Tune” generally focused on one of Simon’s regular listener’s misfortune, more often than not linked to the complexities of relationships. Anyone in my age group will immediately recall the melody.

We stayed over in London on Thursday evening, as Paul was committed to certain “international” interviews at Sony Music’s London headquarters, the next morning. However, with Paul efficiently breezing through the schedule of interviews, we managed to finish up by 1.00 pm – subsequently we were able to clear London prior to Friday’s mid afternoon traffic build-up, heading due West.

Once again, I was faced with a familiar dilemma of trying to escape back to Scotland for a couple of days (when at least a third of that time would be swallowed up by the road travel) or just to “hole up” at the Mountainview guest house in Port Talbot, over the weekend – with the added bonus of Jade being able to fly in for a couple of days and keep her old Dad company - as we did a few weeks back. The latter arrangement easily won the day, meaning I had to rise fairly early yesterday morning to go collect Jade from Cardiff airport. However as this Sunday evening comes to a close, I can tell you that I have enjoyed a most heartening two days in Jade’s company – from which I have found a “second wind” to set me up for next week’s exhaustive radio tour. BFN

Sunday 17 May, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen: I deceive you not. Firstly, I am beginning my diary entry on the actual Sunday to which it pertains (that, in itself, is a fairly rare occurrence – as I’m sure you’ve suspected on just the odd occasion in the past!). Secondly, I’m actually writing this first paragraph at 5.30 am on the same morning – as we wait to board a 6.00 am Lisbon bound flight, from Hamburg Airport. I will continue with this entry, towards the end of the day.

OK, I’m back …. and we’re now safely ensconced in the Pestana Palace Hotel, in Lisbon. You have to check out this place on the Internet – a beautiful, tranquil, hotel that probably boasts more staff than guests: there must be a whole team of gardeners, just to keep the hotel grounds in order.

Today, Paul made an appearance at the “Golden Globes” Gala, which went out live earlier this evening. However, what of the week past, since we left off in Oberhausen in Germany last Sunday? Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s not terribly far from Oberhausen to Hamburg and – of course – you are quite correct. Unfortunately, we took a rather “roundabout” way to get there, namely via Copenhagen and London. Allow me to expand upon this, oh avid readers.

On Monday evening, after the “Flash Mobile” performance in Oberhausen, we caught the last SAS flight to Copenhagen, in readiness for two subsequent days of Danish promotion, the first of which – on Tuesday morning – was situated in a TV station above the train station! Hard to believe? Well, if you are ever in Copenhagen’s main railway station, and are heading out of the front entrance, just look up as you are passing the last shop in the middle of the concourse – and you will see what I mean. We actually made a second appearance – for an evening arts and entertainment programme – at the same TV station, this time with a completely different look!

The prime focus of Wednesday in Copenhagen - having completed several radio and print-press interviews between 07.00 am and 2.00 pm - was to appear at the very-extensive “City2” shopping mall, on the outskirts of town, where the mall’s management staff made us very welcome. Unlike many of the more modern “retail metropolises”, the “City2” outlet boasts a large open are in the centre of the mall, with a small stage conveniently located in the corner: ideal for the purposes of events, such as the four-song showcase that Paul performed (followed by a signing session).

We departed the shopping centre directly for the airport and caught the mid evening British Airways flight into London, in preparation for two days of London-based UK promotion (another one of those instances where I’m within a one-hour flight of my home town but can’t make it back).

On Friday night we then flew back out to Europe, this time bound for Hamburg for last night’s performance on the “Grand Prix” programme, broadcast just before the Eurovision Song Contest. Paul Potts caught on camera on the “Reeperbahn”?! However, that’s where the event was staged!

That brings me here to Portugal, after this morning’s 6.00 am flight. So, finally, I’m caught up with my diary entries from the last three weeks (had you noticed how far I had slipped behind – this being fairly indicative of our punishing schedule over the last month. It’s still “full on” for the next week, however rumour has it there may be a day off on the horizon! Oooh La La! Until then …

Sunday 10 May, 2009

As I may have said – on more than one occasion, knowing me – what a difference a week can make.

Now, where was I this time last week? (don’t laugh now - sometimes, one has to take a minute to concentrate on this, as the hazy recollections of one week can quite easily become entangled with those of the previous week). Ah yes, we left you last week as I was enjoying a rare “day off” in New York, where absolutely no travel was involved – other than me nipping down to the 24 hour delicatessen (two doors down from our favoured New York hotel) for some chicken wings.

Well today, Sunday 10th, I am sitting here in the Mercure Hotel on the outskirts of Oberhausen where tomorrow Paul will feature in a “Flash Mobile: event, at Germany’s largest retail shopping centre complex: however, more about that next week. How did we get here from New York?

Having encountered the relatively disturbing situation whereby I had set about reserving last Sunday’s day off for a major purge on my road accounts, I awoke Monday morning with the grim realisation that I had hardly made any inroads into said accounts, as a result of apportioning various parts of my day to future touring arrangements/laundry/ local transportation etc.!

Anyway, the promotion machine kicked straight into gear first thing Monday morning, with an early morning performance on NBC’s “The View”, where one of the team of five female presenters is none other than the legendary Barbara Walters, who unfortunately was not one of the three presenters “on duty” on Monday morning’s edition. I’m sorry Barbara, but I could not resist the temptation to “Google” you, as I’m more curious about your age: I’m going to take a guess at 73 before I actually switch, now, to my internet browser – and I will stand by my “guesstimate”! So, hang on. She’s actually 79!! Barbara, do you love me? The older woman fantasy (for me) lives on!

Please accept my apologies for wandering a little of the track back there – but I blame a woman for it! So, back to New York. The mainstay of Tuesday’s Big Apple promotional activities was an appearance on the “Today Show”, followed by a Wednesday morning guest spot on Channel Eleven, where the most notable “faux pa” of the week (or maybe I should say, promotional campaign!) was committed by the show’s host when – with mother’s day imminent – she asked Paul if it was a particularly difficult time for him, as his mother passed away last year! All very well meant – except that Paul’s mum is very much alive!! You can only imagine how embarrassed the host was!

Later that day we boarded the evening British Airways flight overnight to London and onwards, at 10.40 on Thursday morning to Frankfurt. There followed a two-hour car journey to a small town in Germany’s Thuringen region, called Gotha: our base for Paul’s appearance on the prestigious “Carmen Nebel” show, a live entertainment extravaganza, watched by almost five million viewers. The actual performance was last night, after which we drove directly to Mainz, to enable us to be ready to make an appearance on today’s live, outdoor, TV show “Fernsehengarten”. We left there at midday today and arrived here in Oberhausen just before three o’clock.

We are indeed in the “middle of nowhere” on the outskirts of Oberhausen, however at least we are only six or seven minutes drive from the location of tomorrow’s event. See you next week!

Sunday 3 May, 2009

Hello New York! (for the second time this month). We arrived here yesterday, almost exactly one week after flying north to Montreal, last Sunday. Let the madness begin tomorrow, once again.

Therefore, today, we enjoyed a rare event: a “real day off” – a day involving no travel. Of course, for me, days such as today present an opportunity to catch my breath and undertake such mundane tasks as collating my receipts, cleaning out my briefcase and backing up my computer hard-drive. Now, how glamorous does that sound on a day off in a great city such as New York?!

