Jingle bells, jingle bells – jingle all the way.
Wouldn’t it be fine if I wrote my Diary entry … on the right bloody day! (poetic license, please).
OK, I’m a wee touch behind – meaning I didn’t quite get to my Xmas entry on Xmas day (no need to feign surprise there) however it may be the one time of year I could be forgiven for doing so – not sure what excuse I could use, then, for all the other “late deliveries” over the past year!
Yes, I do wish it could be Christmas every day: not so much, in my case, for the presents and the time off. More so for me, because of people’s outlook and attitude around this time of year – generally, everyone appears a little more magnanimous (thank God for spell-checking), a little friendlier and a little more relaxed. Regarding the latter, there is surely some irony there – because the last thing most folks are going to be, when their December credit card bill(s) drop onto the mat, early January, is relaxed: because, increasingly so, Xmas is not really about Xmas.
Yesterday (because today is the 26th, right now) I was again momentarily struck – a few times during the day, to be honest – about how far left-field most of us are when it comes to the true spirit of Christmas. We should not be lazing around, overfed and under appreciative, when so many people - residing on the same planet as ourselves – are so severely underprivileged. We should all be allocated someone to visit on Christmas day, someone who wasn’t necessarily expecting to receive a surprise visitor. Let’s face it: we can stuff our faces with turkey any day.
How about this for a new twist on Christmas day? We take the day to go and “make up” with someone we haven’t spoken to for a long time (and, in most cases, for an initially stupid reason – when we truly reflect upon it). This may be a once-good friend, or an estranged family member, or a past boyfriend/girlfriend. Most of us have some form of broken tie in our not-too-distant past, tugging at our decent conscience, which – really – would trouble us less, if it were fixed.
However, I do understand that certain relationships will never be mended (can never be mended) as a result of reasons too complex, too hurtful and too personal for most of us to understand: but there’s exceptions to every rule and every procedure in this world. Do this for me: take a seat for a few minutes, place a temporarily halt on any distractions – then listen to the Mike and the Mechanics song “In The Living Years”. If that doesn’t cause you to shift in your seat slightly uneasily, with the connection to a similar situation in your present life, as the lyrics of that song play out, then pick “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll” by Bob Seger as your next choice.
On the contrary, if a mood of deep reflection seizes hold of you – because you know something has to be said to someone, sooner rather than later, that would make the both of you feel a whole lot easier after it was done – then do something about it. Start now. No pain – no gain.
In closing this somewhat reflective (morose, some may counter?) edition of my Diary, that bears little relation to “the road” this week, ponder this: you only choose how you live, not how you die. Ah, dear readers, your tolerance cannot be faulted – as you loyally cling on to my occasionally deep roller-coaster of life, through it’s many ups and downs. But, you’re hooked, eh?
I come to you this evening from home base in Scotland – not an international airport in sight.
As I touched upon last Sunday, this past week has seen my involvement with two Paul Potts concerts: the first, Tuesday past (13th) in Lucerne in Switzerland – with the second show right on the northerly coast of Denmark, at a place called Skive, on Thursday (15th) past.
In both cases, we were fortunate enough to work with long-established promoters in those markets: “Good News” in Switzerland and “ICO” in Denmark; both highly reputable operators (it is such a welcome approach – especially when you have been touring as long as I have – to work alongside credible and experienced promoters: it takes the “long” out of long days).
Since undertaking several Paul Potts shows in Denmark – in a variety of quaint and picturesque settings – from back in 2008, I have developed a fondness for the country, and its good people. Previous to my involvement with Paul, touring excursions into Denmark had been limited to the obvious capital city of Copenhagen, with the occasional addition of the likes of Aalborg: now I can boast of having visited such smaller cities as Randers, Herning, Sonderburg and the like.
Now, if you will allow me to pause in the middle of the touring updates, I have some very joyous news to share: over my absence of the last six weeks, my “broken” driveway has been repaired! I can’t tell you what that sight – witnessed for the first time, upon my return home two days ago, late Friday evening – has done for my current state of mind. The house is back on track!!
As always, lengthy absences away from my domestic base bring with them a plethora of household tasks, to be rectified upon my return: this time was no different from most others. In this case, with the Christmas and New Year period rushing towards us, there is a gentle urgency to complete all business-related tasks, particularly as the music industry tends to “close down” from (in the case of this year) 23rd December to around the 4th of January. With those tasks dispensed with, I have no problem – in the week between Christmas and New Year – utilizing the remaining time to work away on the cosmetic refurbishment of my house, thereby enabling me to proceed to the point where I can place it up for sale, on the open market.
I don’t ever want to settle down to a “work during the day / settle down in front of the TV by night” existence. Within reason, there is always work to be done, that will have some bearing, to a greater or lesser degree, on one’s financial standing. In my case, when my working, touring, days are just a blur of organized mayhem, I need time to catch up on the other aspects of my work (that make me better at doing that work) i.e. technical and computer research, etc..
As I face up to another Christmas period, which I am able to share with only one child (of two) – although “child” may be stretching it a little nowadays – I obviously yearn for the time when the both of them were here with me. However, recalling past celebrations will certainly help to sooth current absences. It is my intention to head out to Australia, at some point in the near future, to spend some time with Bradley, as his recent “missives” don’t exactly signal his imminent return to these shores. Every parent has to deal with such issues – but it’s not easy!
Another diary entry, another airport: today finds me in Bangkok’s one, en-route back to the UK.
Young Alice and I have indeed spent an interesting week on vacation in the Philippines, from where we departed at lunchtime today. The first part of our homeward journey (Manila to Bangkok) was undertaken on Cebu Pacific Airlines, a South-East Asia based internet carrier. Next time you are on YouTube have a look at the Cebu Pacific footage: it tells you everything!
Technically, our London-bound flight leaves here at ten minutes past midnight, tomorrow morning, Monday 12th, arriving tomorrow morning into Heathrow at 5.50 am, local time: I’m actually due to then hook up with Paul Potts and his touring staff, as we are booked on a 1.05 pm, early afternoon flight out to Zurich in Switzerland – then onwards, via road, to Lucerne. However, that is encroaching over into next week’s diary entry – so you’ll just have to wait!!
This past week, we have endured one more day of rain – to add to the day of rain when we travelled up to Subic Bay, from the capital city of Manila, last Sunday. However, as we continually reminded the various hotel staff members – who valiently scuffled around after us with umbrellas, on both of those inclement days – it’s only water, and lukewarm water at that.
It’s truly hard to imagine – during this last week when we have enjoyed average daily temperatures in the low eighties, Fahrenheit, during our time in the Philippines, that it’s close to freezing point back home. My regular readers will be familiar with the personal difficulties I encounter, with the limitation of daylight. This, when allied to excessive snow and freezing temperatures, most definitely has a bearing upon my state of mind - and my day-to-day energy.
I absolutely have to have engineered myself into a different environment, by this time next year. At least the upcoming week will be spent in Switzerland and Denmark, again with Paul Potts – whom I am heading out to China with, for five days in early January: therefore, I can look forward to a few breaks away from the anticipated cold weather and the “dark” days. My plan (and this will hark close to the sound of a broken record, for many of my loyal readers) is to be well shot of my present property, by this time next year: where to go next is the question!
You know, I was just about to launch into a couple of analytical paragraphs, detailing my various options for next year’s re-location, however – “wising up” to how complex that subject could turn out to be – I’m going to shelve those musings until some later date, and some other time.
I would have to be honest and confess to a less-than-relaxed state of mind, towards the end of this past week. I suspect the onset of a good few weeks spent in Scotland over the coming months – allied to awaiting confirmation of a couple of solid touring projects – has began to nag at me, over the last forty-eight hours or so. I realise there is a very important year ahead for me (both in respect of my determination to “vacate” Edinburgh - and also a milestone year in my life, age wise) and I will need to capitalize on all available work opportunities, if I am seriously intending to effect lasting change, with my personal situation. But – you know what? – its only me that bring such changes into being, so this is no time to be standing around. Until next week!
As I’ve often said (I’m prone to repeat myself, I know) – what a difference a week makes.
There I was, sitting in Frankfurt airport a week ago, penning last week’s diary entry – and here I am in Baloy Long Beach, in Subic City in the Philippines, logging this one. The story so far …
If you caught last week’s entry, you’ll recall my mention of having to head down to the Philippines this past Wednesday (1st Dec.) as I was planning to watch the Philippines international team play against (“David Beckham’s”) LA Galaxy, in an exhibition football game.
Well, we left Edinburgh late Wednesday afternoon, connecting through London later that evening onto a Bangkok flight, that landed us in Thailand at 3.20 pm on Thursday afternoon. From there, we connected on a Cebu Pacific flight to Manila, touching down in the Philippines, just before midnight that same evening. Essentially, sixteen hours flying time – but we’re here!
Russell (already here, having flown in from Qatar) had invited me to take in the above game and also to meet with certain key individuals from the Philippine Football Federation, for some preliminary discussions as to how we might assist them with their marketing, in the future. The PFF have observed, admiringly, how the Japanese – to take probably the best example of a “neighbouring” international side - have raised their global profile over the last ten years – and therefore they (the PFF) would, naturally, like to similarly raise their country’s own profile.
I find it quite odd that, in all the time I’ve been involved with football, I’ve never actually seen David Beckham playing football in the flesh. Well, of course, that changed yesterday when he featured for seventy-five minutes for LA Galaxy – managing to score a peach of an opening goal, in true Beckham style. The Filipinos could not contain themselves, every time he was on the ball!
Although the Philippine international team gave a good account of themselves in the first half, they began to visibly tire in the second period, with LA Galaxy running out the eventual winners, by a 6 -1 margin. The stadium capacity is 12,000 and I reckon it was a good 85% full. The enthusiasm of the local crowd cannot be faulted however, with many of the tickets priced around the $100.00 mark (LA Galaxy don’t come cheap, with a 50-person travelling entourage), most of the real fans would have had to be content with watching the live transmission on TV.
In conjunction with Russell, we met with several key officials involved with the Philippines international team set-up and, I believe, identified several marketing-related opportunities that we could develop together, for the future. In footballing terms, yes, the Philippines are a relatively small nation, however one cannot fault their aspirations, in looking to gain a greater foothold, globally. We have to retain a sense of realism, as to what can actually be accomplished by working alongside these guys, to raise their country’s football profile – but we’ll give it a go!
Over the next week, tucked away in this idyllic corner of the northwest Philippines, I am relishing the chance to gather my thoughts, in respect of my plans for the coming year. As always folks, you’ll pretty much be the first to know. Calm yourselves! I’ll be back with you soon.November
Another tour bites the dust – and a most enjoyable tour it has been, mainly here in Germany.
While I’ve undoubtedly clocked up a fair amount of miles, having volunteered to drive one of the tour cars, it has had the advantage of me being more attentive to my surroundings, than usual.
I’m currently sat at the British Midland departure gate in Frankfurt, awaiting my Edinburgh-bound flight, having dropped the rental cars here this morning, after an early morning departure from Mannheim, where – last night – we played the final (13th) show of the tour. In all the years that I have been touring continental Europe, Germany has certainly shown itself to be the most show-orientated, from a practical – and production – point of view. Sure, I’ve done some wonderful and majestic shows – linked to a variety of artists – in several other European markets: however, for me personally, Germany has the edge when it comes to dealing with multi-truck, six-nights-a-week, tours. Incidentally, it was the first European country I ever visited.
Apart from last night’s show in Mannheim, this week has also seen us undertake gigs in Dusseldorf (Monday), Hannover (Wednesday) and Bremerhaven (Thursday). Looking way back, it’s odd the things one is able to recall, having played a certain venue over thirty years ago: in this case, I was able to think way back to 1976 and the same venue in Dusseldorf (The Philipshalle) when one of the more senior crew guys on Jethro Tull “handcuffed” my then Halliburton briefcase to one of the heating pipes in the production office (he had the key).
Those were such carefree times, being paid £67.50/week (!) as a Jethro Tull “roadie” and living something of the highlife. They were my first international touring act and many memories hold dear from that period. Working with that band enabled me to find the deposit on our first house - £13,000.00 it cost us, can you believe that?! Years later, we sold it for £23,000, prior to relocating to Surrey, when my work with Wham! was underway. That folks (Surrey) is where I should have stayed: what possessed me to move back to Scotland – to move into the licensed trade of all things! – is, now, beyond me (the number one biggest mistake of my career). Boy, did I suddenly become melancholic this week! I’m guilty of a little quiet reflection this week!
Back to the positive: I have a busy few days ahead of me, as I am due on a plane down to the Philippines, this coming Wednesday evening, to attend an international game next weekend. More of that in next week’s diary, but we’re hopeful of a few, emerging, business opportunities.
When I arrive back in Edinburgh this evening, there will be the usual backlog of domestic issues (mainly bills!) to deal with and prioritize. Finally, there is a plan to repair the damaged driveway therefore the focus of my efforts, when at home base, must continue to be concentrated upon the sale of my house, early next year. That will be a whole weight of concern off my mind!
Where to next? There’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question! I was too quick to jump into my present property, six years ago, therefore I have to be very careful not to do the same again: the biggest question here is whether I stay in Scotland or not and that in itself can only be answered by which of my two businesses I want to concentrate on. More of this next week!
Well, well oh patient and long-suffering followers: I believe this is to be a “first”, even for me.
Now, don’t fall headlong out of your chair. The news is not earth shattering. I just happen to have arrived deep in the West German countryside, in a picturesque village called Dietkirchen – more to the point, the exact location being the St. Lubentius church (check it out on Google – it actually has it’s own SatNav “Point of Interest” entry in our rental car!). Here’s the oddest thing (which will hopefully show up on any images on the internet): there is, what appears to be - when viewed from the ground - some form of high “walkway” between the twin steeples of the church. I’m going to quiz the TV production team as to the origin and history of this “join”.
We arrived here today, where we will spend the next seven hours, at 2.30 pm this afternoon, having made the 400 kilometer drive from Chemnitz, the scene of last nights’ Paul Potts show. Of course Chemnitz (along with Dresden, on this particular tour) was originally located in the old East German Republic (DDR), and was essentially “off-limits” to the western world. No more.
Chemnitz was our fifth show this past week, preceded by Nurnberg, Dresden, Berlin (Mon., Tues., Wed) a travel day, then Frankfurt’s “Jahrhunderthalle” on Friday – with Chemnitz Stadhalle last night. As the only driver in the “Artist car”, I’ve clocked up substantial miles the last seven days. With certain stretches of the German autobahn being “limitless”, one certainly covers any given distance, mile-for-mile, a damn site quicker than one could do it, in the UK.
Tomorrow begins our final week of this German tour, culminating with a show in Mannheim, next Saturday night, 26th of the month. I then travel to the Philippines for the first ten days of December, for various meetings with several sports-orientated businesses – based in Manila: this with a view to expanding certain event-related ideas, linked to the worldwide marketing of their international football team. Japan’s international team has made impressive progress over the last decade: we aim to assist the Philippine international team to emulate that, over time.
This will be my fifth time in Manila, over the years: a country that I have cultivated a certain fondness for. Unfortunately – much as though I have many friends and colleagues who reside in there – I am approaching my twentieth visit to Japan, therefore there is little left to discover of the country. I’m a ways from that situation, where the Philippines are concerned. While down there I will witness the spectacle of the Philippine international team play host to the, currently, very successful LA Galaxy footballing side from the USA – David Beckham and all!
Back to this evening: Paul has already performed “Ave Maria” in this magical setting. Now, we just await the call for the rendition of “Silent Night” – particularly poignant, as this show will air on the German ZDF channel, on Christmas eve. As I write, we are sat across the way from the afore-mentioned church, in the minister’s house, clustered around his dining room table.
If all goes to plan, we’ll be settled in to the Koblenz Mercure hotel, before the chimes of midnight. Paul has plans, tomorrow morning, to knock off some shots of some of the more notable landmarks of the city. I have plans to seek out an English newspaper! Until next week.
Guten Abend! This evening finds me in the picturesque German city of Nuremberg.
Since penning last Sunday’s diary entry, we have undertaken the first four shows of Paul’s German tour: namely, Hamburg, Munich, Essen and – last night – Heilbronn. I volunteered to drive one of the two rental cars that we have out on the road with us in Germany at the moment – hence I’m spending a fair amount of time behind the wheel, tearing up and down the Autobahn.
I probably have more of a fondness – touring wise – for Germany, out of all the countries in Europe, where I have worked over the last thirty years: I have undoubtedly been involved in more shows here, than any other touring territory. They take the business of touring seriously in Germany: sure, the likes of Italy, Spain and France can boast beautiful, tranquil, areas – however (and, in fairness, probably because they do not enjoy the same annual concentration of touring acts, as their above-mentioned neighbours) but they are not so touring orientated.
Nuremberg certainly has it’s own charm, with the old city, the castle and many architectural features dating back several centuries. Myself, Chris, Bob and Mark had a good wander around the old town earlier today, as our hotel, The Maritim, was just on the periphery of that area. As always, without the benefit of advance technology and computer calculations, I continue to, never-endingly, marvel at how these buildings were constructed so many hundreds of years ago.
Of course, certainly within Germany – and beyond the European borders, I now suspect – this quaint city of Nuremberg is also renowned for it’s Christmas markets and festive charm: today I saw much evidence, in the main market squares of the old city, of comprehensive preparations underway for next month’s lead-up to the most celebrated week of the year. As yet, there is no sign of any snowfall, however I’m sure it’s not too far away: it’s certainly cold enough out there.
