Well, dear readers: for the first time in my life, the end of my sixtieth year approaches. Amen.
I going to confess to a fact that I may have previously alluded to at some point in the latter half of the year (what’s left of it): 2012 will mark the year where - in as long as I can remember – I had the busiest first six months of any given year, followed by the “quietest” six months ever!
This was, of course, partly by design – based upon a decision to (temporarily?) move south again.
I also needed to take something of an extended break: I definitely “burnt the candle at both ends”, in the earlier part of the year, as I precariously juggled three contractual commitments (Westlife, Olly Murs & JLS), to some degree, “alongside each other”.
Thankfully, it was all good! I cannot deny some dark days, around early August this year, as I raced to complete the upgrading on my property, in order that I could have it marketed – and subsequently sold – prior to Christmas. At the time, my head was nowhere near in the right place to be able to face another “depressing” winter in Scotland. Little did I know at the time it was more me, than Scotland, that was the source of my depressive outlook. More on that, over the coming weeks.
Before we veer back onto my travails of the past week – and just to tie up the subject of upgrading the old house – major credit has to go to Stella (the Queen of the bathroom remodeling world) and Jade (saleswoman of the decade – I never actually met the new owners of my house!) who’s silken-tongued technique saw the house sold after only 5 weeks on the market.
And so, what of the last week? This evening now finds me in Bratislava in Slovakia, from where we will welcome in the New Year, tomorrow evening. Since penning last week’s entry, we have travelled from Prague to Vienna (where young Alice and I spent two nights) then onwards to Bratislava, both journeys being accomplished by relatively inexpensive rail travel. Bit of trivia for you here: Prague and Vienna are the two closest European capital cities - a mere 40 miles apart!
Didn’t I tell you all those years ago: “stick with me and you’ll be astounded by the knowledge that will flow from me to you”? Then again, didn’t some of you tell me “try to stay on the subject!”
Ah, come on now, no relationship is perfect: tolerance goes a fair way towards acceptance.
The two, afore-mentioned, train journeys allowed me a little time to ponder how I see 2013 panning out, work-wise. Again – and this must surely be a mild source of irritation to my regular (long-suffering?) readers – I cannot disclose, with any certainty, the few irons I currently have in the fire. However, as one of the projects is due to kick off in late January, you’ll soon know!
So, the reality dawns that we will now not speak until next year. Fret not, though: that’s only, technically, seven days away. I can only wish you a most enjoyable time tomorrow evening and a great New Year. Who knows what lies ahead for any of us? Personally, I want to quietly believe that a year of great personal promises approaches. Don’t desert me now. See you all next year!!
Ah yes, London Gatwick’s south terminal is a hive of activity this late Sunday afternoon.
This evening, young Alice and I are en-route to Prague, where we will spend four days over the Christmas period, before heading down to Vienna for a couple of days, then back to Prague, via Bratislava, to catch a flight back here on 2nd Jan. Then I’m off up to Scotland, for a few days.
As I may have mentioned last week, the music business experiences a virtual shutdown over the Xmas/New Year period, therefore – with no work in the diary for that time – I managed to land a couple of cheap “Easyjet” flights, and some very decent hotel rates, so here we are, on our way!
This is somewhat different to how I would normally travel, if this were a business trip. While I would strenuously defend the fact that I’ve earned it, I am fortunate to take the vast majority of international “touring flights”, nowadays, in business class: but no complimentary wine tonight!
As the year draws to a close (and, with it, my sixtieth year), there is much to reflect upon. However, with my new marketing plan, work-wise, to target Artist management companies more directly – rather than “await” recommendations - I am hoping to return to touring as it used to be: with the Tour Manager first on board, and having total control over the complete operation.
That may take a good few months to accomplish: however, in the meantime, I have several irons in the fire, which – once confirmed – should see me through the first quarter of the year. As always, until any particular project is 100% confirmed, I can’t say anything “publicly”. Regular readers of this diary know that I’ve had to play my cards fairly close to my chest, in similar situations, in the past. Of course, once any project is 100% confirmed, you’ll read it here first!!
Sure, I probably should have “retired” by now (and would have been in a position to do so, had I not become sidetracked with the likes of restaurants and football players) but – there again – what would I find to do with my time? Ideally, I should be in a position to pick and choose the tours and/or projects that I become involved with: I’m just a small ways away from that yet!
All of the above aside, the next ten days will be noticeably quiet in my business; therefore I’m just going to allow myself to relax and (hopefully, gently) ease myself into creative mode. My mindset is positive at the moment. Wishing I had reached this point in my life, ten years from now, probably makes me no different from every other reflective sixty year-old on this planet.
Do I sense the mists of life may be clearing ever so slightly, producing a (still very) hazy image of the way forward? Or should I not have allowed Alice to mix me that weird cocktail? Seriously, I have to believe that the tunnel through middle age is exhibiting a pin-prick of light at the far end of it: may it grow in intensity and bathe me in the glare of knowledge. That’s a bit too deep!!
Ah, folks, where’s it all going to end? Well, ultimately, we all know the answer to that. The question is – are you going to complete all those fulfilling tasks in life, before you’re physically incapable of doing so? Time to sample the nightlife of Prague – life’s just way too short, not to! J.
This evening you find me located back at the world-renowned seaside metropolis of Seaford!
I returned to the UK, from Copenhagen, this Monday past (10th), having played our last show of Paul Potts Scandinavian tour in the southern Danish city of Aabanraa, the Sunday night before.
This has been a most refreshing (almost) four week trip. Ah yes: in the past, I’ve proved I can handle the stadium tours, with upwards of 200 hundred people on the road, but I have to admit that this Scandinavian tour that I’ve just completed, was easily as enjoyable as many of those.
This past week – now that it’s almost two months to the day since I moved into this rented property in Seaford – I’ve made a conscious decision to focus my thoughts on house purchasing, over the Christmas break. In one sense, I have until mid April (the end of my current rental deal) to make my move: doing so, beforehand, will not contractually render me any saving – so I might as well take my time, because, after this, I will have had enough of house moving for a while!
Maybe (just maybe) I hear you say “What’s this – wavering on the great decision to relocate down South for the future?”. You would not be totally wrong – but I can cite good reason.
Earlier this evening, I dropped my daughter Jade off at Gatwick airport, where she caught a flight back to Edinburgh. She arrived here Friday evening, having caught the southbound flight as soon as she could, after finishing work in Edinburgh (Kelso, to be technically correct). Driving back down to Seaford last night, from the airport, it struck me that was the first time - in as long as I can remember – that I’ve spent an almost “exclusive” forty-eight hours in my daughter’s company (I consciously avoid dwelling upon the amount of time I’ve been away from my children!).
From the above realisation, came another: it wasn’t of paramount importance that I move 450 miles south. Now, upon reflection, it dawns upon me that – maybe - it was only of paramount importance that I divest myself of the myriad of responsibilities (not the least of which was financial reasons) surrounding my Edinburgh house. Do I actually need to be this close to London?
That, as our US cousins would say, is the sixty-four thousand dollar question – and one to which I now have to give very careful consideration. This much is glaringly evident: when I’m actually out on the road (which in the case of this year, which is swiftly drawing to an end, has been almost eight months) it is irrelevant – business wise – where my “base” is. The latter argument only stands scrutiny, of course, if I intend to continue to spend as much time on the road as that.
So, plenty to think about over the coming fortnight – but the need to ponder, seriously, my next “move” (literally) has fallen at an opportune time. To briefly explain, the music business will shut shop later today and – in the majority of cases - will probably be posted absent until 7th January. Therefore, no point trying to hook up with any London-based contacts during that time.
Enough of all that. Can I finally, sincerely, take this opportunity to wish “all” my faithful readers a most peaceful and relaxing Xmas period and a most prosperous 2013. I love you all. You know it.
Well, not really: Monday morning, 10th December, to be exact – en-route to Copenhagen Airport.
Last night being the final show on this ten-date Danish tour, there was the usual end-of-tour accounting / equipment logistics / flight arrangements to deal with – and it all takes time, folks!