However, it’s as well we are able to benefit from some brief respite – as the last week of promotional activity in Canada has been “full on”. Following a day (Monday) of visiting the city’s premier radio stations – plus a couple of TV interviews out on the patio at Montreal’s Sofitel – it was time to make the two-hour drive to Ottawa, where we arrived in the late afternoon - with the sun still shining (as it had done all day in Montreal). Another day when I am grateful for what I do.

I have to say that Ottawa is possibly my favourite Canadian city, with the exception of Vancouver: again there is a direct relationship between how one may warm to a certain city and how much time is/was available to look around the place. Odd, in the case of Ottawa, really: the way many of the bars and restaurants are designed – with large sliding “window panels” that (when fully opened) give the availability of “al fresco” dining – reminded me of the “6th Street” area of Austin.

Having no promotional commitments on Tuesday night allowed us to wander down Elgin street in search of “Al’s Steak House” a recommendation from the concierge at the Indigo Hotel in Ottawa – and an excellent recommendation it turned out to be: obviously family owned (I have a fairly good idea who “Al” was – evidenced by the gentleman’s presence and his attention to detail).

The following day (Wednesday) we took advantage of the main “drive time” radio shows, followed by a lunchtime TV interview – for broadcast that evening – after which it was on to Chapters Book Store in Ottawa, for a three-song live performance and a subsequent “CD signing” session. Then, as we had checked out of the Indigo Hotel earlier that day, we bade goodbye to all those good people at Chapters and made our way to the airport to catch an early evening flight to Toronto.

Although we faced a very comprehensive two-day promo schedule, for Thursday and Friday while in Toronto (incorporating a very successful live appearance and CD signing at Toronto’s premier retail complex, “First Canadian Place”), the best thing that happened to me while in Toronto, was having the opportunity to meet up with my younger sister (Lynne) who has lived in Canada now for at least fifteen years, most of that time in the Hamilton area, forty minutes south of Toronto.

Now that I think about, I need to look to (maybe!) slow the pace a little, once Paul’s world touring commitments are complete around early March, next year, I think). It would be good to spend some quality time together with the key people in my life - with my children and Lynne uppermost in my thoughts – even maybe invite her over to Scotland. I’ve not seen my other sister (Jane) for countless years now – and that situation definitely needs to be put right, sooner rather than later: if only because “later” becomes “less than later” with every passing day. Pretty deep, huh? BFN.


Sunday 26 April, 2009

Bonjour, Mon Ami, from Montreal – and if my grasp of French is not quite grammatically correct, then please keep in mind that I took German at school.

The last week goes something like this: having arrived in Sydney on Sunday evening, from Auckland, we were at least able to rest up for a few hours, before the promotional merry-go-round started all over again on Monday morning. Of course, we have to take advantage of the popular daily “drive-time” radio shows, in the areas where we are temporarily “based” – the down side being that we are up at the “crack of dawn” most mornings. Ah, such is the price of fame ……

On Tuesday, we spent the majority of the day at ABC studios in Sydney, being hooked up to various provincial radio stations, to be able to service the cities that – due to severe time constraints – it proved physically impossible to visit this time round: namely Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Naturally, Paul would have preferred to visit those cities personally: maybe next time!

Wednesday was a big day – promotion wise – in Sydney again, with two live television appearances: the first of those being the popular morning show “Sunrise” on one of the national channels, where Paul performed the tracks “La Prima Volta” (“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”) and “Senza Luce” (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”). When “Sunrise” finishes at 09.00 a.m., the programme “Today” takes over for the next two hours and – because the co-host of the show is on vacation this week – Paul was involved in the co-hosting of the show, throughout. Interestingly enough, Ronan Keating – who is also in the throes of promoting a new album – co-hosted the same show on Monday, two days prior to Paul (in fact, it looks like we will appear on two European TV shows with Ronan, during the month of May. I haven’t seen Ronan since my Westlife days, so I’m looking forward to it!).

As soon as the “Today” show finished, we were on our way out to the airport to fly back up to Melbourne for Paul’s live appearance on the final of “Australia’s Got Talent”. In the final analysis, the choice of a winner came down to two young guys, Mark Vincent and Jal Joshua, with Mark finally taking the AUS $250,000 prize.

It was great to take part in Wednesday night’s final, however – of course – it necessitated us climbing back on another plane, early on Thursday morning, down to Melbourne, to connect with the 1.55 pm Qantas flight to San Francisco. Upon arriving in San Francisco, we were obliged to change flights (and terminals) to enable us to board an American Airlines flight to New York? Still with me here? So, get this: as a result of flying East from Sydney – and therefore crossing the “international dateline” – we arrived into New York at 10.10 pm on Thursday evening, having only left Sydney at 1.55 pm in the afternoon on the same day (however we had been travelling – including the connection in San Francisco – for a total of twenty-three hours: work that out!).

A QVC “shopping channel” appearance was the first order of the day, on Friday morning in Philadelphia, following which we returned to New York to record to showcase some live tracks for AOL. Subsequent to yesterday’s rather early appearance on CBS’s morning show (5.15 am departure from the hotel!) we headed out to JFK airport in the late afternoon to catch the flight up here to Montreal. If you happen across my backside, can you send it on to me?! Until next week.

Sunday 19 April, 2009

Good evening from Australia: Sydney to be precise, having flown in from Melbourne earlier today.

This last seven days have been pretty full-on, promotion wise: you will recall that I only landed in Wellington this time last week, so here goes with a rundown of the those last seven days activity.

While Monday was crammed with ten hours of back to back radio station appearances (the first breakfast show interview at 0730 am!) and print interviews, the focus of Tuesday revolved around Paul’s guest appearance on the semi-final of New Zealand’s “Dancing with the Stars”, with a prime time audience of around 1.3 million: not bad, considering the country has a population of 4 million!

First thing Wednesday morning saw us catch a flight up to Auckland, where Paul hosted a “High Tea with Radio Winners” event, in the lounge of the Langham Hotel, following which there were two print interviews to undertake, again in the hotel. In the evening Paul performed a five-song “showcase”, for an audience of around two hundred and fifty: mainly radio station competition winners, with a sprinkling of local area retailers – and certain key media personnel. The new songs were very enthusiastically received and the performance itself was followed by an autograph session in the adjoining hall. Afterwards, the record company treated us to dinner at a rather “laid-back” restaurant down near the wharf, where the head of Sony’s New Zealand operation, Michael Bradshaw, joined us. It was a chance to thank him personally for his company’s efforts – particularly those of Scott Morrison - in respect of the amount of work they had committed to the launch and marketing of Paul’s second album, namely “Passione”.

Following five radio station appearances on Thursday morning, in Auckland, we caught an early afternoon flight to Melbourne, safe in the knowledge that Paul’s exhaustive three-day promotional campaign in New Zealand – spearheaded by Tuesday night’s “Dancing with the Stars” appearance – will surely propel the new album right into the upper reaches of the national charts.

Landing in Melbourne, we were greeted by the ebullient Bronwyn Tasker, Sony Australia’s National Publicity Manager, along with Sony’s “local” Promotions Manager for the state of Victoria, Nadia Mezzina. I’ve worked with both “Bron” and Nadia before, when we stopped off in Melbourne last year, en-route to the first Australian show in Brisbane: I’m well impressed with both of them.