We have another five shows over the upcoming week, incorporating a couple of lengthy drives: being the old truck driver that I am, once you lever me in behind that wheel I’m good for whatever journey time is required. Of course, Germany being Germany – with it’s infamous “limitless” stretches Autobahn – you don’t hang around in the outside lane, unless you have a real reason to be there. In a matter of seconds – because speeds of 200 kilometers/hour are commonplace within the ranks of the Audi and Porsche brigade – you can have a raging vehicle on your tail (occasionally, so dangerously close that you can’t even see their headlights). Oddly enough, those “man racers” tend to come in twos or threes, the “lead” vehicle obviously proving too much of a temptation to other owners of high performance cars. Not really my thing.
I may have mentioned my next project was destined to be the UK boyband “One Direction”, as their Tour Accountant, from 12th December through 30th January. Alas, there is a spoke in the wheel of that little arrangement and I will now no longer be involved (something else you will have to read about in my autobiography). I may now zip out to Qatar between 12th and 24th December, to assist my Doha-based partner with further developing our football-related interests, in that part of the world. It’s paramount that I keep myself busy, as I continue to focus on moving out of my current property within the next six months. Watch this space. BFN!
Greetings from Hamburg (the first German city I ever visited – many, many, moons ago!).
We have made a momentous journey to reach here today: initially, we left Taipei at 7.25 pm local time last night (Saturday, 5th), connected onto a London-bound BA flight – in Hong Kong last night, at 10.55 pm local time. That saw us land into London’s Heathrow airport, at the ungodly time of 4.40 am, this morning. The last flight of the day (or, two days) saw us depart London this morning at 7.55 am, touching down here in Hamburg at 10.35 am. Wild, huh?
Being mindful of the fact that if I had allowed myself to “crash” earlier this afternoon, then I would probably have sat up wide awake, at some point in the middle of the night, I elected to go for a bracing walk around the “Aussenalster”, the lake in the centre of this fine city.
With the unavoidable onset of Christmas, all of the main shopping streets were alive with hordes of “early” shoppers, as I made my way through one of the busiest of those streets, namely Stein Strasse (in the past I have stayed at the Park Hotel, located on this very street).
The station, too, was going like a train (well, it would be) with the ant-like masses of travelers all making their way to/from a myriad of destinations – albeit not even on a work day: I definitely made the right decision to collect the train tickets today, for Wednesday’s trip to Munich (just a little too far, to utilize the rental cars – which we will now collect in Munich).
The plan was to commit tomorrow (7th) to a full-blown rehearsal day, particularly as we have two guest acts on this German tour: Melissa Venema and Vanessa Calcagno. However – just to assist our very fair German promoter with exercising a handle on the pre-tour costs - we have altered our plans, to make an early start on the first show day (Tuesday) and commence the rehearsals earlier in the day, at the rehearsal room of the Hamburg Opera House, a mere six hundred meters from Tuesday performance venue, Hamburg’s Laeiszhalle. The upshot of those changes of arrangements allows us a full (non-travel) day off, tomorrow; a rare occurrence indeed!
Tuesday’s Hamburg show signals the first of thirteen German shows, the final performance being in Mannheim on Saturday 26th of this months. All in all, not too taxing: however, we are facing a few long drives between certain of the cities, therefore – while the “crew” car has the luxury of three drivers – I’ll be spending a good few hours behind the wheel, in the “Artist” car.
Not to worry – even though I have all that driving to undertake, I would personally rather that than taking three or four flights, that were originally mooted, to cover the longer of the hops: being able to just jump in the rental car at one hotel, then drive directly to the next city’s venue, is far preferable to all the “palaver” nowadays associated with taking commercial flights.
I’m quite looking forward to the next few weeks: as I mentioned in the last diary, we are a tight little touring unit, unencumbered by masses of gear or personnel (we’ve all been there – and have several t-shirts to show for it). Stadium rock this is not, but that suits me just fine for the time being. Clear the Autobahns – I’m coming through. Hertz’s finest is on your tail. BFNOctober
You’ll never guess where I have been today (well, how could you?): I’ve been to Dunbar.
Dun-where, my three foreign readers may understandably enquire? Read on, oh loyal ones.
Dunbar is a small fishing town – with it’s own small, quaint, harbour – on the east coast of Scotland, around 29 miles north-east of my (current) home city of Edinburgh, yet still south of the River Forth estuary. I’m certainly warming to the place. Positive vibes, man.
Alice and I (in search of Sue, who it transpired was back in Edinburgh, shopping – but that’s another story) originally decided to stay down there the one night, after watching our player, Hermann Mekonga, play for Motherwell’s under-19s, versus Hibernian, scheduled to be played at the latter’s East Lothian training complex at Ormiston. Then they went and cancelled the game!
By that time, the hotel in Dunbar, for our Saturday night stay, was booked and paid for – therefore we decided to stick with the original plan: upon reflection, we’re so glad we did. Now, sure. I’ve been down in Dunbar quite a few times, but – in the past – mainly just motoring through with the children in tow, when they were younger (and still enthralled by such days out). This time, with only Alice to distract me, I was able to appreciate the gentle lure of this somewhat idyllic town, far more than on any previous occasion: there can’t be many coastal towns in Scotland that can boast such an interesting history: mainly a grand old castle as was once positioned at the mouth of the “new” harbour. Sadly, not much left of the old castle now.
I know this does Alice’s head in, when I start to bemusedly wonder how they were able to build such structures several centuries ago, but – come on – how did they do it? Whatever the crude cement mixture that was used to bind those roughly hewn stones, it must have had certain redeeming features - because part of the original castle structure remains in place, to this day.
Anyway, being in “it’s probably time to move from where I currently reside” mode, I’m now figuring there’s a lot worse locales to consider than this charming coastal town. Mmm ….
Back to the subject that pays for moving home: money – it’s about time I earned some more.
Two days from now (Tuesday 1st Nov.) I’m Taiwan-bound for a show in Taipei with Paul Potts, scheduled for Friday 4th, after which we return directly to Germany for 14 of Paul’s own headlining shows. It will be god to hook up with Mark, Chris and Bob again (and Paul!!) and go off careering around Deutschland in our trusty rental cars. Actually, it’s almost three months to the day, since I undertook my last live show – in fact, for the first time since I don’t know when, it’s also close to three months since I set foot on a plane (changed days, huh?).
Naturally, as it’s what I do best, I’m looking forward to being back out on the road: far away from clunking heating and subsided driveways – “out of sight” does go a long way towards “out of mind”. I will probably pen next week’s entry from 36,000 feet, as we wing our way back to Hamburg on the Hong Kong flight, via Heathrow. I’ll tell you then, what I’m up to, after Paul. ???
Well, following on from last week’s closing theme (basically that I have to “reduce” my future project list from fifteen down to ten) you will – should – be impressed with the progress below.
For the time being, out goes “Caledonia”, my touring Scottish version of “Lord of the Dance” (unavoidably prohibitive start-up costs); out goes “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, my idea for a touring football show (too costly to obtain a license to have access to the video footage required); out goes “Turnstyle”, a project to motivate football’s considerable fan base, to boycott every English Premiership game on the first day of next season (have to consider my other – commercially orientated – interests in football!); out goes “Leave Our Kids Alone”, an incentive to assist young professional football players and their parents to combat continual player-agent harassment (poor response to my initial – fairly costly – mailout) and – finally – “Starry Starry Nights”, a corporate entertainment facilities company (somewhat competitive business, therefore considerable time and expense involved, to launch a noteworthy operation).
Naturally, it slightly saddens me to have to slide the above projects firmly on to the back burner. However, my current (and future) situations must be seriously taken into account. First and foremost, I need to concentrate on re-establishing a decent head of steam, financially: while I must remain confident that this past summer’s substantial investment into the young player market will indeed bear fruit somewhere down the line, I am the living and breathing testament to the fact that football is indeed a “day-to-day” business – anything can(t) happen.
For the foreseeable future, it’s time to stick to what I know best: the “glamorous” world of rock ‘n roll Tour Management/Tour Accounting! But – hey – you know what? I still enjoy it – I just know I can’t do it forever, and “forever” is now appreciably closer than it once was.
So, onwards and upwards: in nine days from now, I’m Taiwan bound with Paul Potts and his incorrigible staff (that will reveal which of them may peruse this diary!) however – in all seriousness – it’s a great, tight, little touring unit: five of us in total, spread over two vehicles. As you are probably well aware, I’ve done my fair share of multi-bus, multi-truck, tours – lumbering from one stadium to the other. Take the money and run - is what that’s about.
This touring business takes no prisoners. You can’t step away from your work at 6.00 pm today, in the Glasgow SECC (having started at 07.00 am, on a major arena tour) and pick it up again at 9.00 am tomorrow morning, because – “tomorrow morning” – you’re in Nottingham Royal Centre, doing it all over again. In this life, you do it – not until the end of the day – but until it’s finished, and again the next day: and the next day – many times, for 6/7 consecutive days (my record is eleven back-to-backs with “Jethro Tull”: where have all the good times gone?!).
In summary, I depart this page, this week, as a revitalized, newly-focused, individual; trouble is, how long can it last?! Those heartwarming stories of self-made individuals who battled gamely against the odds to realise their dreams? For every one of them, there are a hundred of us guys (and gals) who just didn’t quite get there. It’s a sobering observation. Anyway, enough of all that cautious malarkey – what wide-eyed scheme can I think up next? Don’t leave me now…
I’ve come to realise (and thankfully I’m not alone) that I don’t handle the darker months of the year particularly well, especially if I am not otherwise busily immersed in work projects.
Thankfully, just as I am reminded of this fact around about now, I can re-assure myself that I’m off with Paul Potts – initially to Taiwan and then back to Germany – in two weeks from now. Prior to that, I have plenty to keep me busy, as I tidy and fine-tune certain other projects, to which I have already made some inroads. Common sense has prevailed of late, to the effect of admitting that I can’t develop all of my ideas that are running around inside my head: I have to narrow down my choices to those ideas that are practical, achievable - and profitable, I hope!
The above process has proved to be more straightforward than first imagined: age may have something to do with this, in that one naturally, consciously, values one’s time more with the advancement of one’s years. It’s just a pity that certain of my event-related ideas, which I have yet to observe any competitor having an inkling of, may never actually come to fruition. Now, ten (maybe even five!) years ago that would have stuck in my craw: again, that side of me is certainly showing signs of mellowing, with the stark realisation that I can’t do it all! Cool, huh?
Along with Alice as my “consultant editor” (and damn fine curry maker) I sat down, two weeks back, and fashioned a list of fifteen project priorities: this list is pinned up in front of me, not three feet from where I sit at my desk. I am now on the verge of taking a (fairly) brave step to reduce the listing to ten. That will prove to be an accomplishment, in itself – but I have to do it.
There’s no way I could oversee the progression of all of those ideas (say, within the coming year) particularly during the periods that I am out on the road. Therefore, some of them will have to be consigned to cold storage for the foreseeable future - the only real possibility of them being resurrected, being to have a major production company oversee their development.
In an odd way, I’m rather proud that no one else has stumbled upon those event-related projects that I’ve slowly “collected” over recent years (some definitely more “recent” than others): I’ve always retained a quiet confidence that – once relieved of the minutiae of detail that plagues a professional Tour Manager’s life – there’s a decent creative streak within me. When you ally that to an experienced view of what can, or can’t, be achieved on a practical level, then the combination of those attributes are fairly strong cards to have in your hand.
So, yes, even in the onset of these “darker days”, I see a positive way forward. In the meantime I mustn’t lose sight of a pivotal requirement, which will usher in a whole new phase of my life: the sale of my “taking-too-much-time-to-maintain” property. This is directly in my sights.
Otherwise, as I touched upon earlier, this coming week will see me taking a long, very realistic, view of my various anticipated work involvements, going forward: by the time we “speak” next week, I hope to be able to impressively inform you that five of the fifteen project headers have been conclusively slid on to the back burner – and that serious personal progress is afoot! How – I wonder – will I look back on this period of my life? How, indeed? Who knows? See y’all!
Did I ever mention (I’m sure I have: the Memory man doesn’t live here!) a line from a movie that’s stuck in my mind for years – still does – where the lead actor claimed “A man only makes three good decisions in his life”. I may have already laid claim to having had those three ideas.
I can’t leave you hanging now: you’re going to want to me to recall my three ideas. Well, the first one was definitely the decision to stop kidding myself, that I was the future Keith Moon, and go work for bands, instead of playing in them. Now, the second: probably going to meet Simon Napier-Bell, in 1982, regarding working with one of his bands at the time, “Japan” (this of course leading on to eight very enjoyable years working for George Michael). The third “revolutionary” idea, I’m struggling to recall – but it may have just come to me last Monday!
You’ll have to trust me that I can’t say too much at the moment because – if I can pull this off – I may have just stumbled on a unique (and, hopefully, fairly lucrative) niche in the football industry, not wholly unconnected with the type of work I’ve been involved with over the years.
Over the last week, since this idea popped into my head (while in the shower – where I do most of my constructive thinking) I’ve yo-yoed back and forward – in my head – between believing it to be quite achievable or quite unachievable. Today, I’m veering more towards the “achievable”.
As in similar situations, where you believe that your entrepreneurial instincts may have stumbled upon an interesting, hitherto undiscovered, business angle, one needs to quietly float the idea by one’s trusted business confidantes and – of course – one’s closest friends.
Next week I will be doing exactly that. What is also intriguing (to me, anyway) is that I possess a fairly unique skillset (possibly including dubious bravery) that – again, in my humble estimation – point to me being one of the few individuals who could pull this off. Consequently, there is time to think this thing through properly and try to reach – within a matter of weeks – an informed decision, as to whether it’s actually a “goer”. Now you guys are intrigued as well!
We must all remember that this “Diary of the Road” is publicly accessible – and one can therefore never be too careful. One day – which may have some correlation to me winning the Euromillions Lottery – I look forward to telling it exactly like it is. However, such revelations would only be in respect of alerting the poor, unsuspecting, public as to certain facets of the entertainment world on general that are - bare-facedly – fleecing these poor individuals. Of course, in reality, this means that most of what I know will actually go to the grave with me!
Mustn’t allow myself to become too distracted with the dark side of my industry: what it is, is what it is – and I can’t see that’s going to change much, in the foreseeable future. Trust me: money changes everyone – particularly when you suddenly find yourself thrust into the public eye. How can you relate to what the majority of the population are going through, when you’re pulling out of the drive of your million plus home, in your limited edition Ferrari sport? Thankfully, in this music industry, the well intended by far outnumber the not-so-well-intended, but – yes – there are some bad buggers, in the ranks of the latter. I’m going to stop now. BFN.
Well, well, well: another poignant lesson learned from the “Kevin experience” – see last week.
The moral of the story? With one or two notable exceptions, it is rare to find a young player who is good as their father/mother claims. When you think about it (and being a parent myself) absolute objectivity is hard to come by in those situations. In this particular instance, Kevin’s dad (Eric) had played professionally with the top French club, Nantes, back in the 1990s: one’s first inclination tends to be that he should have a fairly good idea of his own son’s playing standard. However, again, judgment becomes clouded by love and hope. Lord, I have learned.
You may be surprised to find I’ve taken a fairly monumental decision to ease up a little on the player-procurement front. Excuse me if I have alluded to this over the past week, however the benchmark has now been moved, and the “ante” has been upped! Earlier this week, I fine-tuned an information document that I had prepared for the players we brought to Scotland, from France, to explain the various facets of the project – and what would be expected of them.
The “new” document, aptly titled “Only The Strong Survive” now runs to six pages, covering every detail of the process, should any of those aspiring young foreign players be considering travelling to the UK for a trial period. The most important requirements now – that soon separates the serious players from the “take a chance” brigade – is that they have to underwrite the entire cost, that being both their return airfare and their local accommodation.
Since I’ve adopted this new approach to all these free-agent players who are being brought to my notice, you’d be surprised how many of them are never heard from again, once I’ve e-mailed the new document to them, for their perusal – and agreement (which of course is blatant evidence of the fact that I should have adopted such a stance, a long time ago). Yes, I know!
This time, next month (2nd November), I will have arrived into Taiwan, in preparation for Paul Potts performance in Taipei on Friday 4th: the following day will see us return to Germany, via London Heathrow, to kick off one month of dates, commencing in Hamburg on 8th November. Of course, it will be good to be back on the road: it is what I do best; it’s what comes to me naturally. However, as well we all know, I can’t do it forever and there, folks, “is the rub”. Mmm.
As far as what I’ve accomplished this past week: there is a new approach afoot, having now seriously limited my level of “helpfulness” to aspiring, free-contract, footballers. Consequently, I’ve drawn up a master list of future project headers, the aim being to somehow attain a position whereby some of those other projects – once they reach fruition – can be the backbone of my earnings, going forward. My touring work would continue to be my staple, until such time as one of the “new” projects gains momentum, then I can hopefully ease off all the travelling.
In an ideal world, any future income from one of the younger players, whom I have currently placed at smaller clubs in Scotland, would (rather than be viewed as my main source of income) be a welcome bonus if - and when - that came along. Well, that’s the revised career plan. These are difficult times for many people – and we must all endeavor to cut our cloth accordingly. BFNSeptember
This is odd – and I would sincerely be interested to know if anyone else experiences such an occurrence: this evening, I’m sat in one of the rooms in the Hillcrest Guest House in Motherwell (just about to leave for Prestwick Airport to collect a French player, due in on the last flight from Paris Beauvais) with a comfortable double bed; a bathroom with bath and shower; a widescreen TV and some decent wardrobe space. Here’s my immediate thought: apart from some form of cooking facilities and a small dining room table – what more do I actually need?!