Currently, I am sitting in the back of the Mercedes Vianno “people carrier” that we’ve been travelling around in, these past three weeks, alongside Paul Potts, with Chris driving up front (and Duncan, who took over the Conductor’s role from Bob Wills – now pantomime bound – a few days back). We are down to forty miles an hour at the moment, weaving our way through something of a light snow blizzard. I was on driving duty yesterday and experienced similar driving conditions.
This past week we have undertaken the final three shows of the tour: namely Thisted (Thursday – way up in the North West of Denmark); Randers (Saturday) and Aabenraa last night. The drive from Copenhagen to Thisted last Thursday was marked with one – well, definitely for me – memorable incident. I was driving at the time when (about an hour out of Thisted) a truck and trailer juggernaut combination crossed the white line, coming towards us, on a two lane highway.
There was a split second there, guys – just before the driver regained control of his 48-ton “destroyer” and managed to regain his own side of the road – that I thought my time had come. As it was, I must have been so close to tipping us into the snow-filled ditch at the side of the road, when I veered a three four feet to the right, to avoid being clipped by the oncoming truck.
It is no secret, with the amount of concert-tour travelling going on around the globe at any given time, that accidents do occasionally happen, sometimes very serious. In fact, I’m sure it was in Scandinavia – many years ago now – where one of the Metallica guys was involved in a fatal accident, as a result of their tour bus veering off an icy road and toppling down a steep hillside.
Tour bus drivers shoulder a substantial amount of responsibility, ferrying up to fourteen Artist or crew party members (on most occasions, throughout the night) between shows. I always impress upon my touring staff the need to close the tour bus door quietly, when the vehicle is parked outside the venue and the driver is sleeping in his bunk during the day. Food for thought.
So – back to the UK today (Monday), to prepare for the Christmas period: but also to hook up with several contacts in London, before the music business grinds – traditionally – almost to a standstill for the two week period over Christmas and New Year, this year commencing the 21st.
Currently, my gut feeling’s that I need to call a halt (personally) for 10 days / 2 weeks, to gather my thoughts and plan carefully for the months ahead – therefore the Christmas/New Year period should lend itself to that, quite nicely. I also need to discipline myself some more, in respect of certain peripheral health issues (ie, stop eating so much – and get back into the gym!).
Not too far from now, I would like to see myself in the position of being able to pick and choose my touring involvements – but I’m not quite there yet, hence the “planning time”. Until next week.
chilly good evening from the town of Ringsted, where we have our 7th Paul Potts Danish show.
It’s currently 6.00 pm at the venue and, having just finished dinner – and with an 8.00 pm showtime tonight - I’m going to grab thirty minutes to make a start to this week’s diary entry.
I should mention that Denmark experienced a significant snowfall last night (the first serious snow of the winter, according to the hotel staff in Copenhagen) therefore, even though we are “commuting” the thirty-six miles here from the city – based in Copenhagen for the next four days – it took us almost an hour and a half to make the journey, in near blizzard conditions.
Since writing to you last, we have played three shows: Odense (last Tuesday, 27th); Herning (28th) and Hillerod (30th). The fourth show of the week – here in Ringsted – is about to start, in around ninety minutes from now. With this tour being something of a “co-headliner”, I’m spending a fair amount of time “doubling” as Stage Manager, as both Artists enter and leave the stage.
We tour as a fairly compact unit - and please excuse any recent repetition here - with only myself, Paul, Chris Taylor (MD/Piano Player) and Bob Willis (Conductor). The orchestra consists of Danish musicians, a few of which we have worked with on previous tours in this country. The string section (4 violins/cello/viola) has worked as a “unit” on several other previous projects and this became fairly apparent from the day rehearsals started in Esbjerg, last week. They are also a very jovial bunch – because who says we can’t have some fun, if the job’s still getting done?
After tonight, we have just the three shows left on the Danish tour. Lack of availability of smaller, theatre-style, venues has dictated that we have three days “downtime” starting tomorrow - spent in Copenhagen. Coincidentally, Alice has three days of annual holiday leave due before the end of the year, therefore she will fly over tomorrow for her first time in Denmark. We will have to brave the biting cold here (-3 degrees centigrade when we drove out of the city today!) if we are to venture out and see a bit of Copenhagen. Alice will arrive well prepared!
There is a good feeling to playing some of the smaller cities, in that those venues greatly appreciate touring Artists who take the trouble to deviate from the major cities, and agree to playing some of the more out-of-the-way places: those audiences are certainly very enthusiastic.
During the last week, I’ve realised the pressing need to start to formulate a work plan for next year: not only touring wise, but also a few one-off event ideas that I have been nurturing for a while. Being, now, in close proximity to London, enables me to take a 90-minute train journey into the middle of the city, without much trouble, to easily catch up with a whole host of contacts.
A fair while back, I came to realise that all this (almost) forty years of experience is actually going to start counting against me – job wise – before too long. New, smaller, management companies may be overawed by the amount of years of touring that I have under my belt. In most other industries, such a wealth of experience would be welcomed: however, in many ways (and I’ve mentioned this before) ours is still something of a “young” business (with one old guy!!!).November
Sshh! I’m in the Palace Hotel in Viborg in Denmark, having just returned from tonight’s show at the “Tingenhallen” which, oddly enough, was host to the legendary “Status Quo” last night.
However, being a Sunday night in a small Danish town, you could hear a pin drop right now. I can also report a few unusual attributes in this hotel room. Initially, I was quite taken aback to discover a two-person sauna cabin in the en-suite bathroom, shoe-horned in between the bath and the shower. Now, in the amount of time I have been doing this, you would think I had seen it all, in respect of the layout and design of hotel rooms: but this was definitely a new one on me!
As I mentioned in last week’s entry, tonight sees us having three shows under our belt, on this Danish leg of Paul’s tour: Thursday last we “opened” in Esbjerg (where we also undertook tour rehearsals the previous day), Friday was a delightful little town called Vejle – pronounced “vi-lay” and, having been off yesterday, we arrived here in Viborg, earlier today, for tonight’s show.
Last night (Saturday) being the occasion of the birthday of our Musical Director/Piano Player, Chris Taylor – who has been with Paul from the start – Paul generously offered to treat us all to a celebration dinner at a local restaurant, and what an inspired choice of restaurant (Paul again).
The restaurant was called “Merlot”, and I can unreservedly recommend having dinner there, if you ever happen to be up this neck of the woods: all in all, we must have been in there for almost four hours to enjoy a meal that is right up there in my top twenty of “tour dinners” ever.
We all actually opted for the house special 5-course dinner, consisting of (wait for it): Lobster Bisque; Salmon Tartlets (with the salmon smoked on the restaurant’s own premises); veal tenderloin; crème brulle and, finally, an exquisite selection of Danish cheeses. Unbelievable.
Anyway – back to reality, and some background to this tour. In the past, our “core crew” has numbered five – Paul himself, Chris (as mentioned above), Bob Willis (our conductor), Mark Littlewood (sound engineer) and yours truly. On this trip, we are without Mark, as he is now involved with “One Direction” a band who are enjoying major success at the moment.
The four of us, being fairly self-contained, are running around in a Mercedes Vianno, that we picked up from Copenhagen airport when we arrived into Denmark on Tuesday. This arrangement enables us to see something of Denmark, a country that I have warmed to over the years – and which has probably eased Germany slightly aside, as my favourite “European touring country”.
We have another two weeks of touring here in Denmark, continuing with Odense on Tuesday, followed by another six Danish cities, through 10th December. Considering that if I were currently looking after a ten-truck arena tour my earnings would only be about 20% more than they are on this tour, there is a lot to be said to touring in such a “relaxed” form. Very enjoyable.
I also have a little “head space” on this tour to reflect upon where I currently find myself, career wise – and where, ideally, I would like to be heading over the next few years. Deep, huh?
As I sit here in my hotel room in South Kensington in London - the hotel is “The Montana”, by the way, on Gloucester Road, £80 bed and breakfast: excellent value and a vibrant area - preparing for a long day tomorrow, based at the Royal Albert Hall (more about that later) I find myself in reflective mood. My regular readers will no doubt recognize this occasional state of mind!
I must tell you that, almost exactly twenty years ago, on the occasion of my 40th birthday, I returned to another nearby hotel, having just finished working on a show at The Royal Albert Hall, featuring the legendary George Harrison, and lapsed into a tearful fit: I was in bad shape.