Yesterday and Friday was jam-packed with Melbourne-based promotional activities, whereas the focus of today centered around a live appearance at Melbourne’s Eastland Shopping Centre, where Paul performed three songs - to a very receptive retail audience. After the performance itself, he took a seat at a trestle table in front of the stage and signed every single person’s copy of “Passione”, most of which had been bought from the centre’s very supportive record store, “JBs”.

Finally, this week, a special mention to my old (but not age wise!) friend Sue – who made long awaited contact yesterday, via my website. Sue is renowned for her home made soup and - like myself – she’s a great observer of life. As Shirley MacLaine once said in the film “Being There”: “I just like to watch”. Ah Sue, your time will definitely come: like a few select other close friends, I really need to try and make the time to see you more often. It’s uppermost in my thoughts. BFN.

Sunday 12 April, 2009

From one side of the world to another – in the space of seven days – to find myself this evening in Wellington, New Zealand: I say seven days, however we only left the UK on Friday evening past, at 10.15 pm from Heathrow, and made our way via Bangkok (we just got in and out of there in time!) for a refueling stop and then onwards to Sydney for a plane change – and, finally, to Wellington.

Now, I did (sort of) promise last week that I would reveal the reason behind our impromptu visit to Chicago earlier this week, however I’m afraid I need to keep that under my hat for a little longer yet: no doubt some of you may put “two and two together” and come up with a couple of plausible suggestions: I can’t stop you doing that, but I also can’t give you any clues! Apologies!

Anyway, there’s no problem to speak about the visit to “The Windy City” in general terms however, and I would have to admit to the brief trip (in on Monday, back on Wednesday night to arrive Heathrow Thursday morning) reminded me of the good few days I spent there, back in 2005 – in the company of the mystery blonde – while Franz Ferdinand took a week out of their then-touring schedule to record some new tracks, at a studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This week, conversely, spare time was at an absolute premium, therefore no opportunity arose to allow me to wander about a bit and revisit some of my old haunts: especially some of the better blues bars.

I’m pleased to report that – in contrast to some of my previous visits to Chicago (and, boy, when it gets cold there, it gets cold!) the weather was extremely pleasant, the sun was out – and no wind. We somehow found time to ride the elevator in the Hancock Tower all the way to the 94th floor and enjoy a grand view of the Chicago city skyline - and the great Lake Michigan beyond.

Arriving back into Heathrow on Thursday morning at 07.05 am, I collected my hire car from the long-term car park, close to Terminal Five, and we made our way back to South Wales, in the company of Sony’s Marketing Manager, Mr. Paul Kindred, who met us when the flight arrived. We reached Port Talbot just before 10.30 am, at which point Paul (Potts) was immediately pitched into a grooming session, in preparation for recording a “Paul in his home town” piece for a major German TV station. The documentary – of which the hometown filming formed a substantial portion – is due to be aired around album release time: 8th May, I’m led to believe.

The earlier part of Friday was given over to another documentary crew – this time UK-based – who filmed at various locations around Port Talbot, mainly with Paul and Julie Ann in attendance: not sure of the final air date of this particular project, but I do know that the film crew captured some excellent footage, so I look forward to viewing the finished programme. I’ll keep you posted.

So here we are, finally landed in one of my favourite countries, New Zealand: just such a pity it takes a day’s flying to reach here. Tomorrow we embark upon an intense promotional schedule, spread over the next twelve days, between here and Australia: therefore not much chance to get out and about. Still, at least I’m anticipating seeing a fair amount of the city, as we “taxi-hop” from one radio station to another. Additionally, the time draws nearer when I will have a chance to see my son, next week in Sydney: sure, we’ll be running around crazy, but I remain hopeful of some quality time with him, later on Monday and Tuesday evening. See you next week, in Oz! BFN.

Sunday 5 April, 2009

Well, I must admit to having spent a most enjoyable time, over the last two days, with my daughter Jade who – because I was unable to fly back to Edinburgh this weekend – flew into Cardiff airport yesterday morning (Saturday) to join me, here in Port Talbot. More of that later.

The most surprising thing that happened to me today was receiving a call early this morning, from Vibica in Paul’s London management office, to inform me that next week’s planned trip to Finland (Weds/Thurs), and the proposed “local” Port Talbot promotional days, have all been shelved in favour of a last-minute trip to Chicago tomorrow, Monday 6th April. However, good readers, you will have to remain poised on your seats until next week to find out the reason for this!!

So, what of the past week? Well, if you caught last week’s diary entry you will recall that we landed up in Austria, in preparation for two days (Monday and Tuesday) of intense promotional activity, thankfully mainly based at our favourite Vienna hotel, “Das Trieste”: the scene of last year’s raucous end-of-tour party. The above is not strictly true, as – on the second day in question – we spent the afternoon out and about in the city, thankfully benefitting from some fine weather, while being trailed by several Viennese TV and video crews. Said pleasant weather was in marked contrast to a very rainy last Sunday, a week ago today (and on a on a “day off” as well!).

As a result of Wednesday being “promo free” in our next port of call of Switzerland, we grabbed the opportunity to make the journey from Vienna to Zurich by train. Regular readers of the diary may recall that we made the same journey by train, in the opposite direction, in the middle of last year, on a similar promo run: however, on that occasion, the weather was somewhat inclement, thereby preventing us from fully enjoying the breathtaking scenery. This time we witnessed it all.

Thursday was another “full on” promotional day in Zurich, after which we caught the last Swiss International flight into London, in preparation for a day of UK press on Friday - before whisking ourselves down the road to Port Talbot, just beating the heavy westward-heading Friday traffic.

I had originally hoped to book Jade down to Cardiff, from Glasgow, on Friday evening – the master plan being to collect her at the airport, on “the way past” to Port Talbot: alas the Friday night flight proved to be prohibitively expensive, therefore we plumped for yesterday morning’s early flight down from Glasgow – subsequently “pushing” Jade’s originally planned Sunday evening return to a revised Monday morning slot. This gave me time to collect Jade at Cardiff yesterday morning.

One of the (many) advantages of having Jade spend a couple of days down in Port Talbot with me, was for her to have a chance to meet the two large dogs that “live” at “Mountainview” – the guest house that I always stay at, when I’m down in Port Talbot, working with Paul. The two dogs, one an Alsatian and the other a Chow/Husky cross-breed (I may not have the latter quite correct) are as friendly as any large dogs you will find. Jade is intent on having a dog of her own one day – not something that is very practical for the time being, with Jade currently in the middle of a four-year university course – so opportunities like those are the closest we’re gonna get for a while! So, it’s off to Chicago tomorrow morning – as mentioned earlier, where we will spend less than seventy-two hours: hopefully the mystery of this whirlwind trip can be revealed next week! BFN.


Sunday 29 March, 2009

What a difference a week makes: in the past seven days we’ve visited Kiev, Munich, Karlsruhe and now – since yesterday – we are here in Vienna once again. However, it’s raining like hell.