Change of location: I’m now sat in the arrivals hall at Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport (the second airport of Glasgow, located about 30 miles south of the city) awaiting my next protégé – he just doesn’t know it yet! This young footballer goes by the name of Kevin Gaudin, currently eighteen years old and all of 6’ 3” already: he’s a central defender (wouldn’t you know) who found me via the internet: still not exactly sure why he chose me from over six hundred UK agents, however – depending upon Kevin’s command of English – I hope to find the answer to that by tomorrow.
There is indeed an eclectic collection of weary individuals stretched across the bench seats in the arrivals hall, here at the airport: like myself, all with their own story to tell, no doubt. The “Ryanair” flight, that Kevin is arriving on, is due to land at 11.25 pm (it’s currently 11.23 pm) and – surprise, surprise – it’s showing “as scheduled”. I can painfully recall at least two past occasions when I arrived punctually at 11.00 pm, to meet the same flight from Beauvais – only to find that it hadn’t left Paris yet! Memories of shuffling wearily out to the car park at about 2.00 am in the morning (by the way – just in case you’re wondering – Beauvais is, I believe, Paris’s 4th largest airport after Charles de Galle, L’Orly and Le Bourget – have I got that right?)
On this particular occasion, I have learned that Kevin’s father has decided to accompany him to Scotland, however Jean tells me that Kevin’s father (Eric) speaks so little French. We’ll see.
I’m now back at the Guest House in Motherwell: it’s coming up for 12.45 am and the first thing I can report is that Eric’s English is indeed severely limited! It would appear that Kevin himself actually has a better command of our language, but doesn’t really say a lot. Well, as they often say in football, particularly in respect of foreign players: “he can do his talking on the park”. He has a steely look in his eye, that boy: if his e-mails are anything to go by, he’s very determined.
The lad is certainly a fair size for eighteen, and must be all of 6’ 3” tall, dwarfing his father somewhat, who is more like 5’ 9”. Kevin’s father actually played professional football himself, in France, for Nantes – one of the top teams in the country. He may prove to be a useful contact!
So, we shall see what tomorrow brings: I can’t really desert his father, once Kevin has reported for training, therefore I anticipate being stuck through here in Motherwell for most of the day. Enjoyable as it is, just having out at the training session on a (hopefully) pleasant day, it means I don’t really accomplish much in the way of desk-bound work. Well, it’s too late now, so “fingers crossed” that Kevin proves to be a decent prospect. There is still the myriad of “compensation” red tape to unravel, if Motherwell decide they would like to add the boy to their ranks: still, if we get that far, I would not be deterred. Don’t move that dial. See you next week.
This week marks four months – almost to the day - since the problem with my driveway occurred. Can you believe the work to repair the damage (none of my doing whatsoever – I was 6000 miles away!) has yet to commence: this situation is seriously trying my patience. What can possibly be more frustrating than knowing full well that you are absolutely blameless for a particular situation, and yet have no means to put that situation right? OK, that’s off my chest.
Well, not quite: it’s just so gut-wrenching when I’m trying to sell my house. Can you see that?
Anyway, how y’all doing this week? For my part, Alice has suggested that maybe I’m having my mid-life crisis ten years later than most men. Her assessment was probably based upon my declaration – at breakfast this morning - that I really don’t know the direction I want to take, for the remainder of my life. Surely I can’t be alone, within my peer group, to question this.
Something in my water (probably more hopefully, than realistically) tells me the answer/direction may be just within my reach, but yet out of sight: if so, I just wish it would identify itself, thereby allowing me to proceed with moving in the right direction. Obviously, at this tender age, one does not have the amount of time on one’s side that one once had, to be able to rectify any major wrong decision (can you believe I have an “A-Level” in English?!!).
Not knowing what I’m doing next year, work-wise, is - of course - no help to my current state of mind. While I’m well aware that the phone can ring at any minute, possibly turning my present situation completely on it’s head, I should really – at this stage of my life – have the foreseeable future a little more definitively mapped out. Not for the faint hearted, this current approach of mine. But – you know what (and while this might seem a very obvious thing to state) – there’s a whole lot of people a whole lot worse off than me. Yes, it’s good to be alive.
I’m constantly in awe of how the general, God-fearing, public quietly accept their lot and make well of it: compared to most, I have been very fortunate to have achieved what I have, albeit with the sort of working hours that would floor most healthy individuals after a couple of weeks. I don’t think I’m at all interested in stopping working: I just want to foresee a time when I can, if I choose – at which time I’ve hopefully established some form of financial security. Yes, that’s a good way to put it (I’m always better when my thought patterns are ordered). Again, my focus has to centre on moving house to a more manageable property.
This past week (thought you’d never ask) has seen me tidying up several loose strands of my football business, with a view to becoming way more selective in the scouting of young players. Tough as it is on many of those young, aspiring, players from the European Union countries, they have to demonstrate the seriousness of their intent to find a club, by personally (or with the help of a parent or a relation) underwriting the costs of their trial/test expenses: this certainly goes a ways to separating the “will be’s” from the “would be’s”. I have to reflect the hard economic times of football by tightening our company’s purse strings: we have no choice.
So - onwards and upwards. Somewhat disjointed entry this week: but you know I love you all!
Touring wise, I am encountering the “quietest” three-month period I have had for at least five years: however, it was not entirely unintended. I have much to catch up on, during this time.
As a regular reader (don’t worry, I don’t think you’re alone!) you will have ascertained that my touring days consist of a whirlwind 16-hour maelstrom: no “development” time whatsoever. Days like those find me totally immersed in my work, meaning anything else of a domestic or personal nature finds itself being purposely slid onto the back burner (hence the reason I’m well paid).
Consequently, these “lean” times have to be capitalised upon to deal with said personal and domestic tasks, the most pressing of those being to vacate my current property: the upkeep is just too unwieldy and time consuming. However, if you’ve caught my last few diary entries, you’ll have noted that I’m in the midst of a major battle with Edinburgh Council to rectify the damage to my “monobloc” driveway, caused by a severely blocked drain line. While there’s a certain amount of minor cosmetic tasks to be completed within the property itself, those are nothing, when compared to what has to be accomplished outside, prior the house being viewed for sale.
Anyway, I can’t allow myself to become too sidetracked with that problem: the issue is heading into the hands of my lawyers. I lost the plot somewhat, with an e-mail to Edinburgh Council last week, when I informed them it was my opinion that, were they to have any involvement with my business - then “they would still be trying to get Cliff Richard’s first tour out of the door”.
The dilemma in respect of the weeks ahead is this: I will rarely have another opportunity, in the foreseeable future, to “put my house in order” (literally) to prepare it for sale – yet, possibly at long, long, last - the narrow beam of light at the end of the football tunnel is, ever so slowly, growing in intensity. How to deal with this current situation? There - folks – “lies the rub”.
Sure, this football “adventure” of mine – now over fifteen years down the line – has, at times, led me worryingly astray: but, aside from attaining the title of “World’s Oldest Tour Manager”, what else is out there for me, as I slide inescapably towards the end of my sixth decade?
From the point of view of my current situation, prioritising is definitely the way forward, however that in itself calls for considerable personal discipline: one can painstakingly, repeatedly, compose “to do” lists and then group the myriad of tasks into daily time frames. However, if one doesn’t religiously stick to what one has mapped out, then the previous exercise has just been a waste of time. “Stay focused”, as my good friend Gavin continually advises me.
A major step forward in easing my life back onto track has unquestionably been a return to a regular gym programme: flinching at the realisation of the honest answer, I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t actually recall the last time I enjoyed any form of regular exercise regime. Now, three mornings a week, I’m covering at least five miles with a combination (running and “power walking”) of time on the treadmill, cross-trainer and exercise bike. Without doubt, my energy and my general outlook has improved vastly, since I started back at the gym. When I’m fitter, I’m mentally sharper – and I need my wits about me at his stage in my life. See y’all!
This has been far far too hectic a Sunday – player wise – if I’m being honest with myself.
I collected one player from Prestwick last night, arriving in from Rome: however with his scheduled arrival being 11.50 pm - and the flight actually touching down fifteen minutes late - it technically became my first player movement of the day! The most painful of my airport trips of today then followed, when I had to rise at 0415 this morning (oh, yeah) and drive my young French player, Pierre, back to Prestwick, to check in at 05.30 am, for a 6.50 am flight.
Following on from that, there were two more players scheduled to arrive today, the first on a mid-afternoon flight into Prestwick (again) with the last “player movement” of the day being a 10.25 pm arrival, this time into Edinburgh airport. Alice and I had already planned to motor down to Ayr (the neighbouring town of Prestwick) earlier this afternoon, to partake of a leisurely, late, Sunday lunch - and then make our way over to the airport to collect the player.
Lo and behold, en-route to Ayr – around 12.30 pm this afternoon – I receive a call from the player’s agent to sheepishly inform me that the airline in Barcelona will not allow the lad to board the flight to Prestwick, as he holds only a Senegalese passport and does not in fact have dual (Spanish) nationality, which I was previously – last week – assured was definitely the case. Ah, yes folks, this side of my business calls for the “patience of a Saint” from time to time.
So, that was the end of that: suffice to say, our combined attitude at that point was “Sod it, we’re still going to continue onto Ayr for our lunch”. Which we did, ironically in an even more leisurely mode than originally planned: I’m way short on leisure time in this frantic life of mine. Anyway, there was no immediate hurry to be back up in Edinburgh, with the last “arrival” of the day not due in until later in the evening (two hours ago, as it is now 1.00 a.m., as I pen this).
As I am due to board an 8.30 a.m. train tomorrow morning (Monday) to be in London all day, it was with some trepidation that I stood at Edinburgh Airport’s arrivals gate, but a few hours ago, awaiting the arrival of a young eighteen-year old footballer, by the name of Julien Ripoli. I should say that the lad I took to Prestwick at stupid-o-clock this morning, one Pierre Santiago (great name, if he becomes a great footballer!), was severely limited in his command of the English language. Having to explain to the new arrival, the intricacies of making his way, there and back, to Hearts training facility today could have proved to be a daunting challenge indeed.
But, no – there is a God! – Julien can hold a halting conversation in English (if you had experienced only a handful of the trials and tribulations I have suffered, on many occasions, with certain of my young foreign players in the past, then you would appreciate my elation – yes, that’s the word I meant to use – of having no communication barrier to surmount). Sadly, the really decent lads who come over for trials rarely measure up on the football field and – even sadder (in an ironic sense) - the somewhat inconsiderate ones turn out to be the “players”.
So, let’s see how the two new arrivals (Julien and Christos) fare this coming week. A small turn of luck is surely heading my way. Surely. I know – you told me never to call you Shirley. BFN.August
Where has the past week gone? I’m having to actually concentrate to recall what I’ve achieved.
Ah, yes... in fairness to myself (with sterling assistance from young Alice) the garden is but a shadow of it’s former self, with us having personally undertaken more clearing work, in the past six days, than I have in the past six years. Gardening, folks, was never high on my priorities.
However, the house remains a fair way from being placed on the market – and, while we await Edinburgh Council repairing my damaged driveway, there is much cosmetic “snagging” to be done internally. Therefore, once the garden is returned to a reasonable state of repair, we will move indoors and work our way through a fair list of small repairs that have long needed attention.
My focus is now unquestionably targeted at “getting shot” of this property, sooner rather than later: it messes with the concentration required for my daily business when, every time I look around, I see something else that needs put right! But we’re slowly ploughing through it all. One has to make the best of one’s available time, rather than be over concerned as to one’s next gig – and that’s the tack I’ve disciplined myself to take this past week (and those weeks to come).
One encouraging development, this past week, is the news that one of our younger players (the only one from the original squad of twenty-four!), Hermann Mboa Mekongo, has signed for the current Scottish Premier League leaders, Motherwell FC!! Check him out on the club website.
Let’s hope that, somewhere down the line (no pressure, Hermann) he moves on from Motherwell, thereby enabling us to realise some form of return on what has become, to date, a fairly costly investment. There is little doubt - in the opinion of most of those who have witnessed Hermann in a game situation - that he has considerable potential to progress his career. Let’s remember that he is still only eighteen, however his application and determination are quietly there to see. In addition, his command of the English language has progressed to such a point that we are now engaging in direct telephone conversations (still somewhat stilted, I’ll admit) whereas, only a matter of weeks ago, the full extent of our communications were being carried out via text.
We must take heart by Hermann having secured a contract, and now hope that we can repeat that accomplishment – this next time at a small fraction of the cost of the previous project. We have of course learned much from the experiences of the last ten weeks: if we have the opportunity to take a “second bite at the cherry”, then that knowledge has to be deployed well.
This week I formally confirmed my acceptance of the Tour Management of Paul Potts South East Asia/Germany tours, which will run throughout the month of November. Again, our immediate touring party will be as it was on the recent run in Canada: Paul, myself, Chris Taylor (Musical Director/Pianist), Bob Willis (Orchestra Conductor) and Mark Littlewood (Sound Engineer). Staff-wise, it’s certainly in contrast to some of the burgeoning stadium tours I have been involved with, complete with a fleet of buses and a convoy of trucks: on this one we are down to one truck and two buses. A thoroughly enjoyable jaunt awaits us all. Sure the football is the ultimate “high”, however embarking on another tour still gives me a buzz!! Long may it last.
Boy, my self-proclaimed “new phase” – in respect of timely diary entries – lasted all of a week!
However, being one week behind (this week) is not too bad – especially when you consider that it was previously five weeks, at the last time of writing. I need to stay on top of things continually.
You find me – this week – where you pretty much found me last week: standing, deliberating - at the crossroads of life, unsure which of the four roads to head down. As I look to choose a decisive direction, I suspect it will emerge on a default basis: it will be the directions that are not for me, which will decide the direction that is. I wonder if I can reduce my choices to four distinct directions, based on the feasible alternatives open to me at this time? Let’s give it a try.
The following four directions are (I believe), in prioritized order, from safest to riskiest:
Direction 1: stick with my touring business; ease the football activities onto the back burner
Direction 2: concentrate more on the football side of things; don’t go looking for touring work
Direction 3: pursue certain of my (what I believe to be) innovative, event-orientated, ideas
Direction 4: sell up and go drive around North America in a motorhome for the next few years
Here’s the thing: just because no individual, or company, has trail-blazed the way, in launching a ground-breaking, hitherto unparalleled, player agency operation to eclipse all others, in the UK – should I continue to believe it could still be done? What am I trying to prove? Am I brave enough to take the stance of “well, with the provision of substantial resource and impressive infrastructure, I could have championed such an organization – but at least no one else ever beat me to the punch”? Because, to prove otherwise - even with major financial backing - is a seriously time consuming project. Do I have the discipline to just let it go? Well, I’m not really sure folks.
On the touring side, I was flattered to be contacted earlier this week by a major brand operation (I’m afraid confidentiality precludes me from naming names) to take up the reins of their project, in the capacity of Tour Manager/Tour Accountant: however, this (shall we call it) touring extravaganza is pretty much out on the road in Europe, through May of 2012! Although things are somewhat quiet for me at the moment on the touring front, I’m confident I’ll pick up work when I return from Paul Potts German tour, in late November: I also have a couple of “irons in the fire” in respect of touring projects for early 2012. Hence the reason I declined the above.
I hope I don’t live to regret the above decision! What was it a wise man was once heard to opine: “he who risks nothing, risks everything”. I’m not altogether sure if I subscribe to that view, based upon the stark evidence of the outcome of a couple of my risk-associated ventures, however it’s food for thought. If I’m going to be around the house, based in Edinburgh, for the next few weeks then I need to accept that I will be without a source of income for that time – and endeavor to maximise this “free” time I have, to develop certain other fringe projects. BFN.
There are some very promising signs, oh patient followers that I may now be making some general headway in life – if the evidence of the last week is anything to go by (more of this later…).
Get this – several, outstanding, minor (major to me?) tasks have all been accomplished over the past week, as the gentle mayhem around the football project has abated. I’ve cleaned my laptop keyboard; I’ve vacuumed the car; I’ve emptied the bathroom waste-bin; I’ve registered with the “LinkedIn” business community website; I’ve sorted through my desk-top files. Bring it on!
These are indeed small signs that I’m finally surmounting my domestic situation and attacking a whole host of administrative tasks that have been sitting dormant on the “back burner” for way too long now. As you will long ago have sussed, if you have painstakingly followed my Diary progress over a fair amount of time, I struggle to create, if my workplace has not attained some basic form of order (I’m sure that’s pretty much the same for most of us). There continues the nagging, ever-growing, conviction that - until I dispense with all the minutiae of detail that seems to dog my football project – I may have to action some monumental changes in my working habits.
OK, I’m wandering off the track a little here, but did I happen to mention, over the last couple of weeks (as I try to formulate the basis of a plan to rid myself of the albatross of this house) that in the five years that I’ve “resided” here, I have sat – make that “lay”, as I have no garden furniture – in the back garden maybe three times! Come on, that’s not even funny. It’s worrying.