I remember thinking “I’m 40 years old now – I’m lucky to have survived the last few years, with my restaurant business having failed” (or something along those lines). Here I am, twenty years later, in a somewhat relative frame of mind, thankful that I am finally mortgage free. Wild, huh?
On a lighter note (not that I won’t expand upon the above reflections at some point in the future – you know I will!) let me tell you the reason I’ll probably spend upwards of twelve hours in the depths of the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow. This has to do with the occasion of the celebration of 100 years of the “Royal Variety Performance”, an annual televised event, attended by the Queen.
There are a number of notable international Artists appearing this year, including Alicia Keys, Kylie Minogue, Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart and Robbie Williams: we are indeed in esteemed company this weekend (there’s also a few old familiar faces amongst the Artists’ touring crews!).
Typically, there’s a couple of (what I would call) “middle-level” Artists strutting about – with far too many sycophantic followers in tow – staking a claim for more attention than they are receiving. They obviously believe that there’s no chance of being “knocked off their perch”, for a very long time to come. Well, folks, it can happen at any time: it rarely lasts as long as you think.
Paul was fortunate to be excused from rehearsals today (Sunday), as we spent a good six hours yesterday in the building – and a nearby sports centre – running through the segment in which he is involved. If you have a chance to catch the show when it transmits on Monday December 3rd, check out some of the “aerobatics” in the “Britain’s Got Talent” segment (same segment as Paul).
As the rehearsal finished up late afternoon yesterday (Saturday), I just jumped on the train back down to Alice’s place in Hampshire, rather than incur the cost of another hotel night in town. It only takes just over an hour to reach Andover from Waterloo station so it made sense to nip back there for the evening, rather than kicking my heels in South Kensington. At this stage of my career, believe me, I won’t miss staying in a hotel room for the night.
So – we’ve already established that I won’t get much change out of fourteen hours work tomorrow. I have then to leave the Kensington Gore Hotel (where Paul and I will stay tomorrow evening) at 06.30 on Tuesday morning – Heathrow bound – to catch a 09.20 flight to Copenhagen, for a three week Danish tour. By the time I pen next week’s edition, I’ll have the first three shows under my belt – and hopefully a tale or two to tell. It’s good to be back on the road again!!
As I approach my first month, living back down in England, it still hasn’t fully registered yet!
When I think back to where my head was at, around a year ago this month (fairly bleak work prospects - and twenty grand’s worth of refurbishment needing done on the “old” house, before it could be marketed) it feels like I’m sitting here in a gravity-free zone. More champagne, vicar.
Having weathered that emotional storm, I now find myself in a sort of relaxing frame of mind that has evaded me for many a moon. I am not terribly far away, career wise, from picking and choosing the projects I desire an involvement with (a position I believe I have truly earned).
A week tomorrow, I’m off to Scandinavia with Paul Potts, and the rest of his close-knit team. I have much to thank Paul for. Exhausting as it was in the end, the two years that I spent with Paul, during 2007 and 2008, circumnavigating the globe several times, amidst a touring and promotional frenzy, was what set me back on my feet again, financially - having managed to run up a debt of £50,000+, during the two years previously. That, as a result of me believing myself to be football’s savior: I may yet accomplish it, but now I need someone else to write the cheque!
The majority of Paul’s Scandinavian tour will take place in Denmark, a country that has “grown on me” as a direct result of the amount of shows that I’ve undertaken there, with Paul, over the last few years. Rock ‘n roll touring rarely reaches those smaller towns, as the capacities of such “remote” venues render it impossible for such large touring shows to turn anything near a profit.
I’ll be away with Paul until 11th December, after which I have a two-day trip to Paris planned, to hook up with my French football contacts, to discuss some ideas for certain player-procurement projects in the middle of next year. It seems a pity to not (inexpensively) stay in touch with my, long-term, trusted contacts. I have to continue to believe that one day – hopefully as a result of being fair and honest down the years – I will stumble upon a very talented, undiscovered, player!
I thoroughly enjoyed our “trials trip” to the suburbs of Paris, two years ago, when we tried to unearth one or two gems of footballing talent: what I thoroughly enjoyed less, was the eventual bill that came with the project. As well you know – football would be my preferred vocation, were time and money to be no object. However, for the time being, the road calls – and I will go.
I’ve been in Edinburgh this weekend (flying back south tomorrow) spending some time with my family, specifically my sister, Jane – and my daughter Jade. Now that I don’t have the necessity to work my nose to the grindstone, I’m aware of the need to take more time to spend with my family, something that certainly evaded me in past years when – at times - I spent months at a time away from home. I can’t alter the past – but I can sure engineer the future, to a degree.
It’s been over twenty-five years since I have done what I will do tomorrow: that is, climb on a plane in Scotland and fly south to my “home” in England. As I said at the start, I still haven’t fully grasped this major change in my life, but I know I’m warming to it. One day, when I’m in a position to do so, I’ll majorly expand upon this. That and much, much, more stuff. One day…
With all aspects of my move down south completed, the time has come to enter a new phase.
Within the next five years, I have to A) continue to work at my core business and B) figure out what line of work to sidestep myself into, five years from now: as I suspect I will, paradoxically, find myself “unemployable” – I will actually then be “over-experienced” for most touring work.
I know there is an argument that says I need to be thinking abut slowing things down a little, enjoy myself a bit more, but – let’s face it – I’ve had some most enjoyable and memorable times in the line of my work (many that will probably go to the grave with me!). While the travel, associated with this line of work, can indeed be arduous (when, at times, one can find oneself clambering on and off flights every second day) my work could hardly be described as routine.
Therefore, really, I have little to complain about. Any slight regrets I may have, whereby I’m unable to ease up on my work schedule, are well and truly of my own doing. Here I am now, based back down in England again, twenty-three years later, whereas - had I just stayed put in 1989 – I might have been penning this Diary edition from my (mortgage free) villa in France!
Over the last few weeks, since the dawning of the realisation that my house sale was actually, finally, going through (enabling me now to soon purchase a smaller property - mortgage free) my mind has been awash with conflicting emotions, as to the way forward in the coming years. One thing is for sure: my mind is now clearer than it has been for several years. This, in turn, sees me in a far more advantageous position to make some crucial decisions - in the months ahead.
I’m sure most parents, in the same demographic as myself, are of the same mindset as me, in terms of their children: they want to provide for them in the future, to give them some sort of “leg up” in a world in which it becomes harder to survive, with each passing day. Conversely, there may be those parents whose view it is that they have diligently raised their children, afforded them the best possible education (in many cases funding them through higher education/university) – and now it’s down to those children to pick up the baton and run with it.
I sit here this Sunday evening, folks, fleetingly recalling several, isolated, high-pressure touring situations that I have been involved with, down the years, wondering how my young heart stood up to it at the time (yet probably buoyed by the fact that if it can stand up to those situations, then it can stand up to almost anything!). This three-month break from touring activity, from August until now, will I suspect – in the fullness of time – prove to have been a “life saver”.
The upcoming Scandinavian tour with Paul Potts will undoubtedly re-invigorate my enthusiasm for concert touring. Do I still have the physical energy for the treadmill of back-to-back touring? Of course not: my physical reserves ran out many moons ago. However, once the on-the-road adrenalin kicks in, I have the strength of a lion and the endurance of a marathon runner. I welcome a return to an environment in which I thrive, in which my faith is constantly reassured by the work ethic of my technical crews – and the unbridled exuberance of the fans who attend those concerts which I help to produce. Maybe my best is yet to come? Love you all!October
Today finds me in Middle Wallop in Hampshire, visiting young Alice at her place of work.
In the final paragraph of last week’s diary entry I believe I referred to the extensive possibilities that may be available to me, once my “desk” is clear. Upon reflection, there is no great amount of work involved in clearing one’s desk - but clearing one’s mind is another matter! That’s the secret of it. To date – and down through the years – I have fostered many differing ideas: some entirely practical and some entirely not. The time fast approaches (borne of the stark realisation that I now cannot fulfill all those ideas) for me to separate the possible, from the possibly impossible. However, to do so requires a clear head and some sort of workable plan.