Our video shooting in Kiev went particularly smoothly, hi-lited by the fact that we managed to finish before midnight. I’m gonna let you in on a secret here folks: it’s rare to find oneself heading back to the hotel before midnight on a “one-day” video shoot: it’s not the first time I’ve seen the light of the next day creeping over the horizon before the first assistant director calls “That’s a wrap!”. George Michael’s “Father Figure” video comes poignantly to mind, in this respect (when I arrived back at The Mondrian hotel in Hollywood that “morning after”, breakfast had already been started two hours!).

However, when you catch sight of the results of everyone’s Herculean efforts (not the least, Paul’s) throughout Monday’s – reasonably - long day, then I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a job well done.

My impressions of Kiev? Well, at the risk of allowing my red blood to simmer to the surface, I can certainly see why many a lonesome male is drawn towards the city in search of the perfect (looking, anyway) wife: many of the women are absolutely stunning.

In fact, I was to be given notice off this on the outward BA flight to Kiev, when I found myself sat next to a charming lady – of Ukrainian descent – and her young son, who were on their way back “home” to visit the young boy’s grandparents. Now, I have to tell you, the description of “charming” is probably more apt where the mother was concerned, in comparison to young Anthony who – although behaving himself noticeably well throughout the three hour flight – unfortunately blotted his copybook somewhat when he proceeded to “chuck-up” every morsel of food and drink he had consumed in said three hours, just as we were on “finals”, coming in to land.

Of the many things I recall from the joys of “young parenthood”, the tell-tale sings of one of your offspring about to proffer a culinary cascade upon your newly dry-cleaned suit (a couple of serious belch-cum-gulps is a sure sign to speedily face the darling in the other direction) ranks towards the top end of those memories. Gratifyingly, poor young Anthony – try as he might – missed me!

Back to the road: on Tuesday we flew from Kiev to Munich to commence two days of “long-lead” promotion, followed by (on Friday) Paul being presented with the Classical Music award at the Radio Regenbogen awards in Karlsruhe. It was a rather enjoyable evening – particularly enhanced by the sight of Annie Lennox performing four songs absolutely live (which is more than can be said of The Pet Shop Boys, I’m afraid, folks, who were on the same bill on Friday evening), accompanied only by herself on the piano. Aye – Scots girls are doing it for themselves! Annie – you’re adorable!

As Paul was one of the few show guests to make a brief appearance at the after-show party, the media besieged him as soon as he walked through the door. Our flight yesterday (from Stuttgart, one hour’s drive from Karlsruhe!) to Vienna, actually took off at 0815, yesterday morning, therefore suffice to say we were both almost asleep before the flight left the ground. Two days of press and promotion await Paul tomorrow. However, today, Vienna is ours! Until next week. BFN.

Sunday 22 March, 2009

“Round, round, get round – I get around” - which is a line from an old Beach Boys song – is a fair description of this hectic lifestyle that I continue to lead: where am I this week, you’re wondering? Well, I shall hold you in suspense no longer readers – greetings from the Ukraine.

Kiev to be exact – where Paul has a video project to undertake tomorrow at ………….. originally we were meant to arrive here yesterday, however Paul managed to squeeze his four days in London down to three days: which meant we could fly out yesterday morning instead of this morning.

However, in the spirit of this being a weekly diary, let’s roll the calendar back to Monday past – and then work our way progressively forward to today in Kiev.

You may recall me finishing off last week’s diary by forecasting that It could be a while before I was back in Scotland, as the promotional campaign is about to start with a vengeance, next week. Sure there are a few gaps (of three to five days) in the schedule here and there, but essentially it could be early August before I am able to set foot back in “Auld Reekie” (as Edinburgh is fondly known to the locals – check out the origin of that name on the internet) - hence the reason for me spending the whole of Monday preparing for a domestic exodus of almost four months. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have the “house sitter” now in place.

I baled out of Edinburgh about four o’clock on Monday afternoon, with the same rental car I had brought up from London three days previously (no real advantage to handing the rental car back into the airport location and then “re-renting” two days later: by the time I would have paid the taxi fares down to the airport and back, it would be equivalent to the two days rental).

I reached the Mountainview Guest House in Port Talbot just after eleven on Monday evening and flopped gratefully onto the bed, in the normal room that the girls give me when I’m there. I was due at Paul’s house at 10.00 am on Tuesday morning, as his record-company meetings were due to start at 2.00 pm, at Sony Music’s relatively “new” premises in South Kensington. Julie An actually travelled up with us to London this time, as she was due to take part in Paul’s photo shoot, the following day: said photo session produced some great shots and on Thursday morning (after I had first dropped Paul back at the record company for a whole bunch of foreign “phoners”, I took Julie Ann over to Paddington station to catch the train home.

The following day (Friday) Paul spent some time with the charming Ms. Yvie Burnett (vocal coach to the stars and frequent visitor to London’s fine shoe shops) in a small comfortable studio in Putney, after which Paul and I headed out to Heathrow to check in to the Sofitel. We were on a fairly early BA flight yesterday morning (08.15 am) however, even with a three and a half hour flight time, it allowed us to see a little of the city Last night. Not sure about Kiev.

Today – on this side of the world anyway – is Mother’s Day and I’ve allowed myself a little quiet reflection today, on the passing of my mother a few years back. I regret it happened so quickly then, however I’m eternally grateful that I was there at the end for her. In her later years I spent so much time away from my parents. I will have to slow down at some point soon. BFN.

Sunday 15 -March, 2009

It’s currently 1.50 am on the morning – technically - of Monday 16th March, so – compared with several of my past transgressions – being only a couple of hours behind in penning one of my weekly entries, has got to viewed as progress: in my continual struggle to stay on top of things, I figure that if I can complete my diary entry on the Sunday that it pertains to – then I’m (reasonably) on the road to a decent level of organisation. So, folks, tonight – I’m close!

I’m actually at home here, up in Scotland - having arrived here very early yesterday (Saturday) morning, following an overnight drive from Port Talbot, where I had dropped Paul at home, before setting out for Scotland. Plenty to keep me busy here in the next couple of days.

The reason for being so late to finish up tonight is that I’m off back down to Wales tomorrow (Monday) to collect Paul and head into London for several business meetings that he has. As the promotional schedule is starting to pick up pace globally, it may be several weeks before I am back, therefore I’ve just been making sure that I have everything I need with me, should we have to start touring before I’m able to return to Scotland.

This past week was spent mainly in Budapest, where Paul attended the Sony worldwide management and marketing conference, staged over four days between Tuesday 10th and Friday 13th of this month. In additional to undertaking a substantial amount of promotion – both in and out of the hotel – on Wednesday past, Paul personally attended the marketing department’s Thursday evening dinner, which ended up being a rather unique event – and I’ll tell you why …

The record company came up with the somewhat novel idea of preceding the dinner with a brief wine-tasting session, featuring selected Hungarian wines: the idea being that Paul matched the characteristics of certain of those wines to the characteristics of certain of the tracks on the new album. I have to say that the whole concept worked out very well and I’m convinced that all of the marketing executives that were in attendance last Thursday will return to their respective countries with a lasting impression of a very special evening.

For my own part, I have come away from Budapest with a far greater understanding of the city’s history than I was ever able to glean from my three previous “flying” visits. If you have the opportunity to visit this enchanting city – split right through the middle by one of the world’s longest rivers, the Danube, then I would highly recommend spending a few days there, during which time a trip on one of the many riverboat cruises (look out especially for the “Legenda” trips that depart from in front of the Marriott hotel) is a must.