However, the dawning reality is this: at a time in my life where, arguably, I should be looking to slow the pace a little, I am aware of the need to keep the pressure on, as I seek to find alternative accommodation, alternative work and, subsequently, alternative avenues of creativity. I should mention at this juncture that I have also, this past week, heralded a significant change in my lifestyle habits (does a guy in my situation ever nurture “habits”?) – I’m back at the gym!!
Like many things in my life that deserve a little priority, I was meaning to get this particular aspect of my life back together, long before now. This past week I have finally done it. Having not set foot in such an establishment for the best part of ten years (save the occasional visit to a hotel in-house leisure centre), I’ve had to make a gradual start to the proceedings. Even so, I’m sitting here in the office chair with some form of ache (it seems) in every part of my body – however, these are welcome aches that remind me that I’m finally getting my act together.
Now (depending upon your outlook) I have saved the best piece of news for the end of this week’s Diary entry: when I tell you what this is, you may not initially view it as a clear sign that I’m pulling my personal life back together again. However, trust me – it is a blindingly clear sign!
Intrigued? OK, well here we go …. today is not Sunday 14th August – it’s Saturday 13th August!! Yes, for the first time, as long as I can remember, while I have been penning this weekly Diary, I am actually one day ahead of myself. When you think that – very recently – I had to admit to being almost five weeks behind, then this is, indeed, a very encouraging development. I’m just off to pour myself a big drink. Long may this “new” phase of my life continue. See y’all next week.
August? August? Wasn’t it just Christmas, a few months ago?
Have spent most of the last week tidying up a bunch of loose ends, in relation to the football project. We now have only three players left here in Scotland, from the original twenty-four!
We have Herman Mekongo training with the under-19 squad at Motherwell (Premier League club) and Jonathan Cabale (an early “favourite” of Russell's) and Samir Dghoughi both training up at Raith Rovers (Scottish First Division club). We were sorry to lose Andy Felsina - who was on the verge of spending a week with a Scottish First Division club before said club re-assessed their financial position and announced an immediate stop to player spending – and also to lose Axel Bossekota, the subject of last week’s Diary entry (who’s name I didn’t mention back then).
Tough, huh? We’ve always said, paradoxically, that the football is almost the easiest part, for those trial players. Just as important is the mentality, the culture change – and not forgetting the pace and physical nature of the game in the UK. In fairness to ourselves (Russell, Jean and myself) we repeatedly reminded the players we brought to the UK of how tough it would be for the first six months, until they established their reputation in Scotland. Sadly, it’s becoming painfully apparent that “tough” has something of a different interpretation with footballers!
I’m still confident, however, that the investment on this project (just a tad short of £25,000.00!) will – eventually – be paid back from our company’s future earnings off those three remaining players. If that proves to be the case – and keeping in mind the sharp lessons we have learned from our recent “dabblings” with French players – then (although it may not seem so at the moment) the overall exercise could possibly be judged as definitely worthwhile. Time will tell.
So, as alluded to in last week’s Diary entry, I must now concentrate on re-organising my domestic situation, the prime objective being to have my house placed on the market within the coming months, before the next Christmas rears it’s glittering head. Not a whole lot of time to do that.
It’s only now becoming apparent just how much my involvement with the football side of my business eats into any spare time that I have. Within the next few days I intend to stringently re-assess the guidelines which we have roughly used, until now, in relation to the involvement we allow ourselves, with any given player. From now on, they will cover ALL of their own expenses to come to trial here in the UK. What’s the problem? If they are as good as they claim to be, the club they are on trial with will surely sign them – and also reimburse all their expenses. No? Yes.
I will have to be just as mercenary with my own personal time, in respect of the multitude of domestic chores (large and small) that knock on from the upkeep of a four-bedroomed house, when A) one essentially lives alone – read into “essentially” what you will! – and B) one is travelling so much. I either need to dispense completely with some tasks or procure “outside” help with others - otherwise my life will continue to be one never-ending game of catch-up. Easy to bang on about – not so easy to accomplish. Let’s see what progress I have made this time next week. I’m presently feeling good about my ability to get on top of this situation. Pastures anew? Mmmm…July
Well - I would have to say - I’ve had better weeks: hey, it can’t all be glitz and glamour and girls.
All our efforts, in respect of the squad of football players we have had in the country for almost three weeks now, looked like they were about to pay off (in the long run anyway – but we were happily resigned to this) with the realisation that one of our strikers was an excellent prospect.
However, only being twenty-two years old, any club the player would have signed to would have been facing a potentially debilitating compensation claim, as he would have been looking to sign a professional contract while under the age of twenty-three. The player was convinced this was avoidable, based upon his claim to have already signed a professional contract on two previous occasions, once in Belgium and once on Cyprus (copies of which he had, on his possession).
Alas, in checking with the two relevant football associations, where the player was convinced he had attained professional status, we found him to only have ever been registered as amateur. I’ll save you the lengthy explanation of how this essentially killed his chances of a move to a professional club (a Scottish Premier League club, no less) but it did – royally. Serious downer.
Occasions such as the above serve as a serious wake-up call, as to my current situation: am I battering my head uselessly against this wall labeled “football”? Is it just not my time? “My time” however – if I’m willing to look at this (painfully) honestly – has been almost fifteen years now and - while I’ve had the odd, notable, success along the way - I’m still very much “trading down”.
Currently, I’m on the verge of making the fairly brave decision to stay put here in Scotland, for almost the next three months (the next concrete offer of work I have is a German tour with Paul Potts in November of this year) to extensively re-organise my domestic life – and, therefore, myself. I have the oddest feeling – no doubt hastened, in some part, by the approach of my 60th birthday! – that if I don’t take the time to catch up with several dormant processes in my life, I may never get to them. Does that appear somewhat morose? Need an example?
Ok, here’s one of several poignant examples for you: four or five years ago I bought one of those digital record turntables, on which you can play your old vinyl “singles” which are then converted to digital format, while said turntable is linked up to a laptop. It’s still in the box. Now, being that I have upwards of 1000 old singles, I start to wonder when I will ever get around to that.
One thing’s for sure: I’ve no chance of completing such “catch-up” tasks while I am working on a touring project (because, of course, I’m mainly away from home) with even less chance if I’m trying to combine any football-related activity in tandem with my touring work! Gotta slow down.
Shamefully, I’ve fallen seriously far behind in all matters domestic and, therefore, if I don’t grit my teeth and attempt to rectify that situation over the coming weeks, I’m only going to get further behind. Sure, if a lucrative stint of touring work were to be offered to me, I would have to go for it: the point is, I’m toying with the decision not to go looking for such work – and to push on in the house (which I would really like to sell) and clear up many of those tasks. Bye y’all.
Let the truth be known: here I am, finally caught up with all my weekly “Diary from the Road” entries – although there’s not really much relevant to the “road, in these current times.
Can you believe that said entries fell almost five weeks behind, as a result of me trying to deal with my JLS project – and my football project – in the same four-week period? Madness, oh yes.
Even with the boundless, adrenalin-driven, energy that I’m renowned for within the Music Business, I have – this time - pushed the boat too far, those last three weeks: it was fine when Russell and Stuart were there to deal with all the coaching side of things. Latterly, over the past ten days, I’ve been pretty much on my own, marshalling the “short-list” of eighteen players.
In taking a balanced view of the current situation – and with the benefit of hindsight – more care and time is definitely required in the planning stages: however, the requisite amount of time was not available to me, as a result of my longstanding commitment to JLS’s summer shows. There is much we have learned in the past four weeks that will be put to excellent use should we decide to run with such a project again, although the economics of football point to England next time.
On the current state of play, we should hopefully have four players placed at senior clubs, by the end of this month – and through until the next transfer window, in January: that’s a one-in-six success rate, when measured against the original squad of twenty-four players that arrived in Scotland, almost four weeks ago now (keeping in mind that when you look at the original numbers of players from the two “trial weekends” – around 75 in total – then it’s only a one-in-eighteen!
The key is to find the next four players, without having to trawl through seventy-five to find them: next time we have to reduce the “travelling” squad to no more than eighteen players from (say) one “trial weekend” only, of fifty players (fifty allows us to have two full games on the Saturday, then reduce it by half to have one “final selection” squad game on the Sunday. Next time, we will also look to issue the “attendees” with an even-more-detailed “So You Want To Play Football in England?” document, painfully laying bare what awaits them – if they make the “cut”.
On the organizational side of things (and this should be easier next time, as we have now garnered a fair reputation for having decent-quality players in our squads) we need to have the friendly games in place – and at sensible intervals – long before the players arrive in the UK. This will enable us to tighten up the overall “UK trial period” so that the players can search around for the best deal on their return flights. They must also bring enough money with them to “live”.
In summary, however – and definitely once the last four players are settled at clubs – I have to sit calmly somewhere for a few days and take a long, realistic, look at whether I want to pin my colours to the mast of such a project, in the long term (pretty deep huh?). With the benefit of rest and hindsight – and hopefully a wee touch of success in placing the players – things make look a little more promising than they appear to look at this point: I’ve had a few “darker” days recently, when things have gone anything but according-to-plan (and I may yet have a few more of those before the end of this month!) so I’m desperate to stand back from it all – and ponder.
Another day, another $5,000!! (down, that is).
And then there were eighteen (football players left, that is): having managed to arrange two more games this past week – against St. Johnstone Friday past and Hamilton (for a second time) yesterday, we then – today – had to make the painful decision to send a few more lads back.
We therefore are down to ten players, and this has very much come about by Stuart Taylor (our coach here in Scotland), Russell Mason – my partner in this project - and myself, short-listing those players that are either A) “stand-out” talents or B) have already attracted interest from certain of the clubs that we have played competitive matches against. Next week, we have to adroitly “farm out” those remaining players to the clubs that are willing to give them a trial - and who expressed an interest to see those players within their own club set-up.
On Tuesday coming (19th), Falkirk have given us the opportunity to include five of our lads in a friendly game they have planned against St. Johnstone, and I suspect that, after that game, we will prune our numbers further to around 6/7 players, that we will look to place with specific clubs. Into that game will go Sory (goalkeeper), Kevin (defender), Andy (wide left), Annis (wide right), Herman (defensive mid) and Samir (striker). I’ll travel with all six players to that game.
On the same day, Stuart will take Axel to play for a Motherwell side, versus Celtic, at Celtic’s training complex at Lennoxtown. Dia Yero (injured) and Thierry Emmanuel (playing for Morton on Wednesday evening) will accompany Stuart and Axel to that game. I can’t be two places at once.
You can’t believe the amount of running around that has to be done when you have eighteen young football players under your charge. The main advantage of the Wolfson Hall accommodation at the Glasgow Science Park is a financial one, with the individual single and twin rooms coming in at a very favourable price (and including breakfast too). Not forgetting that there are three excellent grass pitches and one synthetic field, within walking distance of the accommodation. The major disadvantage however, is that the location is fairly isolated, stuck up at the far end of Glasgow’s Maryhill Road, therefore there is little of any interest that is within walking distance.
However, we’re here to work and to concentrate on finding the lads the most appropriate clubs for them. In fairness to all of them, the work ethic has been excellent in an environment that has proved particularly tough for the lads – especially having to face up to five games the first week. While they are definitely feeling the strain of such a punishing schedule, they are nevertheless – I’m sure – committed to utilizing every opportunity to show what they can do.
There is no doubt that a major de-brief exercise is called for, once the dust settles and we – hopefully – have a few players settled at certain of the Scottish clubs. I think one clear change to the next visit is becoming absolutely clear: we have to go to England the next time. Sadly, with the way the football economy is at the moment, there are too few clubs north of the border that can accommodate our players – even when the terms we are offering are extremely fair. Twenty-two full-time clubs up here and ninety-two down in England; it’s a “no-brainer” really! Luv y’all!
Do you recall me mentioning last week that I might only be a “frazzled replica” of myself, come this Sunday. Well, here I am – and I am! The candle has been severely burned at both ends.
To be truthful, it’s actually Monday evening, 11th, as I sit here – with a memorable day behind me, as Jade graduated today, in Glasgow. I only arrived in Scotland at 10.30 this morning, having driven up overnight from the second of our two Chelmsford shows – and the final show on this run of JLS outdoor shows. This should really be a time for reflection, however – instead – I’m so far up my own rear-end, it’s hard to discern even a glimmer of daylight. Can’t go on like this.
Russell and I made a monumentous (and far too quick!) decision to hold on to eighteen from twenty-four of our original players, for another week: the decision being based on the fact that we’ve generated substantial interest in the games in which our guys have played this past week, our gut feeling being that several of the lads were within a whisker of taking the next step of having one of the professional clubs invite them to individually train with them, for a few days.
But, boy – is it ever tough out there! At least four of the Scottish First Division clubs cannot consider augmenting their ranks by even ONE additional player: openings are few and far between. I would have to hold up my hand and admit that I did not anticipate it being so bad.
So, as mentioned above, we are down to an eighteen-man squad, which will allow us to go on the hunt again for (ideally) two more games this coming week: we pushed the boat too far last week in involving our guys in five games in seven days. Our (mis-placed?) enthusiasm to expose the player’s abilities to as many clubs as possible has resulted in a very tired squad. We are learning.
For the record, here is a listing of the games (with results) that we have played this past week: first game versus Stirling Albion (a 2-4 loss); second game against Kilmarnock’s U-19’s (a 3-1 win); third game against a strong Hamilton – First Division – side (a 1-3 loss); fourth game against Motherwell’s U-19’s (a 3-2 win) then the final game of the week, yesterday, where – having asked way too much of the lads in a seven-day period, we lost 1-4 to a lively St. Mirren U-19 side.
Oh, yes, we have some tired footballers today: however, they have acquitted themselves admirably – and all the clubs we have so far played against, have all commented on how much of a worthwhile exercise it has been for them, in their build-up preparations for the new season.
Next week we are looking to (ideally) schedule the games for Wednesday and Friday or Saturday, this allowing the lads to have two clear days of rest: their battered bodies need time to recover.
On the touring front, that’s my commitment to JLS at an end for the time being. I believe there are plans in the pipeline to stage a second arena tour in the earlier part of next year, however I have seen no official confirmation of such. As regards other touring projects for me, I will first need to tidy up the various loose ends on the current football project (and sign a few players to clubs!) before I can stand back from all this activity and take a measured view of my current situation. Who knows what the future holds for me now. The year of living dangerously continues!
Well folks, it’s not the Glasgow Hilton you find me in this evening, from where I pen this entry.
Glasgow, yes: Hilton, no. Indeed, I reach out to you this evening from the Glasgow Science Park accommodation (no students in here at the moment: just aspiring, hopeful, slightly nervous, football players – and all under my charge) where you can’t swing a canary, never mind a cat.
However, later tonight, we have sixteen players arriving into Glasgow Prestwick, from Paris Beauvais, and as they are all billeted in the student accommodation here at the Science Park, at the top of Maryhill Road in Glasgow, then I can’t really leave them here on their own, can I?
Having said that, my single-bedroomed, student room has a desk, a shower, a bed and a telephone: how much more do I need for the next few days? Added to the fact that I have no garden here, therefore no concerns about my grass being overgrown; no drainage problem under this room, so no concerns about a buckled driveway and – possible the best bit – no creaking central heating. Do you sense I’m definitely veering away from my “big house” phase? Oh, yes.
On the touring front, I have actually done two shows in Scotland this week: on Friday the JLS boys played for over ten thousand people at the Royal Highland Showground, on the outskirts of Edinburgh (no more than three miles, in a straight line, from my house: so near, yet so far). Last night the lads played a great show at the football stadium of Ross County FC, in Dingwall, in Inverness shire. Of course, I have been to several football games there, in my time – but actually playing an outdoor show there, was a unique “first”: made all the better by a cloudless day.
So, here we are (Russell and I) preparing to make our way to Prestwick Airport to collect this squad of 16 footballers, with a few more arriving tomorrow and Tuesday. Before we are finished, we’ll be lucky to have enough change out of £20,000.00 to buy ourselves a cup of coffee. We are buoyed by the fact, however, that certain players do “slip through the net” and it only takes one (reasonably!) decent player, to repay our investment. Then we go looking for the next one.
Next week, I’ll be able to give you some idea of how our squad is shaping up – and if we foresee one or two “gems” emerging, that might go some way (maybe later, than sooner – but that’s OK) to balancing the books of this project. We need to find the clubs that will give our guys time.
By the time you read next week’s diary entry, I will probably be edging towards a frazzled replica of myself as first thing next Thursday morning I have to leave here at the crack of dawn to drive to Newcastle to start a four show run: I know I’m pushing things a little, however I cannot afford to miss this opportunity, as this is really the only time we can do this project.
Exciting as the football project is, I need to free up some personal time for myself. I’m not speaking to my son nearly as much as I should; I haven’t spoken to my daughter in over a week (and she graduates in Glasgow, a week tomorrow!) and I’ve had little chance to plan moving house. I don’t want to look back in a few years and regret being so focussed on one area of my life, that I missed out on many other important aspects of it. At least I’m aware of the need to fix it. BFNJune
I can’t tell how far behind my diary entries have gotten: almost to the point of me asking myself how I could “fairly” catch up: “fairly” in the sense of retaining the relevance of the information for each individual week. By far, the ideal situation is to be writing it up on a Sunday morning – or, as I have done on several occasions, “draft” it up at some point on a Saturday, and then tidy it up at some point, before the end of the day on the Sunday. Well, that was the plan, anyway …
I’ve now almost fallen a month behind with my entries, but should be caught up over the next few days, as a result of a few North/South train journeys I have to take.