Now that I am well and truly clear of the burden of an interest-only mortgage, at the tender age of sixty years old, I almost start to believe there is maybe little I cannot accomplish. However, I am not totally clear (by a fair way) of the financial quagmire into which I stumbled, over the past fifteen years. Number one priority is to clearly avoid any repetition of that.
The sure way to make positive inroads as noted above is, of course, to steer clear of football: however as we ALL know, there lies the passion in my life. Like a love affair, it is indeed: at times revered, at times reviled – but with the power to always draw me back into its web. Having said that, I can honestly say that the money I have spent (lost?) over the last year, is but a minor portion of what was frittered away – for the most part, enjoyably, thank God! – in the many years prior to that. I’m lucky to be here to tell the story - from a solvent standpoint. Anyway, enough of the personal side of my life – which is basically all I’ve been writing about for the last few weeks. I actually accepted a day of gainful employment this past week (it’s been a while, huh?) when I accompanied Paul Potts onto the film set of the movie of his life.
Let me tell you folks that this is a full-on movie shoot! First off, there’s a fair sprinkling of talent holding down the main roles: James Corden (maybe not too familiar to my US readers); Alexandra Roach; Julie Walters; Mackenzie Crook and Colm Meaney. Star-studded indeed!
Add to the above: a 40/50 strong technical crew, sixty or so “extras” and twenty or so support personnel (catering, security, first aid, etc) and you have further glaring evidence of how serious this project is being taken. It is obvious that the filmmakers see the movie’s appeal as being far beyond the UK’s shores: which, of course, would mirror Paul’s own appeal. Yes, it’s big.
I may yet, during the latter half of next year, find myself accompanying Paul to the odd “global” film premiere. I’ve walked a few red carpets in my time, you know – unfortunately, none celebrating my achievements. Is there time yet for me to shine? Not so sure about that, folks. In the meantime, I have Paul’s Scandinavian dates coming up (19thNovember through 10th December) mostly in Denmark – a country whose charms only came home to me, as a result of past tours there, also with Paul. There is little doubt I needed to take three months out to facilitate my complete change of environment – but I’m looking forward to being back in action!
Can’t believe I’ve been in my new abode now, for almost a week. Quite a change of surroundings!
I’ve basically gone from a four-bedroomed detached suburban house to a two-bedroomed seafront apartment. Even though there a fair few boxes still in Alice’s son’s garage, we have utilsed every square inch of storage space is this apartment and strenuously crammed it all in.
Initially, “bedroom two” was viewed purely as a storage option, thus avoiding the costs associated with using a commercial alternative: however, with some judicious use of the ample storage spaces in the apartment, we have actually cleared enough space to enable us to squeeze a single bed in there: all the better for when Jade (or Bradley maybe!) pays me a weekend visit.
So now, before being tempted to view every sale house in the area that fits my price bracket, I need to take a breath, cool my heels - and carefully formulate the next stage of the plan. With my next tour (Paul Potts in Denmark) not due to start until 19th November, I have sufficient time to finally catch up with all aspects of my business organization, to be fully ready by then.
If I’m patient enough to allow the recent waves of change to wash over me then, surely, all will begin to become clearer, in respect of the way forward. It had better, after all this trouble!
Sure, there is some trepidation on my part, as to how the months ahead will play out: however, there is also a tinge of excitement at what the (relative) unexpected may bring. It will indeed be interesting to look back – say – on this particular entry, one year from now and reflect upon where twelve months has taken me. By that time, I should at least be settled in a “new” home.
I have already been approached by two other acts, to become involved with their touring plans next year although, as always, I can’t divulge details of either project, until they are finalized. Of course, until such time as I’m given the green light on either (or both) of them, I’ll be continuing to hook up with several of my long-standing contacts – an exercise made measurably easier, now that I’m located so much closer to London. I probably should’ve done this years ago.
Anyway, here I am. Once I’ve gathered my creative thoughts – and now that I am not distracted by the issue of the recent sale of the house in Edinburgh – I am quietly confident of my ability to generate various, innovative, event-linked projects (aside from my touring work). One of my major strengths is this: I have an acute sense of the practical, i.e. from the embryonic stages onwards, my ideas are generated with a view to the project being “workable”.
There‘s many a great idea, borne of an imaginative mind, that will never actually fit in a truck, no matter which way you turn it: or, through poor constructional design, it takes up two trucks, instead of breaking down into one. Such errant miscalculations can work out real expensive.
Now that the apartment is all sorted, arrangement-wise, the plan is to spend next week bringing all office matters back up to spec (sorting, filing, shredding, etc). With a clear desk, dear readers, there is no limit to what can be accomplished. Hang on in there: it will be worth it! BFN!
Well, it’s hard to believe it’s actually happened – but here I am on the south coast of England!
As I sit here in Seaford’s “White Lion” hotel (where I’ve stayed on a few previous occasions, while looking around for rental property recently), I don’t think it’s actually completely sunk in that I’ve finally vacated my Edinburgh house for good. I’m poised to unload all my worldly goods into a rented apartment tomorrow morning first thing - for the next six months.
Essentially, the relocation plan consists of three phases. Phase 1 sees me clear of my previous property (not technically complete as yet, being that the new owners do not move in – meaning the sale funds are not in my account – until next Friday, 19th October). Phase 2, well underway, involves me basing myself down here, in Seaford, while I find a property to purchase – said Phase 2 starts first thing tomorrow morning! Finally, Phase 3 will be completed once I’m settled into my “new” (mortgage free – it was a long time coming!) property, somewhere in this area.
While I was recently of a mind that I could accomplish it sooner, calm reflection now leads me to believe that it will probably take the best part of my six-month rental term, to find a property in which I believe I can settle for (probably) a good five years after that. Much to do.
Although the van I drove down from Scotland yesterday (via Alice’s place in Andover) was stuffed to capacity, there are still around fifteen medium sized boxes stored in Alice’s son’s garage, on the outskirts of Edinburgh and a dozen “archive” file boxes at Alice’s place – therefore a decent amount of my office contents did not even make it into the van. Time will tell how much I actually need the majority of that stuff, on a day-to-day basis. I think I know!
Once I’m moved into the apartment (and unpacked) I believe it will take a few days to edit and clear down much if my current work files, to the point where I can formulate a new plan. That new plan will revolve around my need to re-establish many of my old contacts – some of whom I have not seen for years – now that London is under ninety minutes away by train. Changed days.
Have I done the right thing, by returning south, after all those years? Of course, only time will tell. Much as though I can recall some fond memories from the old house in Edinburgh, those are somewhat overshadowed by the “technical” loss of over £100,000, over the seven years I stayed there, as a result of the property market taking that serious nose-dive in early 2008.
However (thankfully) the door has now closed on that phase of my life: the events of that period are now consigned to the annuls of time. Gotta move on and capitalize on the next five years. Compared with many people – especially those who “overpaid” for their property just prior to the whole economic downturn – I can only judge myself to be considerably fortunate.
So, in less than twelve hours begins the first day of the rest of my life. On occasion, I am prone to reflect that I just need a little luck to come my way. The reality however is that – again compared with many – I have enjoyed good luck on many occasions: I just didn’t make the best of it. Boy, it has taken me a long time to get smart. Time to put that to maximum effect.
Just arrived back down at Alice’s apartment in Hampshire, after a whistle-stop visit to Edinburgh – to my house (not for much longer!) – to finish the packing, in preparation for next week’s move down south, to that worldly renowned British coastal metropolis: yes, Seaford, UK!!
I said to Alice, on the way down here earlier in the car, that I just wonder how I will view this period of my life, when I look back at it, a few years down the line from here. Was it madness to return to England to take up residence at this stage of my life? Should I have stayed put?
Well, I had to move out of my house – that’s for sure: it was too much to look after (I estimated I only ever sat in the garden maybe five times in seven years – how bad is that?) and – the main reason – I was mortgaged on an interest-only basis. Needed to rectify that situation.
Therefore, as of Monday 15th of this month, I will go ahead to rent accommodation in Seaford for the next six months, while I look around to buy something (and wait for this – because it’s been a long time coming), mortgage free - at last! It won’t be much, folks - but it WILL be mine.
Honestly, how do I feel about this re-location? Well, there’s a mixture of emotions flying around right now: anticipation; trepidation; excitement and relief, to pinpoint the more obvious.