So, having flown back on Friday afternoon on Hungary’s “Malev” airlines to Gatwick, we picked up a hire car and motored down to South Wales, after which I headed directly home here to Scotland: it looks like we may be away for quite a while as of tomorrow, Monday, therefore I was pleased that one of Jade’s friends – who hails from Hawick in the Scottish borders, but who attends Stevenson College in Edinburgh full time, has agreed to “house-sit” my property over the next few months – until her summer break: this will also allow me to have certain maintenance jobs carried out in the property, in my absence. See you next week, in Europe. BFN

Sunday 8 March, 2009

Back on the road again!

Today (yes, the actual Sunday that this entry is meant to be penned!) finds me mid-air, as do many Sundays when I’m travelling with the Paul Potts extravaganza: on this particular occasion, en-route from Frankfurt to Budapest, aboard Lufthansa’s finest (an A319-100, actually, for you technical types). “Extravaganza” might be pushing it a bit: it’s just me and him (just he and I?).

Last night Paul completed a business engagement in the German city of Kassel, ninety minutes drive from Frankfurt. We arrived in Kassel, late Friday night, to a frighteningly deserted “La Strada” hotel which – it turns out – is normally completely overrun with conference business during the week: however, at the weekend becomes something of a “ghost town” establishment. Well, looking on the bright side – no queues for breakfast! In fact, when returning from the early afternoon sound-check at the Stadthalle – and deciding to have a spot of late lunch (very much a British expression, that) in the restaurant, we spied no other living human beings – save our very somber waiter (what’s he got to be somber about? – the easiest shift on the planet).

The event went exceedingly well, the audience were very appreciative of Paul’s performance – and we were back in the almost-as-equally-deserted-as-the-breakfast-room lobby bar of the hotel by 9.00 pm. It’s rare that we finish evening shows at such an early hour. Ah, I thought to my good self, back up to the hotel room and see what movies might be on offer. Alas, only one English speaking channel – that being CNN news – and no movies channel whatsoever: downer!

I actually left Scotland late Thursday afternoon, as the weather “north of the border” was starting to close in – and I didn’t want to risk treacherous road conditions, if I had opted to leave early on Friday morning (which would have been the case, as Paul had to attend a business meeting in London on Friday afternoon, prior to us catching the Frankfurt flight). This is not the best time of year to be setting off on a 350+ mile car journey, at 4.30 am in the morning.

Now – see if you can follow this: although – truthfully now – I did start to pen this entry on Sunday 8th March, I’ve only returned to complete it (from this paragraph onwards) today, Friday 13th March. As I’m again attempting to complete it at 40,000 feet, on a flight back from Budapest to London’s Gatwick airport (but more of that in this week’s entry – still following me?!), you can deduce that I am not prone to superstitious traits: actually, this is the second time this year, so far, that I’ve flown on a “Friday 13th” - the last time in February, to Prague.

Next week, I will probably wax fairly lyrical on the merits of Budapest, as on the past two occasions visiting the city, for one-off stadium shows, I was in and out of the city within 36 hours. At the moment, we’re due to be in Budapest for the next four/five days which – when you work (or should I say walk!) with Paul Potts, there’s a fair chance of you becoming a recognised authority on the city! However, as the year moves on, it surely follows that the weather will progressively improve and that our “strolls” will become even more pleasant. Well, good and patient readers: the seat belt sign is on; the descent has started – and the bright lights of Budapest beckon. There is NO business like show business – no business I know! BFN.

Sunday 1 March, 2009

Greetings to one and all from my little desk, here at home in Edinburgh.

You know, I would possibly be deceiving you all if I did not admit that, once in a while (but, thankfully, only once in a while) I could quite happily skip my weekly diary entry: it’s just that some weeks I suspect that I don’t really have that much to say that is of any great interest, to my legions[?] of readers: come on now, you must have noticed the odd week – particularly those where I have spent a full week at home – when I’ve been guilty of “stretching out” the narrative (and, yes, this week may just fall into that category!). Is honesty always the best policy?

Tonight I returned from having dinner with my old friend Gavin Kennedy and his most hospitable wife, Patricia, here in Edinburgh – not far from where I live. As always, Gavin has proved invaluable as a trusted confidante, when I need to bounce some of my ideas and – in the particular case of this evening – my future plans, off someone.

Of late – as part of my intention to depart these shores within the next few years for sunnier climes – I have started to consider the possibilities to re-locate to France, when the time comes to move on (probably heralded by Jade completing her University course in the summer of 2011). Sure, as I must have mentioned on a least a couple of occasions, during the course of past entries, I found New Zealand to be spiritually enchanting – but, damn, it’s so far away!

Gavin has spent much time in France - on many an occasion choosing to base himself out there when he is working on a new book (he has written many books on the subject of professional negotiation – one of which I actually received a mention in!) therefore he has much valuable advice to offer on the “pros and cons” of considering a permanent move there. If I’m honest with myself, I know that this past dark and cold Scottish winter has not done much to alleviate my spirits: keep in mind that this time last year we were already touring in the States, having just completed a five-week UK tour – so I was kept extremely busy and didn’t have time to ponder the effect of the relative inactivity, to which I am currently subjected.

However, staying in a positive frame of mind, I will certainly be putting a lot of thought, this coming year, as to how to deal with next year’s winter period. I know I’ve now outgrown my affection for my current property (although in terms of it’s relative size, it’s probably more a case of it having outgrown me!). I moved in here too hastily, back in the autumn of 2005, the main reason to be close to Jade’s school, so that I could maximise the time I could spend around her. The property itself is solid enough, having been constructed as recently as 1988 –it’s just that it was not too well looked after – cosmetically – by it’s previous owner: therefore there’s a fair amount of “handyman type” maintenance requiring to be fulfilled before I can consider putting it on the market. Thankfully, a lot of the work I can do myself (but, when?!).

Come the end of this month of March, the serious business of Paul promoting his new album worldwide begins: I’m very much looking forward to that. Like I’ve said before, I’m not sure where I’m more at home, nowadays: here in Edinburgh – or out on the road where such incidences as broken washing machines and creaking central heating just don’t come into it! BFN


Sunday 22 February, 2009

Yes, yes, I know: I’ve allowed myself to slip a week behind with my “Diary from the Road” entries, again – but here I am to put that right (have you noticed I rarely use the term “blog”? I’ve just been penning these entries now - since long before that fashionable term came into being - that I can’t bring myself to refer to it, as such). Anyway, what of the past week?

Well, as we head back from Berlin today (Sunday 22nd) Paul is in possession of one of the very coveted “Echo” awards, presented to him last night, for winning the “Best Rock Pop Album from an International Artist” in Germany in 2008. Rock and Pop?! We’re still trying to get our heads around that one: so is Kid Rock, one of the Artists that Paul beat off competition from!

The “Echo” awards are essentially Germany’s Grammy’s – so this award is a serious achievement.

Not a bad after-show party either, I would have to say! Now, if you’re a regular reader of these diary entries, you’ll know that this lifestyle of mine is a long way from Lear jets and limousines. However, once in while one does have the opportunity to flirt with the excesses of the celebrity lifestyle – and the “Echos” after-show party was certainly a very lavish affair. Read on …..