It personally irks me greatly to find myself in such a position, as the timely completion – and “publication” - of each entry, represents some form of yardstick as to how well I have actually organized myself that particular week. In the case of recent weeks, file that under “poorly”.
This past week saw the completion of two shows on the Emerald Isle, one in the North (Belfast Odyssey) and one in the south (Thomond Park, in Limerick). Having volunteered to drive the band Vianno, by way of the ferry, to Ireland and back, I’ve certainly exposed myself to a few road miles in the last forty-eight hours: nevertheless, I’m travelling mainly on my own – ahead of the main band party – which naturally allows me a certain flexibility of movement, which I love!!
I’ve now lost count of the amount of times I have played shows in Ireland, starting way back in the early days of the Bay City Rollers, when we visited a whole host of towns in the North (Belfast, Portrush, Ballymena, Bangor, Antrim, etc) and the South (Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Galway, Shannon, etc). Can I go back to those days please? I wouldn’t have to spend long there.
The Irish fans, much in keeping with the Scots fans, are – for my money – the wildest, most excitable, fans of the lot: I’ve often wondered why that is, but never got to the bottom of it. Could it possibly be that the geographical areas of the UK where the economy is hit the hardest, produce the individuals that need to divert their attention the greatest, away from the relentless daily grind? Or do I paint too black a picture of how that comes about?
I would have to admit that I still experience the odd pangs of guilt, as I observe – during any time I spend “front-of-house” at many of the concerts I am involved in – how most of the audience really can’t afford (or are powerless to avoid, once they are trapped inside the concert arena surroundings) the total concert experience - the cost of the tickets just being the start.
I gaze, almost mesmerized, from the windows of our luxury tour bus as it glides smoothly away from the backstage compound, leaving behind young mothers tugging handfuls of children behind them, wondering how they’re going to deal with the Visa credit card bill, when it drops on the doormat in a few weeks, the majority of it’s increasing costs, being down to the evening gone by.
Something’s not right about it all, and it’s something I am becoming increasingly aware of, on a personal level: well aware that were I to “speak up”, then I would be taking a large bite out of the hand that feeds me. ‘Tis but a minor dilemma, but one that eats away at me. Until next week.
So, lest I forget, should I just relay my small family story, in respect of the “Alton Towers” amusement park – which I alluded to at the end of last week’s entry. Still a pleasant memory.
I had just come off one of the more enjoyable tours I have done in my time, namely with the eclectic songwriter and musician, Steve Winwood. The tour was aptly named “Latin Crossings” and within the ranks of the band were certain very respected musicians (including Arturo Sandaval, the trumpet player and Ed Calle, the saxophone player) – none more so that Tito Puente, the infamous Latin timbales player and noted songwriter (he released over 60 albums in his time!!).
Anyway, the final show of the tour – following on from some very memorable performances in iconic settings throughout some of Europe’s classical cities – was staged, of all places, at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. As I had been away on tour for about four weeks, I took the opportunity to have Stella put Bradley and Jade down to London on the train, where they could spend a couple of days in London with me and, with London being the last show of the European Tour, I could travel back to Scotland with them.
After the aforementioned last show in London, he very kindly “bonused” all the crew members – including myself – to the tune of £200.00 each: most unexpected and most welcome. When I suggested to the children that we use it to finance a trip to Alton Towers, on the way home to Scotland, you can imagine there was not a murmur of disagreement for that idea: and that, folks, is my Alton Towers story. Warm, warm, memories – how I dearly wish I could revisit that place.
Veering back to the future, what can I report of the last week? Tonight, as you will have gathered, was the show at Alton Towers; last night we played Lydiard Park in Swindon – and on Friday (the first show of this weekend run) we found ourselves in the middle of a quagmire a few miles outside Winchester, in the “Matterly Bowl” for – I’m afraid – an instantly forgettable show.
For most of the time we were onsite, the heavens threw every drop of rain it could find downwards in the direction of the Matterly Bowl: the old not-very-waxed-now Australian horseman’s coat certainly came into it’s own on Friday, however I finished the evening with mud-encrusted cowboy boots and a bedraggled suit, begging for a visit to the dry cleaners.
Worse was to come: egress from the venue turned out to be a nightmare and the band coach must have taken at least two hours to make the short distance from backstage to the main road: gross mismanagement of various parking areas skirting the main concert site, resulted in the auto log-jam of the decade: those families with reasonably young children must have endured a ghastly time, with their offspring demanding hydration and toilet facilities, in equal measure.
Naturally, the Artists themselves cannot escape the long shadow of association cast by such a shambolic occurrence when – in reality – the access ways around such a concert site are the prime responsibility of the event organizers: sure, the atrocious weather only compounded the situation and – all in all – definitely one evening to attempt to erase from one’s memory. Let’s hope there are no repeat experiences on the remainder of the summer shows. Until next week …
Back on the road again!
This evening finds us on the way back to London, from Swansea, having played a great show at the “new” football stadium there: sure, it was “chucking it down” – however the majority of our audience were determined not to allow constant rain to stop their enjoyment of the show.
This has in fact been the first of five “summer weekends”, each comprising three shows - with the exception of the final weekend, which starts with a show on the Thursday, the 7th July in Newcastle, and ends Sunday 10th with the second of two consecutive Chelmsford shows.
This past weekend’s three shows (Hull on Friday; Norwich last night – and Swansea tonight) have all experienced some degree of rainfall, during the lads’ performances: from light to torrential. As I mentioned at the beginning of this week’s entry, such inclement weather conditions appear not to have curbed the audience’s enthusiasm for the evening’s entertainment. It never ceases to amaze me just how dedicated many of those parents are: to not only underwrite the trip to these huge events – but also to actually stand there with them on the day, in a muddy field!
Our first show of this summer run was staged at Hull City’s KC stadium, three nights ago – where Westlife were one of the first acts to play a live show there, in 2003, not long after the stadium construction had been completed: of course I can’t remember who else was on the bill that night.
Carrow Road, as it is affectionately, locally, know by the Norwich City fans is a stadium about to undergo some fairly substantial redevelopment itself, as Norwich City have been promoted to the top flight of UK football – non other than the English premiership. We wish them well. Although the financial rewards of making the ultimate “step-up” in English Football are huge, the risk of going straight back down again (to the “Championship” – from whence they came) is also huge. Still, better to be up there, trying one’s best to avoid the drop, than the other way around: there are so many excellent football teams in the English Championship, it’s a major challenge to mount the intensity of campaign that puts your team into the top six – and a chance of going up.
On my own football front, we have set the dates of the period that we will bring the reduced squad of eighteen players into Scotland, to play against three different sides in a week. This, too, is laced with risk – in that you have to confirm to the players that the project has the green light (thereby enabling them to secure the best deal on their flight tickets, which – along with all food costs except breakfast – will be funded by themselves. The Scottish clubs are understandably cautious about taking a game against a squad of players of which they have no former knowledge. Will they be good enough? Will they be too good? If the game does not exude some form of competitive edge, then neither side is able to bring their abilities to the fore.
We have another three JLS shows coming up next weekend, again in the central/southern area of England (Winchester, Swindon and Alton Towers – the latter being the most extensive amusement park in the UK. I’m warmly reminded of the time I took Jade and Bradley there, many years ago – 1998 I believe – but I’ll tell you a little more about that next week. Bye for now. JD.
Lordy, lordy, hallelujah – I have indeed endured a week that has certainly not lengthened my life.
We finally received confirmation (as a result of the diligent Jean Bosco making an “advance” trip earlier this week) – just Wednesday past, that a location for today’s game had been secured in Paris. Well, on the outskirts of Paris, to be specific: the area of Boissy-Saint-Leger, 35 minutes south-east of the city centre, on the red A2 RER express over-ground Metro service.
As I sit here, penning this entry, I can reflect on a whirlwind few days: somehow, we managed to assemble almost forty players into three teams and run them all through their paces over a very busy two days. We (myself, Russell and Jean – our chief European Scout who is based in Belgium) based ourselves in a small village called Brie Comte Robert, close to the football field we rented in Villecresnes, 15 kilometres south of Boissy-Saint-Leger. What a beautifully peaceful area.
So, the first day, yesterday, we assembled all the players from the overall squad, that were not playing their last game for their own clubs (yesterday being the final day of the season for most French clubs) and Russell put them thorough a light training session and a small-sided, 20-minute game: we felt this to an essential part of the build-up, as it would have been tough to have met the total squad of forty players for the first time today – and have to remember all their names.
What we saw yesterday certainly enthused us. Today – having had the advantage of playing two full-sided games - has only led us to further believe that there is exceptional hidden talent in France: however we need to find the clubs that will give these guys just a little time to develop.
The only shadow cast on today’s proceedings was the emergence of a thief in the changing room area, who was apparently at work during the second game: this development severely dampened the spirits of the remaining players, several of whom were missing their i-Phones and/or watches. The late arrival of certain of the players, particularly those earmarked for inclusion in the first game, was definitely a contributing factor: this necessitated a frantic switching, and substitution, of several of them, essentially on a “first-arrive-first-play” basis. Consequently, we didn’t really have the opportunity to securely lock the changing-room doors, for the first game.
Decent guys like Russell, Jean and myself struggle to come to terms with such an incident: we’re just trying to do our level best to assist the majority of those players to break out from the anonymity of lower-league French football – and then one or two of them decide to give us grief.
However, in the final analysis, only four players (we feared that would be a higher number, when the initial discovery was realised) reported a genuine loss of personal effects to us. What do you do in these situations? One of the players we can trust, remarked that this is not uncommon, at all, at these type of trial games: this made us feel no easier, believe me. We are undeterred however, in our quest to unearth on or two “gems”: we now await a DVD of the game (which we commissioned today) to have a long look at the players and attempt to make an informed judgment on which of them may have what it takes, to succeed in British football. Can we convince many of the clubs that we have an eye for a player? I bloody hope (pray) so! BFN.May
I don’t know if I mentioned, in last week’s diary entry, that I was going to spend a few days, this past week, down south at Loraine’s house, in the home counties, helping her to re-organize her garage and surrounding areas: when you are a single mother, looking after three girls (one who now has a boy of her own) there’s just no time to undertake routine maintenance and repair work.
Uncle Jake to the rescue. The garage was indeed a challenge, with no other way to attack it other than by completely emptying it’s myriad of contents onto Loraine’s driveway, sifting through and re-sorting everything - and then neatly ordering into archive boxes, what was being kept. Loraine bravely dispensed with a fair amount of miscellaneous items – mainly clothing – which resulted in a car full of boxes, en-route to her next local “car boot” sale (can’t remember how it’s referred to in the States – or maybe that’s where the idea originated, buddy).
My only slight regret, having completed the mammoth task at around 10.00 pm in the evening, was that I hadn’t taken “before and after” pictures. You wouldn’t have believed the difference – but it’s back-breaking work for an old codger like me. It’s not Miller time tonight – it’s “Radox” time!
Returning back to Edinburgh on Friday past, at midday, will not rank amongst one of my more memorable train journeys: a signals failure at a major junction had incapacitated the earlier northbound train (a signals failure “incapacitates a train” – I don’t quite get that). Anyway, we all know that is in these situations – particularly on a Friday afternoon – “two into one” makes for a very congested train. So much so, that there were people standing in the carriage aisles.
As regards our second proposed football trials in Paris, we are still seeking a decent location at this time. Deciding to take the reins of the organizational aspects of the project – and having our Chief European Scout, Jean Bosco, based in Belgium, is key to this – we have painstakingly managed to assemble a squad of around thirty young (average age 21) players, all desperate to ply their trade in the professional UK divisions. Trouble is, we have nowhere yet to play the game!
Jean has managed to motivate a couple of his already-signed French players into scouring their contact books to see if they can locate an appropriate pitch, with adequate dressing rooms. We’re living fairly dangerously at the moment, as these thirty-odd players are depending on us to find a location for the scheduled date of the game, being next Sunday 5th June (training the 4th).
My experience (foolhardiness?) in taking on several “eleventh hour” projects has shown me that I’m generally able to make it happen, but it’s that old, familiar, close-call feeling that is rumbling away at the bottom of my gut right now, as the hours drain away: as in all this situations – in spite of outward bravado – one has to fix a cut-off point in one’s mind at which point Plan B must come into place (OK, OK – I’ll make a start to Plan B tomorrow). So, lose no sleep over my predicament, dear readers: “Minute to Midnite Productions” are treading the high-wire, with no interest of the impending perils, far below. As soon as the facility is confirmed, it’s hammer down to confirm the remainder of the arrangements. It will (should) be alright on the night. BFN.
Back in blighty!! That’s England, just in case my seventeen foreign readers are slightly confused.
However, it is but a technically brief stop in England, as I sit penning this diary entry in Terminal Five of London’s Heathrow airport, while awaiting my flight connection to Edinburgh. Naturally, I’m somewhat apprehensive to survey the drainage problem/driveway upheaval upon my return to my house, but I’m still wise enough to know that it’s not going to fix itself. So, home I go today.
In fact, if the truth were known, I’m probably more apprehensive about my May cellphone bill dropping on the doormat (and probably making an indentation on the hallway floor) in ten days. In addition to a couple of unavoidably lengthy telephone conversations back to the UK - upon discovery of the drainage problem - there has been a fair smattering of necessary business calls. I did look to minimising the costs of any outgoing calls from Thailand, by purchasing a Thai SIM card and sticking it into my old (but you know how I still love it for its simplicity) Nokia 6230.
We actually only spent the first two days of the last week in Thailand, leaving there in the small hours of Wednesday morning (18th) to make a four-day stopover in Qatar, where Russell Mason – my partner on the French football project – has lived for the past six years. We needed a little time to review the football trials we held in Paris earlier this month and to plan the next phase, scheduled for 4th/5th June, again in Paris. We feel we might (might) just be onto something here.
It has never been easy convincing football clubs to take a look at “unknown” foreign (particularly young) football players however, ironically, during these tight economic times, there may now be more of a window of opportunity than ever before. Many clubs are considerably reducing their squads and/or the monies previously on offer to the players that they hope to re-engage. As certain of the young guys, that we are managing to unearth in France, understand the logic of a “loss leader” contract for six months – while they adapt to the UK game and hopefully draw some attention to themselves – then we believe they have an opportunity to jam their foot in the door.
These young lads have to be applauded for their bravery, in such circumstances, as – from Sir Alex Ferguson down - every football manager will repeatedly tell you that there are no guarantees in football. Sandy Stewart, the Assistant Manager to Owen Coyle at Bolton, will tell you that “football is a day-to-day business” – and how Sandy has been the living proof of that!
Unfortunately, the organization of the last game (which we entrusted to an already-overworked colleague of ours) was not to the standard that we would have liked. Therefore, for the next training session and game, 4th/5th June, we are going to take far more control of those organizational aspects, thereby presenting a more honest and professional front to our company.
Let me tell you folks – and you’re welcome to remind me of this in the future (although I don’t know how much good it will do!) – if this “French project” of ours hits the skids, then it is time to take a serious step back from the football side of my business, for a while. I have to look to my own future more than ever. I know I appear young, suave, debonair, energetic and tireless - but, I’m not. It’s very slowly catching up with me, therefore time is of the essence! Wish me luck.
Now, I’m going to tell you just exactly how it is, with this week’s entry.
Here I was sitting in Terminal 5 (on Sunday 22nd May, I have to confess) of London’s Heathrow airport, with my diary entries two weeks behind – but having a three hours layover before my Edinburgh flight, and therefore very confident of putting both entries “to bed” during that time.
So, naturally, I start with the 15th May entry - because the longer I leave it before I pen the actual entry (although, you will note that I have been a lot more on top of things in the last few months) the harder it is to recall the events of that past week. So, I manage to complete that within about forty-five minutes, save the file, and then – using a copy of the “15th” entry, change the title to 22nd May but then – you know what’s coming here, don’t you? – forget to save the new entry under a new filename (the jarring realisation of which, is not the best feeling in the world).
Then, typically, when I’m about three paragraphs into the new entry, my cellphone rings and – knowing at the back of my mind that I should hit “save” before I find myself immersed in some technical football conversation – I save the file, but not with the new file name! Overwrite!!
Therefore, yes, so here I am re-writing the 15th May entry and looking to specifically recall my previous notes (in the seven or eight years of compiling this diary, this is probably the 3rd/4th time this has happened – but, the first time I have owned up to it!). So what can I remember?
I believe I was telling you guys that I had enjoyed a very laid back week, in an area of Thailand called Naklua Beach, a few kilometers north of Pattaya, and just over an hour by taxi (cost £15.00!!) from Bangkok’s main airport. We spent much time wandering the beachfront between both places and, in the process, had discovered a few hidden gems of tiny restaurants perched on the crumbling esplanade where we lunched – for the two of us – for around £12.00 each day. Our favourite was a small, ramshackle, outfit run by a father and son operation (producing some pangs of envy within me, I have to say) but idyllically located, overlooking the bay and the beach.
Unfortunately, while at dinner on Wednesday evening (11th May), I received a phone call from my (thankfully) observant neighbour, Graham Lorimer, to inform me that some of the “Monobloc” bricks at the bottom of my drive appeared to have been uprooted, from below. I immediately suspected our recently troublesome rainwater drainage system that we were attempting to rectify, before I left for the French football trials. Oh, how I wish we had figured it out before.