One thing I do believe: as soon as the house move is physically complete (even though it has been legally “complete” for over a week now) and I am in a position to purchase a smaller property outright, then my head will be in a far more advantageous place. I’m very much looking forward to relaxing by the window of my rented apartment, gazing out over the English Channel and gathering my thoughts positively, for the months ahead – probably with a drink in my hand.
Once re-located, my focus will be on returning to touring work. Already, I know I’m heading out to Denmark with Paul Potts, for the best part of a month, between mid November and December. The earlier part of next year looks to be fairly busy and I have one or two projects in the pipeline, which I’m hoping will not encroach upon each other (at the moment there is something of an overlap between the two, however I’m working on resolving that). My apologies that I’m unable to divulge precise details of which Artists those would involve, however neither has been fully confirmed as yet, so you (my loyal readers) will - once again – have to be patient!
This time next week – if all goes according to plan – I should be penning Sunday’s diary entry from a guesthouse in Seaford, as I await the opportunity, at 09.00 am on the 15th October, to move in to the rented apartment. Sea views come at more than a financial price: there is also four flights of stairs to be negotiated, however – and this news will be heartily welcomed by the two guys who have “volunteered” to assist me in de-canting the van into the premises – there is an elevator serving said fourth floor (I’m using the second bedroom for storage purposes).
I definitely feel myself entering a new phase of my life, notably in the wisest frame of mind I have been in, for as long as I can remember. The time has come to capitalise on that frame of mind, to ensure that I maximise all opportunities going forward. Don’t desert me, now. Hang in!September
Ah - once again, as I have noted on many past occasions: “What a difference a week makes”.
Meaning, specifically, that the contracts “exchanged” on my house earlier this week. As I write, I am preparing to take another trip down south this coming Tuesday, with the old Jaguar “loaded to the gunwales” just to give me a little space to play with, during the removal process, in two weeks time (over the past few days, I’m worryingly eyeing the amount of stuff I have to transport south – and fostering a couple of doubts as to whether it’s all going to fit in the van).
Well, for the time being anyway, there’s no going back! To further progress the re-location process, I have an appointment to view a sea-front apartment in Seaford, 13 miles west of Brighton. I’m tied in on the rental for six months, by which time hopefully I will have found a property – somewhere in the West Sussex region – to purchase outright. Well, that’s the plan.
However, all this house-moving activity (with the various practical considerations, to have the “old” house ready for the market – as well as sourcing alternative accommodation on the south coast) has unbelievably taken up most of August and September: but, folks… it’s had to done.
Having said that, it will soon be time to go back to work and – on that front – I can “exclusively reveal” that I’m going to hook back up with Paul Potts, later next month, for a four-week tour in Scandinavia (one of the markets – along with the likes of Germany, Japan, Korea and Canada – where Paul’s brand continues to be buoyant). I’m very much looking forward to that tour.
The early months of next year promise to be fairly busy for me: as soon as I lock down some of the touring work that has been offered to me, over the last couple of weeks, I’ll let you know!
Once settled into the apartment in Seaford, I’m going to put the remainder of October to good use by hooking up with many of my historical contacts that I’ve not spoken with for a while now. I’m convinced that (now) living on London’s doorstep will render me more accessible, certainly for any “one-off” jobs that could hopefully lead to more extensive work opportunities.
Only time will tell how this relocation south will affect me personal wise and business wise. I can definitely feel a sense of anticipation about the upcoming few months. Undoubtedly – and I have sensed this already – I feel “closer to the action”, in England’s South East. Put another way, I would rather nowadays find myself “twiddling my thumbs” within fifty miles of London, than the alternative - over four hundred miles distant, in the cooler climes of Scotland’s central belt.
Ah, yes, the end of an era beckons, as I return to live in England after a hiatus of almost twenty-five years. What was it Cher intoned in one of her songs: “If I could turn back time”. Well, gang, even someone as hard-headed as myself has learned that cannot be done, so my focus should be on what I can do with the time of the next five years (the period in which I realistically believe I will remain “employable” in the concert touring business). One day – hopefully together – we can all look back on entries such as this one, and then marvel at what actually did happen in the years ahead! What it is, is what it is – so let’s just get on with it. BFN
Well, well, well: here I am, having endured last Sunday’s longest Edinburgh to London train trip ever (and, oh yes folks, I’ve made many of those over the last thirty-five years).
However, a full refund on my train ticket has been promised to be forthcoming, so that’s cool.
This Sunday finds me in Seaford, on the UK’s south coast, in East Sussex (around ten miles East of one of the UK’s favourite seaside resorts, namely Brighton) – very familiar to my UK readers, not so obvious possibly to my “foreign” readers. How are the seven of you doing, anyway?
So, now begins the house-hunting process, for real. The plan, as no doubt I alluded to in last week’s diary entry, is to rent for six months while I have a serious look around the south coast, to ensure that I find an accommodation solution, where I will definitely feel at ease with myself.
By all intents and purposes, I should be able to accomplish the task by Christmas: the trouble being that no-one (“landlords”, in this specific situation) wants to rent their property for only three months. There have been “recent” amendments to the rules and regulations surrounding tenancy agreements and it turns out that said landlords are best protected by “contracting” their tenants to a six-month period. One hears horror stories from time to time, regarding tenants who have trashed their rented premises – and then flatly refused to move out at the end of their agreed rental term. I’ll be thinking long and hard about ever renting my premises!
Without doubt, this is a major move for me: from the commencement of preparing my house to moving into the new property down south (yet to be found!) will end up being almost a three month process. However, in thinking about it, I know of several sellers in the West of Edinburgh – where I am located – whose properties have been on the market for over a year.
Naturally, I just want to draw a line under the move – and get back to the world of touring.
I’m sure I’ll look back in the early months of next year and be supremely thankful that it all went through – albeit agonizingly slow at times – without too much of a hitch. Well, I hope so.
I’m heading back to Scotland next week to start packing up the “old” house (just as soon as I have the word from my lawyer that the contracts have “changed hands”) – a task that appears like it should only take a few hours, but will in fact take measurably longer than that. Jade will no doubt lend a sterling hand both with next week’s packing and the loading of the van, the weekend after that. If we can rope in Jade’s (strong looking) boyfriend Pete, all the better!
Understandably, I won’t believe it’s actually all happened, until I unlock the front door of my new home – hopefully in early January (just had a thought – it would be great to be in for Xmas!). I’m sure I’m doing the right thing: in moments of doubt, I just focus on those past, dark, Scottish winters – and such reflections always bring me back on track. I hail from a most beautiful country folks (to which one day – for part of the year anyway – I suspect I shall return) however, in the winter months, the weather leaves much to be desired! Until next week.
“I’m sitting in the railway station – got a ticket for my destination”.
If you recognize the song from which those lyrics come, then you’ve been around for a while! But, yes, I’m sat in Waverley Station in Edinburgh, awaiting the departure of the 1.33 pm train south to London Kings Cross, then onwards to Andover to spend a few days with “Major” Alice.
Having said that, I have an 11.00 am appointment, tomorrow morning, to view a “new build” house in East Sussex (Peacehaven to be exact), followed by viewings in Seaford and Shoreham. At this point, you could – if you happened to catch last week’s diary edition – justifiably claim that my plan was apparently to rent for six months, while taking a careful look around the area, before buying. Quite correct - however I thought I might take a quick peek at a couple of new-builds, particularly as the Peacehaven builder said “make me an offer” when I called about one of them.
My head says “Plan A” (rent for six months, then “slowly” buy) is sound: my heart says no harm in taking a quick look at what might be available now, with vacant possession – and upon which I may be offered a reasonable discount (Plan B). I’m aware I need to tread a little carefully here!
Back to events of the immediate present: my train is now sat at a dead stop, having only left Edinburgh under an hour ago. Already, when purchasing my ticket, I was alerted to Sunday engineering works on the south bound line – already estimated to add a couple of hours to the journey – but this unscheduled stop now looks to be adding even more time to the delay. Mmmm.
Update: we’ve been sat here, somewhere just west of Motherwell, for close on two hours now: the possibilities of me making my connection to Andover tonight, are fast receding. The young train guard is taking this all rather personally (it would appear to be a major signals fault), evidenced by her repeated announcements - but she’s giving us no real, meaningful, information.