Held in a vast, old, two-storeyed red brick building (which, in it’s former guise, may have been the likes of a local brewery or suchlike) the ground floor was adorned with various food and drink counters, serving a wide variety of international cuisine. Whether you fancied Sushi, a Chinese stir-fry, a choice of freshly prepared soups - or just a “Croque Monsieur” toasted sandwich – it was all there for the taking. Add to that a wide variety of desserts to die for - and enough alcohol to sink the Poseidon a third time - and you start to visualize the Hollywood style nature of the after-show party: actually, almost a separate event, in it’s own right.

Then we go upstairs! Another huge open area, with the same footprint as the “food and drink hall” downstairs. All the major record companies each had their own VIP areas (although thankfully not hidden away from the main guest area, therefore avoiding the usual “us and them” scenario) located along each side of the hall: up here music was pumping, supplied both by live DJs and a live band. As Paul and Julie Ann relaxed in the Sony VIP area, they were of course the focus of attention for a whole myriad of paparazzi, who were roaming the vast entertainment area – yet, I have to say, in a very courteous and respectful manner. Now, that makes a change!

Just to backtrack a little, our travel week had begun in Prague (where I left off with you, last week), from where we flew to Munich last Tuesday lunchtime, 17th, for two days of “long lead” press – based in Munich - relating to Paul’s forthcoming album release. On Thursday, we spent most of the day in Hamburg, again undertaking a day’s worth of new-album promotion. That evening we welcomed the opportunity to break with our constant flight schedule – and take a short, 90-minute, train ride from Hamburg to Berlin. On Friday Paul again tackled an exhaustive schedule of new-album promotion, followed on Saturday evening by his appearance on the “Echos”, to sing Nessun Dorma, prior to which he received his special award. So there you have it, gang – another whirlwind week in the life of your favourite, globetrotting, Tour Manager. What will I do with myself, when it’s all over, you ask? You know, I’m not really sure. Bye for now.

Sunday 15 February, 2009

Here I am again, once again in Prague, where at least – today – I’m penning my “Diary from the Road” on the day it’s actually meant to be penned: I’ll finally accept that I’m making progress in this life when I can accomplish this on a regular basis (I do actually believe I’m getting there!).

So, today finds us back in the same studio as a few weeks back, although – having been here already six hours at the time of writing – I have a sneaky feeling this is going to be a “late one”. Still the studio facilities here are comfortable, the restaurant food is all prepared on the premises – and there is a “Wi-fi” system in house: what more could a boy ask for?

As I mentioned in last week’s entry, I had the opportunity to spend a day with Leon Jackson (winner of “X-factor” in 2007) when he visited Scotland on Wednesday past – primarily – to make a guest appearance on Sandi Thom’s show at the Lomond Room in Glasgow’s SECC complex. Sandi Thom was a most hospitable and responsible host – I mean, how often does the headline Artist go to all the trouble, herself, to purchase the food and drink items for the Guest Artist’s dressing room rider? Take it from me folks: that’s not something you’ll come across too many times, in the topsy-turvy world of concert touring.

Wednesday’s fairly-relaxed schedule comprised Leon undertaking a soundcheck with Sandi at 1.00 pm at the facility and then jumping in the people-carrier to pay a visit to his old school; his old place of work – and the first place (“Chicago Rock” in the shopping centre where Lean used to work) that he performed his fairly regular karaoke spot, a few years back. I should mention at this point that we were being “shadowed” throughout the day by a film crew from the STV Digital service - and Leon did not disappoint, with some great footage, the pinnacle of which was probably his karaoke performance of the Michael Bublé song “Home”, in public, in “Chicago Rock”.

Back at the SECC, in the evening, Leon joined Sandi on stage for a duet on the penultimate song of her set, the old Sutherland Brothers song “Sailing” (probably more associated with Rod Stewart) and then returned to the stage for the final encore song, “Caledonia”. At this juncture, I have to make special mention of the Artist who enjoyed a number one hit with “Caledonia” – none other than Scotland’s own Frankie Miller. If you appreciate a good “chanter” fronting a great sounding band, then check out some of Frankie’s back catalogue: you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, Frankie suffered a serious brain hemorrhage while recording in New York in 1994 and – while (thank God) he is still with us – Frankie has not had an easy time of things. When I pause to even try to imagine what Frankie has had to deal with those past fifteen years, I realise that I have no basis whatsoever, upon which to believe that I am sometimes down on my luck.

Back to this week: on Thursday evening, I drove down to Port Talbot, in readiness to collect Paul at Friday lunchtime, en route to take the last flight here to Prague, from London: having to switch our flight, at the last minute, to Czech Airlines (the result of a two-hour holdup on the M4 motorway, at Junction 11, where two articulated trucks managed to collide with several cars – however, thankfully, no serious injuries were involved). Most of next week will be spent in Germany, doing “long lead” press – in addition to Paul making an appearance on “The Echo Awards” in Berlin, where he has been nominated in two separate categories. Fingers crossed for us! BFN.

Sunday 8 February, 2009

Greetings from a rather cold (-7 Celsius) Edinburgh, with said temperature having cancelled several of yesterday’s scheduled Scottish football games. Once again – as every year, when the football calendar becomes decimated at the mercy of the sub-zero weather – the cry can be heard from several of our more established media journalists, for the overdue introduction of summer football. I agree: why should the poor supporters be so exposed to such cold weather?

How ironic a coincidence that the years worst weather tends to visit Scotland in the only month of the season when the opportunity arises for many smaller clubs to look at “trial” players, to assist them through the remainder of the season: the frustration is palpable, believe me.

I have, myself, attended three “bounce” (practice) games this past week - and how chilling an experience every one of those games has been: dedicated as I am to helping progress the careers of several promising young players, I do have to quietly question my intentions when – only twenty or so minutes into the game – I have lost all contact with my feet. One would be hard pushed to define such experiences as enjoyable (“bearable” is the word that springs more readily to mind). All for the cause, eh? There are times when I sometimes question my commitment.

The “transfer window” closed on Monday past, which now means that only free agent or amateur players can sign contracts with most senior clubs - and only in the period between 1st February and 30th June, when the transfer window opens up, once again. In my case, it’s those very type of players that I specialize in trying to place: the idea being to have one of the clubs offer them a short-term contract, with a view to something more long-term being on offer for next season - that’s when we would expect to make a little money for ourselves, for “sourcing” the player.

Thankfully, we’ve reached a juncture in our football business now where – generally – the following “assessment schedule” is adhered to for the young players (the majority of whom are French): travel form Beauvais (Paris’s third airport) to Prestwick in Scotland, on a Sunday; train with a designated club on the Monday and Tuesday – and then be included in a trial game on the Wednesday. Their return tickets are pre-booked for a Thursday return to France and - should the club take a particular interest in holding on to the player for a few days longer - it is then incumbent upon the club to pick up the tab for the player’s “ongoing” accommodation, in addition to any re-scheduled flight cost (both initial elements of cost having been funded by the player).