My main concern (apart from my rapidly increasing cellphone bill) on taking Graham’s call while in Thailand, was whether there was any risk of the excess water actually finding its way into the house and whether the old, heavy, Jag – that I left sitting on the centre of the driveway – was liable to cause any further movement with the Monobloc. Thankfully, both fears have proven to be groundless, particularly as very little rain is forecast for Edinburgh over the coming ten days.
Well, my dear resolute readers, if you have managed to follow the gist of this week’s entry then you would appear to have commendable patience. I’ll try not to let this happen again. Bye for now.
There’s no getting around the fact: I certainly do a bit of travelling, do I not?
To evidence the above, here I am in Thailand today, Sunday, in North Pattaya. Why here of all places, especially when I have been to Thailand on three previous occasions, down the years? Although I’ve always been an advocate of the climate down here – and the inexpensive lifestyle – this time the reasons are purely practical. I need to take a short break before the JLS summer shows begin and - having to be in Qatar for a few days of business between 18th and 22nd of May – I managed to find a deal on Qatar Airways that allowed me a “layover” on the way back to London.
Not so great is the fact that we’ve arrived down here on the fringes of the rainy season (not quite sure if that technically qualifies as the monsoon season), however – heavy as these sudden squalls can be, it’s normally all over within an hour, clear skies return and it all dries up very quickly.
So, what of the last week? Well, considering that seven days ago I was sat back in Edinburgh, penning last week’s diary entry – then it’s fair to say that “much water has flown under the bridge” since then: technically speaking, I’ve been in Scotland, France, England, Qatar (transiting flights only) and, now, Thailand. It was the four days spent in Paris – Tuesday to Friday past – that proved to be the most interesting and, let’s hope, the most lucrative: albeit, a few years down the line.
I mentioned last week the basis of the project: to congregate around fifty young players in Paris, mainly French of course, with the intention of holding four trial games to hopefully make a “cut” of twelve to fifteen players that would exhibit a talent – and playing style – suitable to the UK.
Well, it was a frantic two days but we are - almost - there. We actually have eighteen players that have made the cut and who – to be as sure as we can – we will have to see in a further game, planned for 4th/5th June (with me being due into JLS rehearsals on 6th June). I have always claimed that there is considerable, unlocked, potential within the ranks of the thousands of young unemployed footballers within Paris’s city boundaries: unearthing them will not prove to be easy.
Of the above-mentioned eighteen, we will certainly have suffered some call-offs, three weeks from now, when we look to bring them all back together again. A few will have succumbed to the pressure (and the “security” that it affords them) of extended contract offers at their present clubs; a few will be off on pre-season trials in some other part of the world and (sadly) a few – especially those who may have one or two young children – will have decided to no longer rely on football to support their household - and resignedly given up their interest in the game.
Therefore, we have a moral responsibility to divert our combined energies into sourcing the appropriate clubs in the UK, where these ambitious lads can find a suitable platform to display their talents – and then, hopefully, move on (in a year or two) to greater things. In these trying economic times, this approach will require – initially – some “ducking and diving”, for these lads to survive – and be noticed – while establishing that first foot on the ladder. We have told all the lads – face to face - who made the “cut” in Paris, that we will concentrate on locating them with the club that suits them best: not that suits us best. It’s all down to trust. Only time will tell. BFN
One of the rare occasions (although, admittedly there has been a few this year so far) where I have stayed put in Edinburgh for the whole week. However, I have not been inactive by any stretch of the imagination: I have been indulging in a small campaign of subtle self-marketing.
The main push of the above has been to add an additional page to my web site (titled “Leave Our Kids Alone”), intended to bring some notice - but probably no noticeable cessation whatsoever – to the practice of sharp agents utilising the likes of “Facebook” to contact young footballers. You may or may not have noticed the additional subject on the left hand menu on my website’s page.
I often say to people that “you can write the best song this year, but if no ever hears it being played, then it will never be a hit”. That’s almost the same with my football business: there I am, battering away trying to highlight the things that are wrong about the game - and how we might be able to make an effort to fix them – but who (apart from you, my loyal readers) is actually aware of my crusading? I need a “leg up” to create some awareness for my efforts and beliefs. Hence, a fair portion of this last week has been spent on preparing and forwarding a mail-out, in relation to the above subject. It will be interesting to observe the level of feedback we attract.
On the domestic front, I’m slowly bringing my property up to scratch, with a view to next year’s proposed sale – not the straight forward procedure it should be, when I am never there half the time. There are three or four “tradesmen” type jobs that – once completed – will leave only a long list of minor, cosmetic, “snagging” points, to be ready to put the house on the market. Hallelujah!
Otherwise (because we have to remember there are bills to be paid) the main concentration of my time – business wise – has been applied to the “Foreign Legion” trials that we are holding in Paris next week. Our four strong team consists of myself; my buddy Russell Mason (who deals with everything on the coaching side); Jean Evina, our French scout based in Paris and finally – paying a visit from his home town of Lokkeren in Belgium, to spend the three days in Paris with us – Jean Bosco, who keeps an eye on the Belgian market for us. We’re all due into Paris next Tuesday, 3rd.
Jean Evina has now managed to amass a squad of over fifty players to play in the four trial games, from which we hope to be able to make a “cut” of 12 – 15 lads who show genuine potential. From there, my experience tells me, we will further reduce that number due to non-football issues. To explain, some of the lads will be the recipients of extended offers from their present clubs; some will find it too risky to endure the nervous wait until late July, to be sure of securing a “starter” contract with a UK-based club - and some will just not turn up again, the next time (seriously).
I read somewhere that there are 10,000 out-of-contract footballers, mostly young, “roaming the streets of Paris” with little hope of earning themselves a living from the game in France. By the law of averages – and the idiosyncrasies of football – it would be safe to say that 20 of those 10,000 have excellent potential, are very talented, and have just “slipped through the net” for a variety of reasons. Then there are at least ten times that, 200 players, who will vastly improve with the benefit of specifically-tailored coaching programmes. If we can find the first 20 mentioned, then any of the other 200 will be a bonus. Wish us luck next week. It’s all or nothing!April
Let the train take the strain: currently heading North to Edinburgh, just passing the city of York.
Even though I only booked the train ticket less than a week ago, I was able to secure a First Class ticket, from Peterborough to Edinburgh (I have been visiting my friend Loraine, in Cambridge, since my return to the UK, on Friday past) for only £10.00 more than the standard class fare.
Now, before you think I may – finally? – be having ideas above my station (geddit!), let me tell you that there is a “free” trolley service in First Class: I have only been on the train one hour and I’ve already been “comped” a coffee, a piece of (yummy) fruit cake and a bottle of water. Being Scottish, I’ll have my £10.00 back, “in kind”, before I reach Edinburgh at 7.35 pm this evening!
So, what to tell, since I left off in Toronto, last Sunday, having just finished an afternoon show, with Paul Potts, in nearby (61 miles) St. Catherines? Grip the sides of your seats, and read on …
Last Monday (18th) being a non-show day, I threw $30.00 bucks of fuel into the rental car and drove the 100 miles north to Midland to visit my (younger) sister Lynne, in her own “backyard” – and a very pleasant drive it was indeed. While in the rental car, on the first three days of the Canadian tour, I had – in Paul’s company – enjoyed his pre-programmable “80’s” music selection, however it was time to expose my real roots on the Midland trip and ROCK OUT, baby! Oh yeah.
Lynne has been in Canada for over twenty years now, since she first travelled there to take up a job as a nanny (in nearby – to Midland – Wyevale) and has lived in the general area ever since. I guess I should be thankful that it cost me only $30.00 worth of gas, to be able to spend a few hours with her, but I wish it could have been a lot longer. It’s prompted some searching thoughts.
Following on from the above, I definitely sense the need to form my remaining years (that’s not morbid now: we all have “remaining years” - some more than others) into some sort of priority order. For instance - because this has been quietly bugging me for a good few months now – I’m going to steel myself to take a long, realistic, look at my football project over the coming weeks. I don’t know if I mentioned that Russell Mason (a buddy of mine for over twenty years – and a man with a good eye for a player) and myself will be travelling to Paris, at the beginning of May for a few days, to run the rule over approximately sixty young players, with a view to unearthing 4/6 lads whom we can hopefully identify as having a bright footballing future, in years to come.
In addition to the above, I will also make another trip – mid May – to Qatar (where Russell is based, and from where he runs a very successful event-management company, serving several middle-east territories) to meet with several key football officials, particularly in Qatar, to further establish anticipated common-ground for the future staging of football orientated events.
Unless I sense positive business opportunities from either of the above trips, then I know in my heart that I face having to slide my football interests onto the “back burner” for a while. I could forgive many of my loyal readers for doubting whether I ever possessed the testicular fortitude to make such a bold decision. However, survival wise, I don’t have much choice. Brave, huh? BFN.
Back on the road again! Nothing too extensive, mind you: five Canadian shows in seven days.
I’m out here with Paul Potts and today (Sunday) I experienced a rather unusual situation with him, show wise: a Matinee performance! In three years involvement with Paul, I’m fairly sure I cannot recall having an event take place during the day: many a TV show, yes – but not a live performance.
The show, earlier today, took place in the Canadian town of St. Catherines (Ontario), Brock University to be exact: a charmingly intimate 600+ capacity venue, with the front row of seats less than six feet from where Paul stood on stage. Oh, that we could play such venues all the time.
This was the third of the five shows on the mini-tour of Ontario (Toronto; Windsor; St. Catherines; Belleville and Ottawa). Three down – as of today – and two left to play: our touring party of five are travelling in two hire cars, collected upon our arrival into Toronto airport on Thursday evening past (14th), which we’ll return to the same location, next Thursday evening.
Sure, it would be great to have a tour bus at our disposal: however – as Paul will be the first to tell you – we tour to make a profit (profit’s not a dirty word) and, in the case of these five shows, it would be glaringly uneconomical to go cruising about the place in a 45-foot luxury coach. OK, that necessitates that we self-drive: food and drink to an old truck driver like myself. The one down side of driving ourselves is the 60 mph speed limit which is enforced on Ontario’s highways: you would be surprised the noticeable difference it makes to be averaging 10 mph less than one is used to at home. Bright yellow highway signs constantly refer to the substantial speeding fines.
Last night’s show was staged in the “Coliseum” theatre of Caesar’s Casino complex in Windsor, Ontario (with Detroit, USA just across the river) where the actual “footprint” of said complex takes up four square “blocks”. As I pointed out to my children many years ago - when they were initially caught in the “headlight-glare” of Las Vegas - this wasn’t built off the back of winners! I still struggle to fathom the amount of hard dollars that were gambled away to generate Las Vegas.
They say (it’s “they” again – just who are they?!) you’ll rarely happen across an outside window on any casino floor: this being to induce you into believing it’s night time, all the time – and research has supposedly shown that gamblers are more at ease plying their trade in the darker hours. For my part, with Paul always enjoying a small flutter on the blackjack table, I followed Paul’s lead and left all my cash in safe deposit in the hotel room, save $50.00. Then: when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Tomorrow, being a day off while we are based here in Toronto, I’m hoping to jump into the rental car and go visit my sister in a place called Midland, about 100 miles north of Toronto: in the past few occasions, Lynne (and my nephew Vincenzo) – have made the trip to the city to visit me at whichever hotel I have been staying at. However, having a few hours to spare, I figured it’s time to go visit Lynne on her own patch; and all made so much easier with the assistance of Ms. SatNav.
I’m definitely more conscious nowadays of the need to spend more time with my family. I guess there are a very few people have it all ways in this world. The rest of us just have to do our best!
Right gang, I’m over the birthday issue. This time next year, it may not pass so effortlessly.
Just thinking about it as I write, I really need to sit down and make some notes on where I want to see myself, by the time I reach my sixtieth birthday. However, I have to tell you honestly, I feel pretty good – although (again thinking about this earlier today) the light, warm days are back.
I really don’t fare very well during the “darker” months, defined in my case as January and February. I believe I can deal with November and December (although you may want to check back with me, in six months from now) – something to do with the run up to Christmas, and – where the last three years are concerned - I’ve always managed to stay busy on touring business, during that time. On the other side of my “darker” months, I can deal with March – as I can see April approaching: maybe not so easy next year, with the big “60” edging up over the horizon.
You know, I’m just sitting here seriously thinking that I have to find some quality time to figure out in which direction I am going to gently steer my life, come this time next year. That’s a must.
Up our way, in central Scotland, yesterday, I do believe we enjoyed the best weekend – weather wise – of the year so far. Alice and I (having put the now, obligatory, three Sunday-morning hours into trying to stay ahead of the multitude of tasks associated with maintaining the exterior of this property) spent the late afternoon hours driving through the borders countryside, visiting the village of Heriot, located about 25 miles south of Edinburgh on the “A7” tourist route.
Otherwise, this past week, I’m smarting from a brief meeting that I had with a property surveyor on Thursday when they stopped by the house, to give me some idea of its current value. When I moved into this property, this particular area was achieving annual growth-on-growth (can you tell I’ve been researching this?) of between 10 – 15%. Had that still been the case, then the house would probably be worth a good £70,000.00 more than its current estimated value. Ouch, ouch!
Right - back to reality, and the promotion of a positive attitude: another personally rewarding week has been spent sizing up the financial feasibility of a few event-related projects, that have been bouncing around my head for a good few years now. If I don’t develop these projects (while I currently have a little time on my hands) past the initial idea stage – if only to look at them from a budget point of view – then they will be lost to the good people for time immemorial.
This past week I have also, brazenly, conducted a little marketing exercise, by way of mailing out an information pack to a select listing of investigative/feature writers, specializing in the area of football. I sincerely believe I have something to offer the game, if only to be the one brave (stupid?) enough to bring certain underhand practices to the notice of the very body of individuals that continually, unknowingly at times, fund said practices: yes, the (literally) poor, abused, fans.
In terms of upcoming “roadwork”, I’m off this coming Thursday (14th) to Canada for a week, to undertake a week of shows, with Paul Potts: it will be great to hook up with him again, as well as his trusty “staff”, namely Chris, Bob and Mark. That’s me buying the first drinks! Until next week.
Can someone do me a favour and just freeze the date – preferably about now – before Thursday?
Reason being, I’ll be one year older by this time next week. Fifty-nine years old? I can’t be – surely? I hardly feel responsible enough to wear an “I’m 29 today” badge – never mind 59.
Anyway, that’s four days away yet - so I’ll put it to the back of my mind and attempt to focus my mind on more pressing matters: like, working out what I’m up to in the next month might be a start! Actually, I have a fair idea, based around my upcoming Canadian trip with Paul Potts (14th through 21st April). I was due to be in be in Belgium to watch a couple of trial games, for young European players, between Friday past and 5th April, however the first of those two games has undergone rescheduling, therefore I may have to make my way out there next weekend, instead.
The trial games that Russell and I have arranged, to run the rule over a host of young European players, in Paris at the beginning (3rd and 4th) of May – in conjunction with our intrepid French scout, Jean Evina - are shaping up nicely: the question for me, is whether I squeeze in another trip to Qatar, between when I arrive back in the UK (22nd April) after Paul’s short Canadian tour and before I’m due in Paris (2nd May). That will very much depend upon developments from the recent round of meetings we (Russell and I) had on the occasion of my last visit to Qatar: I’m quietly confident we’ll be doing some business out there before long – we just have to ‘bide our time”.
With things fairly quiet on the touring front, this last week (save a few hours spent “advancing” the upcoming Canadian shows), I’ve been able to contribute a few days to several marketing ideas that have been simmering on the back burner for a few months now; said ideas have been whittled down to the three most practical options, one a broadsheet advertisement in the sports pages of a notable daily, with the other two being launched via my company website. It’s those ideas, which I will fine-tune this coming week, when I am suitably free of the minutia of touring detail.
I’ve also been able to put a little time into the upkeep of the house, particularly the outside, this last week: I tell you, having a decent garden is all very well – I just overlooked the time required to maintain it. I probably only need about thirty square feet of garden where – when the weather is good (I thrive with the sun on my back) I can sit out and read my book or my newspaper. See – I’m easy pleased. These simple pleasures must be enjoyed more often. Damn, I’m almost fifty-nine!
I’ve given myself until after the “Paris football trials” – specifically Monday 9th May – before pro-actively seeking any more touring work: I have of course the summer shows with JLS, for a good six weeks, therefore my approach is not quite as cavalier as might first appear. You see, I figure that if I don’t take time out now – and investigate the commercial viability of an involvement within other related fields of entertainment – then I may again suddenly, and at very short notice, find myself embroiled in the frenetic business of concert touring. Fairly brave move? You bet it is.
My apologies that this week’s entry may appear a little disjointed: I confess that Alice is quietly watching some Tolstoy-related movie on the other side of the room, in which Helen Mirren is the co-star. I knew I should have stayed in the office to finish this off. To Helen back. In my dreams.March
Well, my long-suffering readers (and occasional secret admirer – c’mon Helen, come clean with your undying lust for me: I blame the red bikini shot) here I am, as mentioned last week, in Qatar.
Some place this. Here’s what I can’t figure, and – no doubt to my detriment – when I can’t figure it out I’ll just come clean: what happens when the oil and natural gas reserves are finally depleted? Sure the Earth is a big place, but there can’t just be endless supplies of such natural resources, on tap until the end of time: is the production – underneath the oceans and continents – of such readily occurring supplies an ever-evolving process? (And to think I took Chemistry at school!).