At this rate, I may even have to stay in London tonight (rather than go via Andover, as originally planned) and make my way down to Brighton in the morning, thence onwards to Peacehaven, to keep my 11.00 am viewing appointment at the new property, as mentioned.
It’s one of those situations where, really, very little can be done to rectify the situation: we are (ominous as it may sound) in the hands of British Rail. However, I can see it being close to midnight before I reach London, at which point I’ve probably long missed the last Andover train
I’ll wait to pen this week’s last paragraph, until we actually get moving again, so that you (all?) are not left on tenterhooks, beside yourself at the thought of your marooned “author”.
I’m back. So now we are on the move again, at 5.15 pm – but we have only gone about 60 miles in four hours! If nothing else, it gives me a chance to work on my arrangements for moving house next month (the Wi-fi on the train is on, more than it is off, so I’m making some progress). “Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea” (old song). Not long now…
I’ve been made an offer I can’t refuse (on my house, that is). It’s sold! – subject to contract.
So, begins a new era. The purchaser’s entry date is 18th October, but I have already informed them that I plan to vacate the premises on 7th October – hopefully they can move in earlier.
Within the hours following my estate agent’s call, to inform me of the above, I found my mood to be a combination of numbness and disbelief. Numbness, that I would be vacating the premises where I spent some of the happiest times with my children, over the last ten years (although I’ve only actually stayed here for seven years). Disbelief because - being the first house move I have been involved with for over twenty years – I was abroad touring when both of the last moves took place – this is something of a new experience for me!
On the previous occasion, in 2002, when I moved back into a bought property - having rented for the eight years previous to that - it was young Sue and my children that dealt with it (if I recall correctly (and my recall’s not what it once was) – I was deep in North Carolina, touring.
A song comes to mind…
“Nothing could be finer than to tour in Carolina, in the morning ..
I’m not even there, lucky boy - while the move is dawning..” (anyone recall the original version?)
So, off to the South Coast with me: I may have alluded to the master plan, in a recent edition of my diary: that is, to rent from October onwards, for a maximum of six months. I’m convinced any rental payments incurred during that time will be easily “repayed”, from the benefit of having a fair amount of time to carefully choose what I will eventually buy.
As of today, I’ve not set foot in one prospective South-coast rental property, so I need to get my skates on, double quick. However, the rental property is not for “life”, therefore provided I find a comfortable one-bedroom property (with a decent storage facility close by!), I’ll be fine.
It’s a whole new adventure, really. In my line of work (says he, who is currently unemployed at the moment) I spend most of my 16-hour days, fending off “curve balls” from every conceivable direction. Therefore, such apparent upheaval as a 450-mile house move may not manifest itself as such a stressful operation as most folk find it to be: it’s just like doing two back-to-back shows on tour – but with one truck (driven by yours truly, I might mention!) rather than twelve.
As I see it (apologies if you sense repetitive writing here) I have five more years to make a decent living. After that, the “dinosaur” acts – the Stones, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, etc - may have called it a day and therefore the requirement of the services of equally-dinasour Tour Managers may not be in great demand. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself (I truly believe I’m fitter than most Tour Managers, ten years my junior) but I sense the work prospects will wane.
Anyway, we’ll deal with that along the way. For the time being, “go South young(?) man!”. BFN.
Another Hampshire weekend, where the temperature is eleven degrees higher than Edinburgh!
As I touched upon last week, I have spent a couple of days in London (Thursday and Friday past, to be exact) – hooking up with a bunch of music business contacts, to discuss various, future, projects. The start of next year is looking very busy for me, however I don’t have it in me to sit around “twiddling my thumbs” until then. I need to pay for my (next) Christmas holidays!
Trust me: I’m pretty good at what I do – and, of significant importance, I came up through the ranks (which means – I like to think – that I have the respect of the guys and girls that work for me on the road). However, there are many in this relatively “young” business of ours that – believe it or not – fear my knowledge and my experience, in case it were to show them up.
Kinda sad state of affairs wouldn’t you say? However, if you are the sort of person that cannot tell it anything but the way it is, then you risk alienating yourself from a whole sector of my business. I’ve often said that if I had just resisted the urge to blurt something out – when I was feeling particularly principled – on five or six specific occasions in my life, then I would probably own TWO houses by now - outright. Alas, it had to be said at the time – and I said it.
Therefore, there is nothing for it, but “onwards and upwards”! I have graced this world for a tad over sixty years - when hundreds of thousands of brave individuals had that life snatched away from them, before they reached the age of twenty-five, defending this country in two world wars. When you view it from that perspective, then where is “luck” in all of this?
On days like these, I suspect the real answer to the meaning of life (uniquely different for each of us) may not be quite as evasive as I imagine. While my football interests have cost me probably upwards of £100,000.00 over the last fifteen years, it has nevertheless fired my passion – during the “positive” times – like nothing else I have ever been involved with. However, it’s big business, big money at the top end – and therefore, undeniably, prey to corruption (both of the direct financial type and – far more damaging in my opinion – of the moral type as well). Way more than half my life has now passed: there is precious time available to be “experimenting” with other vocations and other passions: the time draws close to picking (and sticking with) a rewarding – in the personal sense – direction. The financial ramification is of less importance. What I would give to know that I’ll merit a mention in the Daily Telegraph obituary pages! Proof that I had accomplished something of note in my life’s varied journey.
For the moment, I must stay focused on my music business work (which makes me money) as against my football business work (which only costs me money!) until a clear – sensible – opportunity comes my way to pursue the path of my passion: yes, you know it – football. Until then, much discipline is required to ensure my concentration does not waver. Sure, that has indisputably been a problem in the past, however I do believe good old common sense – accompanied by advancing years – is prevailing. One really wonders where it is all heading, but what choice is there? No, we’re in for the long haul guys. Don’t desert me now! Until next week.August
There was a time when I wondered how long it would take to reach this point: but, yes, my house is finally on the market! The “For Sale” sign is there for all to see. It’s time to move on.
Hard to believe it’s been almost seven years since I moved in here but, of course. I’ve probably only actually stayed there for three of them. Once it was a home: sadly, now, it’s just a house.
I really don’t mind disclosing this: the harsh reality is that the property has only appreciated £40/£45K in seven years (without the property crash, that figure would be closer to £245K!!).
Anyway, what it is – is what it is: there are many householders who are a lot worse off than me, particularly those who have found themselves facing a “negative equity” situation: and yet several of the high-profile individuals and institutions who majorly contributed to the underlying reasons for this economic “crash”, have escaped conviction. They should be shot, the whole lot of them: such an abuse of power and an inflation of ego – causing all this suffering.
Upon deep reflection of the above, I once again find myself completely aghast at the patience and tolerance of the countless ordinary working men and women who - generally ignorant of those processes that are deviously conceived to relieve them of what little disposable income they possess - just get on with their lot and offer little in the way of complaint or resistance.
All in all, I really must consider myself most fortunate. Sure, I’ve worked the sort of hours, when I’m on tour, that would probably bring most people to their knees after a week on the road – but, goodness me, how I have seen a bit of life, from one side of the globe to the other. Of late, I said to Alice that I just need a little bit of luck over the next few years to propel myself to where I would comfortably like to be, just under five years from now (essentially: my “new” property paid off totally to enable me to take my foot of the gas somewhat – and spend a little more time on myself). The touring life is so frenetic, that you can go for long months on end, with little opportunity to take a breath - and assess your own situation, your own direction.
However, I really have to admit that I have enjoyed several (well, a good few) lucky breaks in my time, I just didn’t take full advantage of them at the time: so maybe I don’t deserve any more luck. Someone once said (something to the effect of) “Good luck is when good planning coincides with good opportunity”. Hence I will work towards that end – and just keep the faith.
Today there was “open viewing” at the house, from 2.00 pm until 4.00 pm, during which time three families visited us, and wandered around the property: time will tell if they are seriously interested. However, I’m realistic in regards to the state of the housing market, therefore I know nothing will happen overnight - as it’s a buyer’s market out there. Back to luck again, yes?