On the music front it has been a very quiet week. Next week, however, I’m involved – albeit from the middle of the week onwards, only – with two different Artists! Firstly, on Wednesday coming, I’m working with Leon Jackson (2007’s “X Factor” winner) when he appears as a guest of Sandi Thom at her SECC show in Glasgow. Then, on Friday 13th (should there be a roll of sinister drums at this point?) I travel back out to Prague with Paul – accompanied by his wife Julie Ann, so that they can spend Valentine’s Day together – for further recording commitments, in respect of the new album. I’m somewhat chomping at the bit (although I know one should not wish one’s time away – particularly when you are my age!) for the middle of March to roll around, when Paul’s promotional campaign kicks off seriously – with a possible Stateside trip initially planned. However, things are always subject to slight change, so don’t move that dial. Watch this space!

Sunday 1 February, 2009

Today find’s me in something of a morose mood: never quite sure (as, probably any of us are) as to what causes the odd bout of melancholy to descend upon us – but it invariably does.

In this weekend’s case, I would surely be misleading my (dwindling?) readership if I did not admit to finding myself – as I occasionally do – at loggerheads, with my long term plans for my football project. In the past month (of January) I’ve done a fair amount of chasing around with (and after) some young French football players, only to be completely floored by the weather. It’s almost laughable that the one month in the middle of the season, that is designated as the “transfer window” is also the one month in the season when games are more liable to be cancelled, as a direct result of the typically inclement weather, prevalent at this time of year.

I definitely need to re-focus – and I probably need to be back out on the road again, maximizing my earnings in an environment that I still thoroughly enjoy. Deep down, I’m sure I’ve accepted the whimsical nature of the football side of my business. I’m constantly reminded (most often, by myself!) that it “only takes the one great player” for one to hit the jackpot but, where’s that “one great player”?! Sure, there’s a ton of great players out there, however the vast majority of them are tied up with agents already, therefore it probably falls to me to uncover my “great player” by sheer good fortune only: and folks – that’s a long shot indeed. One day, maybe…

I have to believe that slowly I am sensing the crystallization of a “time plan”: that being to maximise my income between now and the year 2011, when my daughter Jade leaves University. Being that she studies “close by” in Glasgow, means that I have the chance to see her fairly regularly, when I’m home. Let’s face it: the main reason I (possibly mistakenly – but more about that, another time) re-located to this house – and back into the outskirts of Edinburgh – was to be closer to Jade’s secondary school, for the last two years of her studies there.

Sure, hindsight is twenty-twenty (as our Stateside cousins would say) but I moved out of a great little house in a decent area outside of town to a larger (almost unmanageable, when you take the gardens into account) more select property, in a fairly sought-after part of town: and, yes, just when I was looking to “up sticks” with a fair chunk of equity, and possibly head off to sunnier climes, in sweeps the now aptly-titled “credit crunch”. Of course, as the daily news reports are at great pains to point out, there are many, many, people in appreciably worse situations - as a result of the currently poor state of the global economy: but, of course, human nature decrees that we rarely focus on anyone else’s problems, rather we (selfishly?) concentrate on our own.

So, what it is – is what it is. Let’s start dealing a little more in reality and a little less in mild fantasy. I will start to flesh out the above “time plan” with a view to coming to a decision on the optimum time to move from where I am: and who knows where that might be? Careful consideration and deliberation is called for, before that little decision is signed-off on. However, what is now of significant note, at this point, is the fact that I’m totally caught up now on my “Diary from the Road” entries! Although, if you can detect any references to “the Road” within this week’s piece, then you’re certainly a better man (or woman) than I am. Went right off at a tangent this week, did I not? And I’m going right off to sleep now. Until next week, y’all…


Sunday 25 January, 2009

Ah, my loyal readers, it would not be fair to mislead you as to the delay in penning this entry: the reasons are many fold (and there’s a good old biblical term for you): but, yes, once again my football project can assume a fair part of the blame. The transfer window is once again open.

Anyway, before I typically drag you all off on some emotional tangent of mine, let’s take a few paragraphs to reflect upon the events of the last week. You will recall that last Sunday found me driving down to Port Talbot, in readiness to collect Paul the following morning and head into London for two days of business-orientated appointments. Said appointments took up most of Monday and Tuesday, before we jumped the last BA flight out to Prague, on Tuesday evening.

Although Paul’s studio commitments out in Prague were not due to commence until Thursday morning proper, he was keen to have the Wednesday free to explore the many historic sites and attractions that the city has to offer. “Fancy a stroll?” came the question from Paul, as he called over to my room, just after breakfast on Wednesday morning, to enquire as to whether I might like to take in some of the city. Well, if that was a stroll – I’d hate to see a hike!!

Our Paul can do a bit of walking – there’s no doubt about that. However, I have to say, I’m certainly glad I tagged along, if only to witness the experience of the St Vitus Cathedral, within the Prague Castle grounds. I find it incomprehensible how the building of such a structure could be envisaged so many hundred years ago, even allowing for the fact that work was temporarily halted several times, over many centuries, while various, bitter, wars ran their course. Amazing.

Prague is indeed a lively and most interesting city - with a diverse and extensive array of shops, restaurants and (as touched upon above) multi-faceted cultural attractions. The only downside to our “touristy” day, wandering the city, was the poor weather conditions. Typically, as luck would have it, as we left the hotel on Thursday morning – studio bound – we witnessed a dramatic improvement in the weather, which would have been much more pleasantly suited to our endeavors of the previous day. Thankfully, us Brits are rarely deterred by poor weather!

Paul had requested that we switch the originally-booked early evening flight back on Friday to the midday alternative (which I was more than happy to do) in order that A) he could maximise his time at home, over the weekend, and B) to ensure that we did not find ourselves being caught up in the Friday afternoon, west-bound, traffic exodus from London – keeping in mind that Paul was headed homeward to South Wales, in the same direction as most of that traffic.

Once I had dropped Paul off at home (in the same rental car that I picked up in Edinburgh last Sunday – and which I had left in the Terminal Five long-stay car park, during our trip to Prague) I headed back north in the direction of Scotland, conveniently stopping off at a small bed and breakfast in Dumfries – where I arrived at around eleven that evening – as one of my newly signed players (Martyn Lancaster to “Queen of the South”) was featuring in his first home game yesterday, Saturday 24th. How about that for precision planning then?! The game ended in a 2-2 draw with the Glasgow club “Partick Thistle” (have we got some cool names for our football teams in Scotland, or what?) after which I was homeward bound to Edinburgh. A good week, indeed!

Sunday 18 January, 2009

A fine good evening to you all from the comfort of my guest room at my favourite Port Talbot “bed and breakfast” establishment, namely “Mountainview”.

I arrived down here a short while ago, via self-drive rental car, as – prior to flying off to Prague on Tuesday evening where Paul will undertake some recording commitments - there is the business of two days spent in London, where Paul has various record co. / management meetings to attend. As my knowledge of London is fairly good, the record company asked me to help out.

This week has been relatively quite on the “road” front: you may recall that I arrived back last Sunday from Zurich, with the intention of using the best part of the week to prepare and formulate my year-end company accounts, for our small company, Showtime International Ltd. Subsequently, I can report to you today that said task is almost complete – thankfully so as, not only are the books due at our company accountants prior to the end of January: this is also the none-too-insignificant matter of my fourth-quarterly “V.A.T.” tax return, due on the same date.