Those of you with only a passing knowledge of football are possibly aware that Qatar have landed the bid for the staging of the World Cup, out here in 2022, much to the chagrin of England (for those trivia gannets amongst you, the 2014 World Cup will be staged in Brazil, with the 2018 event finals played out in Russia). Irrespective of “how” for a moment, England were outmanoeuvred, outgunned and outpaced by a nation with a population not much bigger than Glasgow: I’ve yet to find the time to read up on how this was actually accomplished. Being in Qatar gives me insight.
Russell Mason, my colleague from years back in the music business – and whose house guest I have been for the last four days, here in Qatar – pulled up a copy of the proposed five (so far!) stadium designs, submitted as part of Qatar’s successful bid. You need to Google those and check them out: totally innovative, ground-breaking, design – one of the stadiums is in the shape of a sea-shell!
If the “Aspire” football academy organisation is anything to go by, then Qatar’s commitment to what they can deliver cannot be underestimated. You think Murray Park (Glasgow Rangers) or Lennoxtown (Glasgow Celtic) are suitably impressive training facilities – from the point of view of youth development centres, alone? Not at the races, I’m afraid, when compared to the “Aspire” set-up. The vastness of its “footprint” alone would require one to have an hour to spare to walk its perimeter. Less a training facility and more of a sporting village – and not just for football.
So, I can report having enjoyed a very productive four days, based in Qatar, while looking at the complete U.A.E. region as a whole, mainly in respect of large-scale event management (of course, football-orientated opportunities managed to sneak their way onto the agenda sheet). I suspect Qatar’s exceedingly rich economy surely attracts the “quick-buck” fraternity like flies to pooh-pooh. Russell however informs me that the movers and Sheikhers (get it?) will nevertheless not throw their funds around needlessly. No question they pay handsomely for a professional job well done, however (as assured by a variety of business people I have encountered those last few days) one has to earn their trust, long before they start pulling out their cheque books, to reward you.
Today (Sunday) I head back to the UK to digest much of my preliminary findings, at a time in my life when I feel a strong leaning towards more creative – rather than purely organizational – projects. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be back out in the region again, before too long. Prior to that, I have a planned trip to Belgium this coming weekend to take in a few “trialist” football games, then a week’s touring in Canada with Paul Potts: so, plenty to keep me busy. It’s most important for me to try and lay back off the detail and look for a new way forward. Love y’all!
If you have a second to glance down at last week’s diary entry, detailing the diversity of what I’m involved with over the coming week, then I can now pickup from there, – to tell you that I’ve arrived in Belfast today (Sunday) in readiness for said upcoming, whirlwind, seven days.
Knowing I would have a little time over here today, before the commencement – tomorrow - of a fairly manic week, I dragged with me a sheaf of press cuttings – mainly football related and recently torn from a host of broadsheet sports sections – with the aim of editing them down to those of particular interest. A couple of said press cuttings are focussing on the recent supposition relating to Harry Redknapp being offered the future England team manager’s position – and how that sits with the fact that he is currently under investigation for tax evasion charges.
Anyone, having read Tom Bower’s excellent, prize-winning, “Broken Dreams” – and also having followed the media interest in some of Harry’s alleged involvement in certain fiscal irregularities – will be following the outcome of his court case, upcoming in August, with curious interest.
Today’s Edinburgh to Belfast flight involved only thirty-five minutes of airborne time, before conveniently touching down at the George Best (City) airport, whereas Belfast’s original airport, now known as Belfast International, involves a thirty-minute journey into the centre of the city.
I’ve spent a lazy day wandering around the main streets of Belfast with the redoubtable Alice: things were fairly subdued in the centre of town today but – let’s face it – akin to the young Scots culture, the Irish are not renowned for their quiet nights out: the general activity around the central shopping area certainly appeared to increase as the afternoon wore on (and the hangovers wore off?!). Much like Glasgow, Newcastle & Liverpool, they don’t hold back here at the weekend.
By the way, did I mention my company’s plan to organise two days of football trials in Paris at the beginning of May, focussing on young French players between the approximate ages of eighteen to twenty-three, with the eventual target being to bring the cream of them (realistically, only six from a starting “line-up” of sixty) back to the UK. In an ideal world, we’re looking to unearth a few special players who can progress to Scottish Premier/English Championship level, within two years.
Russell Mason (my partner in the project) and I firmly believe there a few “nuggets” hidden within the metropolis of Paris, particularly with France’s past colonial connections with the likes of such African countries as Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Reunion. In the past, many of these youngsters have been relocated to France – mainly due to their parents search for regular earnings – enabling them to take up the all-important dual French nationality, allowing them to take up the offer of an opportunity within the UK - without the need to wade through all the Work Permit bureaucracy.
When you look at certain of the young French players – with no apparent notable pedigree - that are pushing for regular inclusion in Arsenal’s first-team squad (albeit that Arsène Wenger is tapped into a very comprehensive European scouting network) it only reinforces my belief that there still remains young, untapped, football talent somewhere within Paris’s city limits. I know it.
I’m looking forward – from Qatar no less - to bringing you up to date on next week’s events. BFN.
That’s three weeks that I’ve now been off the road! It’s at least 3 years since that last happened.
However, I also have to admit to having not felt this chilled for a long time: I’m certainly more personally – and domestically – organised since I moved into this house (5+ years ago): this augers well for the month ahead, as the following projects are in the diary for the next thirty days:
We are off to Ireland next weekend to prepare for three days of press and promotion – firstly in Belfast, secondly in Dublin and finally Limerick – to highlight the lads’ outdoor shows in Belfast and Limerick, in June of this year. I obviously have a warm affinity to the Emerald Isle, having worked with “Westlife” for almost three years - and having spent a fair amount of time out there.
THE MIDDLE EAST
The day I return from Ireland (0625 flight from Dublin – ouch) I’m booked on a midday Emirates flight out of Glasgow, Doha-bound, by way of Dubai. My friend, Russell Mason – at one time, our Stage Manager on several George Michael tours – now owns a very successful event management operation out there: he has been at me for the last few years to spend some time out there with him, in order that we might investigate what further business opportunities may be on offer.
As well as our compatible careers in event management, we also share a passionate interest in the future good of football and therefore we’ll also be looking at certain innovative sports-event ideas that we have been chewing over for a couple of years now. All this and guaranteed sunshine!
EUROPEAN FOOTBALL-TRIAL GAMES
In early April, I will spend five days based in Brussels, with the intention of taking in a few pre-arranged, late-season, trial games - organised with the intention of allowing young European (soon to be) out-of-contract players to stake their claim for a move to a better club next season. This will also allow me the opportunity to hook up with both my Belgian (Jean Bosco) and French (John Evina) scouts – together - to discuss (and hopefully meet) several promising young footballers.
Most pleasingly, I’m travelling out to Canada for twelve days, in early April, to undertake some live shows in the likes of Toronto and Windsor with Paul: I’m more than happy to take up this offer, as JLS will be locked in the recording studio working on new tracks, therefore with - my little office being ship-shape again - I welcome the opportunity of two weeks on the road, to “keep my hand in”.
So there you have it folks: a fairly involved month ahead, which involves both the music and football sides of my business, the latter which I am most keen to develop with some original, innovative, projects that – at long last – I may just have time to advance to the next stage! BFN.
Dearest, patient (few?) readers – how the hell are you all this chilly (in Scotland anyway) evening?
Another full week spent in Scotland – another diary being written on the day is meant to be (I fear that if I repeat this rare feat next Sunday, it may – I have to honestly admit – be an all-time record for me: one month’s consecutive diary entries all written on time!). Changed days indeed.
This past week was my “administration” week, the one prior to it – the first week I returned from JLS touring – being my “organisation” week. The upcoming week shall henceforth (an old English word) be labelled my “creative” week: it may spill over into two weeks if I’m not careful, after which I will be all geared up to move into my “development” week: let the fun then begin. I perceive my mind slowly – egg timer fashion – slowly draining itself of the sands of detail: there’s a ways to go yet, however I’m definitely aware of a creative glow emanating from within.
By this time next week, I will have prioritsed my creative thoughts into some form of practical order. Also - and I may not have made mention of this before now - I should have the green light from the Daily Telegraph newspaper on the presentation of a display advertisement which will feature on the front of their daily sports section (cost deems that I can only do this on one day!). The purpose of this project is to hopefully “reel in” selective corporate organisations, as to an involvement with an innovative sports agency (mine!). Look, no one has pulled it off yet; no, trusted, respected, brand leader has emerged; no professional benchmark has been set – so this is my shot at it. Apologies, I’m banging on about my football project here (how did you guess?).
If the above has no effect, then I’m going to have to take a seriously look at where I find myself at this stage in my life: I may have to reflect that many of my innovative ideas will go to the grave with me. Not morbid – just a fact. Until then, however, my confidence continues (on a good day) to be buoyed by the fact that still the door is wide open for such a revolutionary move, which – I have to tell you – will play it’s eventual part in bringing football to some level of sensibility. Here’s the killer, folks: it’s not rocket science, really!! Desire has to play substitute to the dollar.
I continue to take the brave (foolhardy?) stance of not pursuing any future touring work – for at least another two weeks anyway: at this current time, I am at the most advanced level of personal and domestic organisation that I have been, easily for the last three years. Witness the fact that I have an appointment for 09.30 this coming Tuesday morning, 8th, to present my year-end (2010) accounts to our company’s business manager: last year, it was August before I accomplished that.
Of more significance, is my state of mind: in spite of being “jobless” (and still with an interest-only mortgage!) I remain surprisingly – to me, more than anyone else - calm and focused, immersed in the belief that this enforced break from touring will indeed yield project opportunities of a slightly differing nature from my stock-in-trade: but, yes, there’s undoubtedly a risk factor.
So keep your fingers crossed for my progress over the upcoming week, oh tolerant supporters: there’s days when I (selfishly) believe I’m due some sort of “break”. Then I come to my senses and remember that – yes, I worked hard for it – but I’ve been more fortunate than many. Love y’all!February
Welcome to the Brave New World (no work for the next three months – but finding myself again)!
Witness the fact, this is now the second Sunday in a row when I have penned my diary on the very day it is supposed to happen – I don’t think I’ve previously (intentionally) misled you that it’s rare for me to actually manage to finish my weekly diary on the Sunday to which it pertains. From here on in – and, of course, it’s much more easily accomplished when I am not immersed in the mayhem of touring – I will do my damndest to continue this trend. In thinking about it: Sunday evening – as one of the more, normally, subdued times of the week – is the ideal, “reflective” time to do it.
I have to say that – undoubtedly, with Alice’s sterling assistance – great strides have been made this last week in clearing my workspace (essentially, the smallest bedroom in the house, that was converted to a makeshift office when I originally moved in), which, in turn, is a direct route to clearing my head. I recall I may have made a claim, in one of my late summer diary entries of last year, that I was more personally organised than I had been in the previous 3/4 years: I have easily surpassed that milestone during this past week – and long may this trend continue.
The shredder was going full tilt for most of this afternoon, as I emptied out selective, older, ring binder files that were stuffed with all manner of tour-settlement documentation, from the first part of the last decade, approximately 2000 through 2005. Quite apart from the fact that the majority of the summarising accounts, relating to that period, are duplicated (and now backed up!) on the laptop, the actual monetary figures are unfortunately now out of date.
The office cupboard no longer threatens to spill out the minute the door is eased open: oh no, folks, the shelves are now neatly and sensibly stacked - and with space to spare. Sure, there are still a few storage boxes to be sorted - however that’s the tidiest that cupboard’s been for years. The “non-cupboard” part of the office (the main room itself) remains in a mild clutter: however the important thing here is that a definite, methodical, start has been made, to clear my feet.
As a result of having accomplished so much this past week, I have (only earlier this evening) decided to push on and commit another week to these re-organisational processes, in order that, come this time next week, I can look to move into a “creative business” mode: I also have to look to apportion more of any spare time that I have, to a fair queue of household (property) tasks. One can’t ignore the upkeep of one’s living space, both from a comfort, and an economical, point of view: at times the total amount of work almost seems insurmountable, however I’ve learned to view the accumulative work on a job-by-job basis. That way, I can actually see a way forward.
So, in summary, I’m feeling good and I’m feeling: well, I can’t really articulate it - maybe “quietly, expectantly, confident” might go some way to summing up my mood. It’s a fairly risky stance and I may yet – in future entries of this very diary – find myself painfully documenting the folly of my current approach: I would like to think not. I would like to think that – not that I’ve particularly done anything to deserve it – the winds of (good!) change may just shift slightly in my direction. Let’s see where my head is at, this time next week, shall we? I’m currently enjoying a refreshingly fluid state of mind. However, one must not lose sight of the need to pay bills. Risk – what risk?
The very fact that I’m penning today’s diary on the day it should be penned – and at 1.00 pm in the afternoon, no less – must surely point to the fact that I’m possibly catching up with my life!
Heading north on the train to Edinburgh, from London’s Kings Cross station and – get this! – I have no idea from where my next paid employment will come. Now, as my regular readers know, I’m far from “safe” financially – so why the heady confidence that a new lease of life awaits me? Folks, I haven’t got a clue!! I could now easily slip off that edge that I’ve been teetering on for so long.
However, it’s not complete foolhardiness to the fore (does that make sense?) as – having reasonably cleared my head of the minutiae of detail that continually threatens to suffocate any emerging creative processes – a few “lost” threads of several, until now, latent ideas are slowly percolating their way to the surface of my consciousness. Who knows where they might lead?
I have little choice but to jump off this touring treadmill for a while, in order to gather my thoughts and re-structure my personal life. Here’s one example of the intensity of the last six months – I’ve not driven my car since October 29th: how wild is that? When I sit down at my desk, in my office in the house tomorrow, it will probably take a full day, just to write up a prioritised plan of everything, domestically-orientated, that requires to be tackled in the coming weeks. When, I ask myself, was the last time I trawled through the myriad of diverse contacts I have, to check on the possibilities of re-igniting certain, past, business acquaintances, particularly where there may be some common ground, in respect of future projects I am now giving some thought to.
Undoubtedly, the fire of passion – as regards my football interests – has yet to be doused: however, having had my fingers almost irreparably burnt with my financial over-indulgence in that area, I am currently treading very carefully as to the future of that side of my business. Undeniably, I have an excellent contact base, built up in football over the last fifteen years, therefore the situation is not all doom and gloom. Is there a God? Does he have time to read this?
For the time being, on the back of a reasonably successful three years plying my stock-in-trade, my head must assert control over my heart: that could prove to be a fight to the death! I’ve often wondered how many unfortunate entrepreneurial souls never see their dreams approach even close to realisation (and I’m still not out of the water yet, where that’s concerned – not by a long shot).
So, these few weeks ahead of me are crucial. Sure, if Jon Bon Jovi offers me a world tour of a year’s length, then I will certainly have to give it some serious consideration. However, for the time being, I’m going to resist the urge to re-activate many of my music-business contacts, to ascertain what suitable work may be out there for me, for the future – and, oddly enough, there is not the slightest sensation of rising panic, technically being out of a job at 58 years old! Very odd.
Is there something creeping in from “the wings” for me? Have I finally paid my dues and may find myself deserving of a little favour? Us dreamers in life often (knowingly) smudge that clear, thick, dividing line between objective and subjective – to our eventual personal peril. Look, let’s just see where the next few weeks take us. Wish me well and monitor my sanity level: I’m going for it! BFN.
Back to life – back to reality. Reality in the form of a thirty-degree drop in temperature (ºF)!
As I sit here in my (shall we say) “compact” guesthouse room in London’s Paddington area, this Sunday evening, with the temperature at a fairly chilly 47 degrees Fahrenheit, I can indeed uneasily reflect that this time last week I was lounging on the seafront of Patong Beach, where it was registering just under eighty degrees. If you mutter “Paddington” very quickly, it could almost be construed as “Patong”. However, that’s where any similarity firmly hits the buffers, believe me.
Having initially spent the first night of the vacation in a hillside hotel in Patong Beach, we spent the next four nights in Karin Beach (three miles south of the main Patong Beach area) – in two different hotels – then moved back to Patong Beach for the last four nights of our stay. Although my preference of not pre-booking any more than the first hotel night of our vacation almost became unstuck, we nevertheless paid an average of only £56.00/night (including full breakfast) throughout our ten-day stay. Sure, there are some fairly expensive hotels in Phuket – particularly the “resort” facilities – however if, like us, you tend to spend most of the day away from the hotel, then why pay for luxury that you will have little use of? A decent shower goes a long way.
Our final night was spent in the capital city of Bangkok, as a result of our homeward bound flight having an early morning departure on Thursday past (10th), thereby allowing us to land back into Manchester on the same day – one of the longest days of Alice’s life, she reckons! We actually touched down just after 7.00 pm on Thursday evening, allowing us to catch a mid-evening train to London and check into this (slightly-less-than-palatial) little guest house in Paddington.
The last three days have been “full-on”, as the JLS lads look to promote the second single from their second album, that single being entitled “Eyes Wide Shut”. Said promotion will continue through next Saturday, after which I will head back up to Scotland on Sunday morning to discover, amongst several other things, whether my car will start after three months of sitting on the driveway (I learned long ago to remove the negative terminal from the car’s battery, if I intend to be away for more than two weeks, which prevents the battery running flat: cool, huh?).