On the work front, I’m off to London next week again, to meet up with some trusted contacts. I can keep my nerve relatively easily in this situation, because – within this “feast or famine’ environment in which I survive – the phone can go at any time, meaning I could be penning next week’s diary from some remote corner of the world. You just never know. Bless every one of you!
A warm (literally) good evening from the Hampshire countryside, as I find myself sat in Alice’s endearing apartment, adjoining her place of work, at the afore-mentioned “hush-hush” establishment! I have ushered the womenfolk off to their place of work, while I remain here to benefit from the southern English rays and cable TV - and that’s the way it should be, yes?!!
Can’t complain any of the last few days: as mentioned in last week’s diary, the house sale is somewhat out of my hands now, having met the deadline to have the photographer, floor planner and Surveyor do there thing, at my property, Thursday past. Like James Brown, “I Feel Good”!
I had particularly pushed myself to be finished by Thursday, house-wise, as I wanted to travel south with my daughter Jade, when she went to visit my friend Loraine – and her three dear children – down in the west country of England. In fact, fancying a day to just drive around certain Scottish border areas, I actually volunteered to drive Jade fifty miles south of Edinburgh, to her permanent place of work, and then collect her towards the end of the day – thereby enabling the both of us to travel south together, by train, from Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Guess what? The plan came together! Once down south, Jade and I went our separate ways (she to Loraine’s place and me to Alice’s) and we now plan to hook up again at Southampton station, to travel back north to Edinburgh on the train, via London, to alight at Berwick-upon-Tweed, from where, with the car parked there, we’ll enjoy a leisurely drive up the A1, home to Edinburgh!
Now, I don’t want to laboriously bang out about weather comparisons, in respect of the great North/South divide, however – suffice to say – having left torrential rain in the Scottish Borders, to be greeted – the same day - by 26 degree (Celsius) temperatures on the southern coast of England, surely tells its own story – and we’re only talking 500 miles in a straight line.
Back to the house sale, for a moment: the property should be on the market this Wednesday coming (22nd) so let’s hope a quick sale can be concluded: I can move out of there at a moment’s notice, so that has to be attractive to any prospective purchaser, who’s possibly in a hurry.
My days of big, time-consuming, houses are hopefully now at an end. While I’ve enjoyed assisting my landscape gardener to knock the garden into shape – and surely not gaining any weight in the process – I would much rather be apportioning my free time to pursuits dearer to my hearts. This is how it goes down, as you get older folks – one is guarded with one’s free time.
With the house-selling project approaching (hopefully) the final stages, I can now turn my attentions to sourcing some money (i.e. – some work) to help to pay for the next one! Tomorrow, in the big smoke, I will welcome the opportunity to hook up with several long-standing music business contacts, in the pursuit of a project to which I can apply my considerable experience.
I figure I have around five years of road work left in me, by which time I will hopefully still be “fit” enough to then seek an involvement in something that does not require me to be racing around the world at breakneck speed. I would love that to be football, but we’ll see. Love y’all!
You guys still here? Boy, you are gluttons for punishment. Bit more of the same coming up this week I’m afraid. However, signs of progress are becoming clearly apparent. I’m over the worst.
I also saw the return, over the last two days, of “Action Alice” (she’ll love her impromptu title). A job shared is indisputably a job halved and I am certainly able to plough through the slowly-reducing list of tasks, with much more enthusiasm, when Alice pitches in to the fray. My daughter Jade has also made no little contribution to preparing the house for sale, by arriving at my house the last few Friday evenings (direct from her place of work – fifty miles drive each day, to and from Edinburgh), staying for dinner and a movie, and then rising early to assist around the place, usually until midday. Her mum, Stella, has also given of a fair bit of her time.
You see, it used to be a home – with the gentle mayhem generated from one’s offspring tearing about the place – but now it has returned to the guise of being a house only. Sure, for most of the time, there is rarely a night that the premises go unoccupied – however, the family atmosphere (for me anyway) is now a thing of the past: of course, this is nothing that all parents do not experience – and have to deal with – when the time comes for the children to depart the nest. However, that makes it none the easier for all of us to have to bear. No, sir. Back to the subject of the house sale (you were gagging for me to return to this electrifying subject – go on, admit it) and I can report that next Thursday - 16th – marks “D Day”, as I will be visited upon by the estate agent’s photographer, the floor planner “Artist” and – finally – the property surveyor. Might be something of a late night on Wednesday, I suspect – but worth it.
Once the above three gentlemen have done their stuff – and subsequently reported back to my estate agent with their findings – then Jake’s property move is truly in the Lap of the Gods: that will definitely be a welcome situation to find myself in, the onset of the end of an era.
I believe I have already indicated my intention to rent for the next six months – as soon as I have a firm offer on my own sale property – as, being a buyer’s market, I can (literally) afford to take my time to look around, on England’s south coast, for the most ideal purchase for me. This will in no way prove to be problematical as there would appear to be a surfeit of rental properties in and around Brighton, reasonably priced, and available for imminent habitation.
With time on my hands and the opportunity to “put the word out”, once I’m temporarily ensconced in that neck of the woods, I’m convinced I can land a good bargain on a new purchase.
So – there you have the outline of my plan for the next few weeks: in a strange sort of way, I’m glad I didn’t go foraging too energetically, in respect of future work projects as, otherwise, it may have significantly delayed my efforts to see my own place, here in Edinburgh, “market ready”. That said, I plan to travel to London, in around ten days time, to pay various flying visits to a bunch of long-standing music business contacts, to see what work prospects I can drum up.
Yes, I know I’m “almost famous” – but not all the world knows this yet, do they! Until next week.
Oh, what a week that was: it’s enough to make you want to choose a tent as your next abode!
I’m specifically referring to the work involved in preparing one’s house for sale.
Fine, if you’ve lived there most of the time, over the last seven years: all that’s required – aside from the general every day interior tidy (45 minutes at the most?) – is to spend a few hours each weekend, undertaking selective gardening chores and checking any outlying areas. Right?
However, in my particular case - where I’ve actually been in situ at that house no more than three out of the past seven years, during which time it has been under my ownership – there is a plethora of niggling little cosmetic chores that vie for attention, before one can consider placing the property on the market. It’s those chores I’ve been up to my ankles in, all last week.
Makes for interesting diary reading, huh? However, there’s no way around said workload.
On a more positive note: at least the weather has been fairly decent, as a substantial portion of the cosmetic attention required for the property, is on the exterior. I now have a “shining new” monobloc driveway (it has to be seen to be believed – the amount of dirt and grime that a professional steam-cleaning job has the ability to shift) and a rather neatly trimmed lawn, albeit with the intervention of a damn good landscape gardener: and it all costs money, folks.
Gritting my teeth in expectation of the outcome of some rough calculations, I figure I’ve spent not far short of £15,000.00 on bring this house back up to “saleable spec”, the vast majority of that to completely gut and refurbish both the en-suite and family bathrooms (gone on – admit it – this is making riveting reading, is it not? I’m going to call the book “Fifty Shades of Grey – Paint”). Believe it or not, there is still another few days work required, before the property is ready for the visit of the estate agent’s photographer and his uncanny, magical, wide angle lens.
You see, I can’t turn my back on work possibilities: therefore I have to devote some time in the day to keeping in touch with my business contacts, to see what might be out there for me – hopefully in the not-too-distant future. This business of mine is definitely “Feast or Famine”.
While some my view my current position as decidedly risky (“out of work” at the tender age of sixty, and about to move house), I have been doing this long enough to know that my phone can ring at any minute, to plunge me into a touring project that could see me away for months. There is an odd (exciting?) anticipatory edge to the whole process, which would obviously not be to the liking of many a steadied individual – but I’ve survived that way, for nigh on forty years.
I am on my own this weekend (no visit from Alice in her fetching Marigolds, as this is her weekend “on” at the military establishment where she works in Hampshire – does it sound “hush hush”?!) however I’ve just disciplined myself to push on with a bunch of menial house-preparation tasks, telling myself that once most of them are completed, I won’t have to return to them for a good while. Thank you (as always) for staying with me, during such mundane times.July
Well, folks, I can report that – as of this evening – I am one mightily relieved individual.
The reason being, having spent an intensely busy weekend, here at my home base – more than ably assisted by Alice and Jade – that I can finally see this house on the market, in four weeks!