Riveting stuff huh? Several publishing houses are currently jostling to secure the rights to these earth-shattering revelations (not). I dream, one day, of having my own book-keeper as I also dream of motoring over to her office in my Aston Martin: that may be a ways off (for both) at the moment. I would need to secure the Tour Management on Elvis’s next tour (with Elvis, himself included) to be able to approach anywhere near the realisation of such fanciful notions. Still, although there’s a strong argument for keeping such powerful emotions in check, I would have to admit that it’s the dreaming that has both kept me alive – and yet, nearly killed me.

Of course – from the point of view of my (increasingly limited) football involvement, I have unavoidably being doing more than a little running around this week, mainly in the role of glorified taxi driver, ploughing my own personal furrow out of the “Tarmacadam” surface of the M8 motorway, which – for the benefit of my foreign readers – connects Scotland’s two main cities.

I hope I will look back, philosophically, upon the countless hours of “Taxi-ing” football players here, there and everywhere, in pursuit of their (or my?) dreams and expectations, and accept that, even if I did not make my fortune, it was nevertheless an enjoyable experience, overall. If you have read the majority of my diary entries, over the last few years, you will be well aware that I have ridden the whole gamut of emotional experience with this football project of mine.

I actually quite enjoyed my drive down here today to Port Talbot, from Edinburgh – reflecting, as I did so, upon the amount of times I’ve driven south from Edinburgh (mostly London bound) mainly in the “old days” with the Bay City Rollers, leaving Scotland around midday on a Thursday for gigs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, returning back up to Scotland, overnight on the Sunday night. What I would give to be back there now - knowing what I know now! However, I sense the realisation – surely hastened by my advancing years – that I have to deal with where I am now, and not where I would ideally like to be. Therefore, I need to continue in this “reality check” mode from where, hopefully, I can start to see some definite direction emerge, through the swirling mists of uncertainty (might have used that phrase before folks). Until next week…

Sunday 11 January, 2009

Well, we’re back to some sort of “road” normality, having just undertaken an appearance at the Swiss TV Awards in Zurich last night. As we speak, I sit here on my homeward bound, Zurich to Edinburgh, BMI flight (quite surprised to find a direct flight back on a Sunday, actually) gazing out from my window seat and wondering what I want to accomplish during the rest of my life.

It was good to re-acquaint ourselves with the local Swiss Sony/BMG management staff, whom we last saw when we played the final show of the European tour, in Zurich, back on 12th November, last year (in fact, last night’s TV show was staged at the same venue, the Hallenstadion).

Due to the lack of early morning Heathrow bound flights, from Edinburgh on Saturday nowadays, I was left no choice but to fly down to London on Friday evening and take refuge in an airport hotel. Meeting Paul in said hotel lobby at 7.00 am, we trundled over to Terminal 5 and off we flew to Zurich. Strange to find that I’m almost more at ease in hotel rooms than I am at home.

Albeit somewhat faltering, I feel I have made some start to my work year – with my “real” job, that is. Although I await an updated diary, detailing Paul’s promotional and touring activities for this coming year (the two aspects of his career, in which I will directly be involved) I’m generally aware of bits and pieces of work throughout the next couple of months. Now I start to see some structure return to my everyday life once again – and I welcome it. Keeping busy is keeping alive.

Earlier this week, in assisting a couple of football players to move clubs (no mention of specific details here, in order to protect the guilty – although they don’t deserve it!) it just brought home to me what I’m up against as I pursue this (fanciful?) notion of bringing the football business to heel. Do you know that one particular football club has not paid my company on an invoice issued almost nine months ago?! They think that I will not cause any waves over the matter because as an “agent” I wouldn’t want to fall foul of their club. Oh, how wrong they are. Watch this space.

Such a shame: the supposed game of the people is now so increasingly out of reach of the people, initially in a financial and, latterly, in a relationship sense. Most of the hardy souls who follow football in this country, could not comprehend the wanton waste of their hard earned monies. Without the fans the game is nothing and yet what they really know of the machinations of football at the highest levels, on the whole, is probably exactly that: nothing. Such a shame.

I may have mentioned last week that I am composing an advertisement which – at some point in the not-too-distant future – will feature on the front page of the Daily Telegraph sports section and which (if things go according to plan) should “smoke out” some like minded individuals who will hopefully be willing to assist me in initiating some of my football ideas. The establishment of football may be less than enamoured by some of my more poignant observations that will be stated in the said advertisement. Good. That is part of the reason for placing it. Bring them on.

There is definitely, now within me, a growing determination to plot a direction for myself and then to work (literally) towards it. I do not intend to spend too many more Januarys based back here. The cold is only a problem for me when it is married to the dark. The fight goes on. BFN.

Sunday 4 January, 2009

Along with everyone else, I bid goodbye to last year, at one minute past midnight, on Wednesday night past. From a financial point of view, it’s been my most successful year for ages: however I had to spend over three hundred days away from home “last” year, to be able to accomplish that.

All looks good to spend this year working with Paul Potts again, the only slight drawback being that – with Paul currently in the throes of recording his second album (during which time there is no real call for my services – particularly with Paul’s devastatingly attractive vocal coach, Yvie Burnett, on hand) there is not a whole lot of activity on the horizon for the next month. Not totally the end of the world for me, of course, as at least – on the football side – the “transfer window” is open for the month of January. Jake continues the search for that one “gem”.

From the point of view of said transfer window, paradoxically it’s more important for me to sign young players to Premier League clubs (so there is something there for the future for me) than to go scrabbling around the lower leagues looking to make a few pounds, here and there. I’ve often said that I’ve probably only got a few years left in me, on the Tour Management side, therefore I have to look to what I can become involved with, when that time comes, to prevent myself from vegetating. Looks like I’ll make it to my seventh passport though: is that a record?

I know I did make mention last week that I would allow you a little insight as to how I saw the next few years unfolding. While the planning of that time period – in my own mind, at the moment - remains enshrouded in the swirling mists of uncertainty, I do know that when Jade finishes her four year term at Strathclyde University in Glasgow in 2011 (and possibly considers a move abroad to take up her new vocation) then there would be little reason for me to stay in Scotland. So I’m thinking that I just work away steadfastly until that time comes, all the while considering, in the interim, where I could practically relocate to – this time with no impulse involved!

On the good days (thankfully, well in the majority) I see nothing to stop me thundering on for the next few years, at this globe-trotting pace: on the bad days (thankfully, few and far between) I can’t see past the front door: please tell me that I’m not the only one dodging the depression pendulum, every once in a while – and, if you are suitably qualified to do so, feel free to advise me of whether such a (fairly occasional) malaise has any clinical foundation. Thanks doc.

So, basic plan at the moment: two more years going at it “hell for leather” (no idea of the origin of that expression!) during which time I completely clear my remaining football debt of the previous few years; bring my house up to “sale specification”; look to attract additional investment for some of my football ideas/projects and – most importantly – figure out where I go next. Nothing wrong with planning ahead, provided one continually weighs up the outcome of any sudden anticipated changes of direction or location. Part of the drawback of advancing years is the realisation that one has less time to correct one’s major mistakes and way more responsibility towards ensuring a stable financial existence, in one’s later years. This will be a tough economical year for all, but the very wealthiest amongst us: we need to batten down the hatches, tighten the purse strings, lessen our domestic overheads and generally, optimistically, accept that there is an upturn on the way, but not until around this time, next year, I’m afraid.

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