At the moment, it would appear that I have at least three clear weeks, before I am required to become involved with any JLS business. Initially, I was tempted to look around to see what else might be going on, however a little voice in my head (one of the many!) is telling me to take advantage of this lull in my work schedule, “power down”, catch up with a variety of household issues and then – for the first time in a long time – take a step back, to study the big picture. When I am in my most confident of moods, I’m convinced that I have the ability to move many of my event-linked ideas to the next stage: it’s just not something I will ever be able to apportion the correct amount of time to, until I make a clean, temporary, break with my “day job”.
So – interesting times ahead: as I mentioned earlier, I’m due back in Edinburgh a week today and the seven days following that will be used to clear the afore-mentioned domestic paraphernalia. Soon I’ll find myself in a situation that I have not experienced in the last four years: detail-free! You never know what will happen next. But, there’s a week to go before that – so I’ll see you then!
A (very!) warm welcome to all my patient and long-suffering readers, from a small locale known as Karon Beach, a few kilometers south of Phuket’s Patong Beach, in Thailand: I’m as relaxed as I’ve been for a long time, I have to say. One could certainly get used to this laid-back existence.
If my memory serves me well, this is my fifth visit to Thailand, for the purposes of either business or pleasure. If you’re after the sort of vacation that allows you to completely chill (beachside or poolside) during the day, yet be able to give vent to your wild side once the sun goes down, then Thailand has several ideal locations that will enable you to do so. Having now been to three of the main vacationing areas in Thailand (Koh Samui, Pattaya and Phuket), I feel a slight leaning towards Koh Samui, when it comes to balancing the chill, and thrill, factors. If the truth be known, Koh Samui has the smallest nightlife “strip” of the three afore-mentioned areas, but it is able to boast a diverse array of entertainment in that one-kilometer stretch: all that, and a clutch of reasonably priced, beachside hotels - only a ten-minute walk from the nightlife.
Although Phuket is technically an island, it is nevertheless an island that boasts a busy dual carriageway running from north to south: whereas, although the (“real”) island of Koh Samui is circumvented by a fairly run-down, two-lane “A” road, one is able to hire some form of down-trodden jeep and make the trip around the island in a matter of a few hours. Very pleasant jaunt.
Having arrived here on Monday of this week (31st), we stayed the first night in Patong Beach and then on Tuesday morning – typical to the way I tend to handle the accommodation side of things on such vacations – we “nosed around” the other hotels in the area, to see what else was on offer. Now, to your regular, annual, holidaymaker I can understand such an approach might seem somewhat risk-strewn: turning up for the first day of your vacation, half way across the world, with only the first night’s accommodation confirmed. Possibly not for the faint-hearted.
There are two advantages of my risky method: firstly, experience has shown that when I rock up to the front desk of a hotel that I like the look of – with a fistful of dollars on show – I can generally negotiate a considerably better deal than was on offer on the internet. Secondly, one has a real chance to see a proposed hotel at first hand, and “in the flesh” (you will not be surprised to learn that many of the shots of the various areas of these hotels, that are posted onto their websites, are taken at such convenient angles so as to exclude the building sites / freeways / waste ground etc). Many of those hoteliers were estate agents in their previous lives.
However – in the instance of this particular holiday – things didn’t quite go to plan this time: enter the Chinese New Year. Well, how were we to know? Over the last few years I’ve had to take my holidays at the same time as the Artist I’m working for, which generally means not a great amount of notice: that, in turn, means having to scrabble around (is there such an expression?) to see what is available at short notice - and at a half decent price. Therefore, in the general frenzy to find a suitable location, it’s very easy to miss the timing of such events as the Chinese New Year.
Therefore, we have had to move hotels twice since we have been here but, hey, that’s part of the adventure. I’ll be back in “blighty” by the time we speak again next week. See you all then. BFN.January
A fine good evening to you, as I reach cruising altitude on a Dubai-bound flight, having left Manchester airport just over twenty minutes ago.
Sadly, the JLS tour finished last night with the final show at the Echo Arena in Liverpool: however, I would be knowingly misleading you if I was not to admit to being fairly “fried”, in part as a result of staying at the venue for a good few hours after the show ended, but mainly due to the intense promotional activity (album release / book launch) that shadowed the tour throughout.
There was no way I wanted to leave any of the accounting processes unfinished, prior to leaving the country on vacation for ten days. In an attempt to accomplish this, I left the Sheffield hotel yesterday, well before lunch, to be able to make the Echo Arena by lunchtime and commence the various clean-up tasks that always require particular attention - especially when there are substantial monies involved. Thankfully, the work’s complete – and now I’m vacation bound!!
It has been a most enjoyable tour indeed: a very professional act, linked to a very experienced technical crew, has proved to be the recipe for a most comfortable touring environment. I’ve known and worked with many of JLS’s technical crew, over the last twenty plus years and – having come through the ranks myself – I feel I can relate, better than most, as to their various roles.
I’ve obviously been doing this job for some considerable time now, however – even though I harbour various event-related ideas that I soon hope to develop (no great secret on that score) – within the professional environment such as I have recently enjoyed, I still believe I give everything my best shot. A professional, committed and ambitious act/artist tends to slowly gather a team around them, who are determined to pursue the same objectives: because, be under no illusions my friends: this can be a vicious business. When you are hot, you are hot – and when you are not, no one really gives a toss (wasn’t my first choice of word).
One of my favourite summarizing quotes relating to this industry comes from the legendary Van Morrison, who observed “Music is inspiring: the music business is not” – or words to that effect. So many people in my chosen profession (particularly on the record company front) are expert only in the art of “winging it”. They are dependant upon the work ethic of those beneath or alongside them, to pull them through: that, or the ignorance of the fledgling acts that they represent, whom they subtly ingratiate themselves with, on every level, but a professional one. They know who they are and – slightly more worryingly for them – they know that I know who they are. Tough, I say.
So, the next ten days are an important time for me: as mentioned at the start of this week’s entry, I managed to complete almost all of the tour paperwork by the early hours of this morning, effectively meaning that I have cleared some creative space in my head to think through many of my event-linked ideas, in the days ahead. I can’t do this Tour Management thing forever, therefore the time beckons to take a breath and investigate some possible pastures anew.
As always, coming off a fairly intensive run of touring, it will take three or four days for the minutiae of touring to seep from my system: after that, big wide world – look out! Until next week.
“Robin Hood, Robin Hood – riding through the glen; Robin Hood, Robin Hood – with his Merry Men”.
Astonishing, really: some days I struggle to recall where I left my bank card last Friday – and here I am reciting the signature tune (melody as well) from a TV programme of thirty years ago.
Anyway, what’s the connection, above? Simple really: today (Matthew) we are in Nottingham!
By this point, any other than my British readers must be convinced that my nose has wandered into the proximity of the glue pot. Not so, dear non-Brits: just connecting today’s city of Nottingham with the fable (?) of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, on the outskirts of this city. In fact, our hotel is actually located on “Maid Marion Way” in the centre of town. Maid Marion was Robin’s “squeeze” of old: in fact, she was plain old Marion, until Robin happened along, and then …..
Boy, this is a quiet town on a Sunday night – either that, or we’re in an extremely quiet part of it. Once again, a very enthusiastic audience for tonight’s show: the only drawbacks being, for me personally, regarding the venue, are two-fold: firstly, the production office backstage is considerably cramped and, secondly, the venue is not the warmest in the world (until the audience starts to pour in) as a result of one of it’s other uses being the home of the ice hockey team, Nottingham Panthers. Meaning the chill from the underlying ice tends to permeate the venue.
This week, since baling out of London last Sunday night, following two shows at the O2 Arena, we’ve played dates at Cardiff (on Tuesday past, for the third time), Birmingham, Newcastle and – last night – Manchester. We certainly get around, do we not? I could always apply for a job in the circus after this – at least the travel and the unsociable hours wouldn’t be a problem. Also, I’ve been teetering on the high-wire of celebrity for the last thirty plus years, to the extent that I may not even require a safety net (the constant smell of elephant dung might get to me though).
While in Manchester, over the last couple of days, I was able to catch up with my old (or, not-so-old – in case she reads this) friend Loraine and two of her charming girls – who all came along to see the show last night at the M.E.N. Arena. There I was, after the show – once the girls had wandered off to their hotel room to gaze adoringly at the mini-bar – with Alice AND Loraine in the Opus bar of the Radisson Edwardian hotel in Manchester, happier than a pig in poo-poo, thinking to myself “it rarely gets much better than this”. Into the very same bar, in the early hours of the morning trooped a few of the lads in the band with a couple of their close friends (well, you can hardly begrudge them a night out on the town in Manchester, can you?). “Come and join us” they beckoned, from a few tables away, noticeably bereft of any female company, as they were, at the time. Fueled by the odd Brandy Alexander, “Get your own women!” came my reply.
Where have all the good times gone? Sadly, we are only now five shows away from completing the arena tour, as tomorrow kicks off the final week of our almost-two-month jaunt. A thoroughly enjoyable experience this has been, enriched in the company of both a very professional band and an extremely hard-working crew. Had all the acts I’ve worked with in my time been such a joy to be around, then I may even have been able to boast a few more strands of hair! Until next week…
Well, if the truth be known, there was no way I was going to be able to pen this week’s entry on the 16th simply because it was the second of two (and, in actually, the third and fourth) of the past weekend’s London O2 shows. Enter a nightly guest list of outlandish proportions. Yawn, yawn.
You know – even after all this years – I would still struggle to articulate how little actual work (especially that of an accounting nature) I am able to achieve during the process of a London show. From the minute I make my customarily early appearance in the production office backstage, I become mildly – then increasing less mildly – embroiled in guest list / “Meet & Greet” / comp ticket issues that result in me resignedly questioning myself, come midnight each London show night, as to where my whole day has gone. Oh, how I love London shows (like I love cough mixture).
However, sadly in certain ways (am I actually hearing myself saying this?) that is now our London commitment over for this tour. For a bunch of lads who had not really tasted any form of real celebrity, as little as two years ago, they are immensely chuffed at having managed six London, arena-type, shows: four in the O2 and two at Wembley (the real daddy of all London venues).
Earlier in the week we completed our Irish involvement, with the second of two Dublin shows (on Monday past) followed by shows number three and four, back at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena, on Wednesday and Thursday nights. I’m actually quite looking forward to rendering myself into completely-chilled mode this evening - lolling around on my hotel bed, prey to any inane programming the television wishes to subject me to. Yet, I hardly watch the thing when I’m home.
This brave gesture of mine, in trying to undertake both the Tour Management and Tour Accountant roles in tandem, has ever-so-slightly backfired upon me, as a result of my additional involvement with the JLS book-signings and album promotion, the majority of which was squeezed into the initial four weeks of the tour. I can however report that I can sense the point approaching – possibly only a few short days from now – where I will actually be up to date: and I can’t tell you how good it feels. Have I learned my lesson? As always, only time will tell.
We now have but nine dates left to complete on the tour, between now and 29th of this month: specifically, two more Cardiffs, two more Newcastles, then one Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool alike: all venues which we have done at least once already on this tour. We have certainly done some zig-zagging of the country’s premier arena venues, over the last two months. We should be in a position to achieve better “city consistency” on the lads’ next arena tour. “When might that be then?” I hear a few of you surreptitiously enquire. Don’t actually know, to be honest: however, my experience in those matters tells me that the lads’ management must be quietly planning to hit the arena circuit again, sometime in 2012.
I continue to be impressed by JLS’s personal, unswerving, commitment to – and professional understanding of – the furtherment of their careers. I happened to let it slip in conversation the other day with Helen Mirren (well, actually, Alice) that I have the sneakiest feeling these lads would have cracked it eventually – albeit over a greater expanse of time – without the advantage of their “X-Factor” involvement. That becomes less of a fanciful notion with the passing of time.
“Jake, you should write a book”. If I had $10.00 for every time I’ve had that said to be, then I wouldn’t have to (not from the financial side of things anyway). Otherwise, I’m not quite sure.
Of course, I have many, many, stories to tell – and a good few I can’t ever tell! I have indeed been to places (and we’re not talking geographically, here) that even a “scalper” couldn’t sell you a ticket to. However, there is an argument that it should be told at some point – but in a fashion that gives an insight to the real workings of the music business: the hype, the cruelty, the hurt, etc.
I would certainly praise those whom I have worked with, who deserve respect for their achievements – and possibly particular mention of their contribution towards the making of Jake Duncan. Conversely, I would demonstrate little quarter for those who have (in many cases, intentionally) wronged me – intoxicated by their celebrity status to the point that they could see no possible way how I could have any platform in the future from which I could turn the tables on them. Well, here I am: and while I may (nowadays) occasionally forget Alice’s note of caution to me a few days back, those distant memories of unfair treatment are branded into my brain.
There will be no escape for one or two particular individuals. What is it our American cousins are prone to offer: “Don’t get mad – get even”. We (supposedly) calmer Brits would probably translate that as “What goes round, comes round”. Oh, yes, I’m lining up both barrels on a couple of culprits: sorry, but why should they be able to shoot their mouths off, believing themselves to be in an unassailable position where no future harm can befall them, from such mere mortals as I? Wrong.
I’m back!! “Where are you today anyway?” I hear you enquire. Well, I’m in Dublin’s fair city (maybe that’s what set me off, above) where the girls are so pretty (as the song goes – check it out) …… however, my tour accounts are about three days behind – so that’s the end of that! Dublin, as you may have heard me say in the past, is one of a handful of worldly cities where I could actually live.
A little mad at times, sure: but give me mad, over subdued, any time. Vibrant is probably the fairest one-word description for the city. Put it this way: the only time I ever lost one of my cellphones (never to be recovered) through being rather excessively inebriated, was at a Dublin night club – therefore that says something of the city’s “enjoyability” factor.
Tonight was our first of two shows at the O2 Arena here in Dublin, formerly known as “The Point”, originally a tram depot – and now the most prestigious venue in the Republic of Ireland. The last two days (Friday and Saturday) we played shows at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena, a venue in which I undertook many shows, while in the employ of “Westlife”. I have always had much time for Peter & Jim Aiken (Belfast promoters) – sadly Jim is no longer with us - and his loyal, dedicated, team.
Well, I’m off now – with the significantly-heeled Alice – for a wee (shall we say) cultural wander around Dublin’s lively Temple Bar area. We will no doubt happen upon a very vibrant drinking culture, even allowing for it being a Sunday evening. Based upon the time I spent in and around Dublin, during my Westlife days, I feel I have gained an insight into the Irish psyche – meaning that I rarely have any difficulty ingratiating myself, within their social surroundings. "What’s the Craic?” as you will often be asked in these parts. Well, gang, I’ll report back on that next week!
Seems like it was last year since I spoke with you guys. What awaits me in 2011, I wonder?
This evening finds me in Cardiff, to where I travelled yesterday, in readiness for tomorrow’s first JLS show, on “Phase 2” of the current arena tour, at the International Arena here.
As I believe I mentioned in the body of last week’s diary entry, I suspect the upcoming year to be a transitional one for me. I can’t quite put my finger on it as yet, however (as Sam Cooke once sung) .. a “change is gonna come”. I am lucky that I still enjoy my work in the music business, however the nagging feeling increasingly persists that I may have more to offer the world, creatively, than I do, administrationally. That being the case, I need to look to make that happen sooner, rather than later: there is much that I feel I still wish to accomplish – but not a whole lot of time in which to have to do it! Just trying to figure it all out at the moment. Stay with me.
Alice and I have spent the last two days wandering around the city of Cardiff and have been pleasantly surprised by the character of the place. For a start, the centre of the city boasts a veritable catacomb of interesting arcades - mostly all dating back to the late nineteenth century – and populated by a host of small, quirky, shops, cafes and restaurants. Right away, these arcades lend a uniquely curious air to the Cardiff shopping experience, keeping in mind that the flip side of the coin is the side-by-side existence of substantial shopping malls and pedestrian precincts. Those in need of a shot of retail therapy need look no further than Cardiff. Alice concurs.
Later this afternoon, we wandered down to the Cardiff Bay area – which has seen a serious rejuvenation of the old docks district (not too dissimilar to the Leith area of Edinburgh, back home) and boasting some notable structures, the most impressive of those being the “new” Millennium Centre which, as well as hosting a current run of the west-end show “Mamma Mia”, also has a photographic exhibition of black and white photographs taken during the early days of the iconic BBC “Top of the Pops” programme. The photographs were all shot by Manchester-based Harry Goodwin, whom I had the pleasure of meeting back in my Bay City Rollers days: a good man.
You will (I hope) pardon the somewhat disjointed flow of this week’s entry: as I write, I find myself slightly distracted by the need to order my current myriad of thought processes into some forward thinking plan. Here is a summary of my present (ongoing?) dilemma: there is little doubt that my involvement with a high-profile act such as JLS could/will certainly open some doors for me, in terms of the contacts I could make, relating to various entertainment-related projects I would like to develop. However, because I’ve belaboured myself with the dual role of Tour Manager/Tour Accountant, I have allowed myself precious little time to develop those contacts!
So, these are challenging – and thought provoking - times ahead. In a financial sense, I am not out of the water yet. I have made two distinctly (OK, make that three) daft decisions in my time: moving back to Scotland in 1989 and (related to that) misleading myself – nobody does it better – into thinking that I was a restaurateur and, finally, believing I could right the wrongs of football. On the positive side, I’m still here to tell the story – and the story has a few more chapters to write yet. So, dear, patient, readers: stick with me a while longer: it ain’t over till it’s over. BFN.
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