When one has spent as much time away from home over the past few years, as I have, it results in a whole raft of domestic chores requiring to be actioned and completed, before they can hammer the “For Sale” into the ground, at the front gate – however, alas, we are almost there.
Please be assured that this is no mansion in which I reside: it just represents – for one guy, whose daughter only visits occasionally – too much upkeep (and too much gardening!). When you are here every weekend, you are able to contribute a few hours to care for your property: I, on the other hand, have spent an average of only three months each of the past four years, actually back here at the house in Edinburgh – so no time for regular maintenance whatsoever.
I’m ashamed to admit (possibly for the second time over the tenure of this long-running diary) that I lucky to have sat in my garden more than five times in seven years: pretty sad, huh? I really hope that the next occupants can enjoy the house, in a way that I was never able to do.
Effectively, I must concentrate solely on preparing the house for said, imminent, sale announcement, even to the point of resisting the temptation to push too hard to land my next project: if I was to “up sticks” and jump out on a major tour, within (say) the next two weeks, I seriously doubt that I would see this house on the market before September – far too risky, if I’m looking to be on my way down south again, no later than the end of October.
I’ll also let you into a secret, as regards my next “move”: I’m going to rent for six months. The current state of the property market dictates that property has barely appreciated over the last three years, therefore – certainly in my case – I would be better to base myself in (say) Brighton, while I take the requisite amount of time to truly weigh up what I’m looking for.
Having to maintain three rooms – and the tiniest of gardens I hope (for the short term anyway) will be a welcome change to having to deal with double that amount, in my present situation – not to mention the extra workload that comes with also being the owner of a front and rear garden.
The focus of all my energies and attention, over the next two weeks, must now unquestionably be directed towards the marketing of the house: then I can concentrate on finding another job!
Fear not – even in these tough financial times (when even the concert touring business has shown a slight downturn in regular ticket sales) something will come along for me, pretty soon. As I’ve made mention of before, it’s down to how you utilise the “free” time between tours: when you have been away for several months, there are always things needing done, around the house. Just as well, really, as I have no desire to sit around at a loose end, waving to the neighbours, from the front window. No folks, there’ll be no retirement home for me. Later y’all!!
Warm (literally) Sunday evening greetings from the English “hamlet” of Middle Wallop.
This is currently Alice’s base of operations – all rather a little hush hush, I’m afraid: however, I (with my impeccably professional record) have been afforded the highest security clearance! Actually, Alice just asked if I could visit and those M.O.D. chappies happily obliged.
Seriously, Alice is currently stationed at the Army Helicopter Operations base, here at Middle Wallop, probably for the next two years, with four months under her belt already. Oddly enough, it is the most idyllic of countryside locations by day (a pre-lunch, three mile, walk can attest to that) but can take on the surreal reminiscences of the iconic “Mash” TV programme, when the nighttime training exercises often take place. Alice says she’s quite used to it now.
What of the past week then, I hear you ask, clamouring for every detail of my existence?
Well, grip tightly your armchair, as I tell you that I have done little of note: particularly Monday and Tuesday, where I proceeded to clear enough space on the office floor, to at least be able to glide three feet in any direction, on what is now a severely worn “executive” chair.
Wednesday lunchtime, I took the daily Aer Lingus flight (“operated by Aer Arran”, while still totally liveried in the parent company’s colours – can’t quite figure that out) to Shannon, then onward by airport bus – a most pleasant little excursion through the County Limerick countryside – to very heart of Limerick city itself. To what end, you are intrigued to enquire?
Ah well (as many a sentence is pre-fixed in that neck of the woods), it was all down to finalising several divergent aspects of the Westlife tour accounts, which I was unable to accomplish on my previous visit there – in the days immediately following the completion of the lads’ tour. As the local hotel I utilized (The Absolute Hotel) was a mere ten minutes walk from Westlife’s accounting offices, I can honestly say I spent a most relaxing 48 hours, finishing everything up.
From there, early Friday evening, I boarded one of Michael Ryan’s finest airborne craft which whizzed me over to Gatwick airport, a short twenty-five minute ride from the Sussex coast: Brighton to be exact. As I have touched upon over the last few weeks, I feel the pull of this general area, as to where I would like to re-locate, once I’ve sold up (a little sadly) in Edinburgh.
The decision is both practically and financially based: the house – bless it – has become “unmanageable” and now decisively ends my “big house phase”: fine if you have the family to share it with you, cumbersome and (almost) irritable, if you don’t. It’s the right thing to do. I feel – rightly or wrongly, you may wish to take up the point – that I should have something that I out rightly own, that could, eventually, assist my children in finding a place of their own. I may have to expand upon that view at some point in the future, so I don’t appear too morbid.
Anyway, enough of all that. Time to accelerate this move south, time to find another job! There is much for me to throw myself into at this time. More insight for you next week, I suspect...
Well, they say it’s good to be home – especially so, when you’ve been away for 24 weeks!
I only arrived back to the house, from holiday, late last night and today I attended my first wedding (no, not MY first wedding!) for as long as I can remember. The occasion was that of Alice’s son, David, who was marrying his girlfriend Katrina – conducted as a “humanist” service.
I have to say it was a most relaxing day, highlighted (for me anyway) – wedding ceremony aside – by Alice and her sister Ellen taking to the dance floor at one point, unaccompanied, to demonstrate their “bump ‘n grind” skills to a most attentive (at that time) wedding party. Wild.
Our journey home from Vietnam turned into something of an epic: the long – by UK standards – train trip down from Nha Trang down to Saigon, and then onwards to the international airport, only to find our homeward, first-leg, flight facing a three hour delay (in turn causing us to miss our scheduled connection out of Dubai). For a moment there, we wondered if we might struggle to make it back for today’s wedding, however it all thankfully worked out fine in the end.
Most of this second week’s holiday stay followed something of a pattern, where we would laze around the hotel during the day, afterwards catching the free hotel shuttle into the centre of Nha Trang, to have dinner at one of several decent restaurants we happened across. In fact it was in one such restaurant (“The Oz Bar”) where we witnessed Andy Murray’s spirited attempt to lift the Wimbledon Men’s Trophy. Alas, the class (and fitness?) of Federer won the day.
So, here I am back in Edinburgh with a plethora of domestic paraphernalia to sort through, before I can focus my creative head and figure what the next best move might be for me. I’ve (bravely?) not gone looking too determinedly for what else might be out there: the reason being that if I don’t take a couple of weeks bringing my domestic life back onto a workable level, it could take me years to catch up. When my “desk” is clear, my head – it follows – is also clear.
I have – what I believe to be – some great (practically workable) event-orientated ideas, however I have indeed had my fingers burned on two previous occasions in the past, when my heart may have been guilty of ruling my head: this time I will proceed with extreme caution.
The focus of my domestic efforts in the next couple of weeks has to be concentrated on re-locating – and it looks like I may be headed southwards, as my regular readers will know that I’m becoming less enchanted with those dark, foreboding, Scottish winters. Such a pity really - as Edinburgh is undoubtedly a beautiful, vibrant, city. I have to be careful how I proceed here.
I will look to be a little more insightful with next week’s diary entry. One day (when the Lottery win is banked!) I may be in a position to tell you everything. However, I still have to put rice cakes on the table (no bread, as I’m trying to lose six pounds by the end of this month) and I’ve not realized my retirement fortune quite yet. So, hang in there folks, as I forage forward in the next stage of my life – wondering what now lurks around the corner for me. I’ve been here several times before and experience points to something always coming along. Until next week...
Let the record show that I actually started this week’s entry on Sunday 8th July (impressive, huh?), at 6.17 local time, in Nha Trang, in Vietnam: the trick is to complete it on the same day!
Right now, Alice is telling me that her “belly thinks her throat has been cut” – sort of Scottish vernacular to intimate that she needs to partake of dinner, very soon. Back to you in a bit.
And here I am again (OK, it’s Monday evening – however I’m only one day behind with this week’s entry, which is substantially more up to date than I was this time last week). So, let’s keep on.
Here we are in Vietnam. Although Westlife were here last September, as part of a fairly extensive, whistle-stop, tour of South East Asia, I wasn’t with the lads at that point, so this constitutes my first visit to the country – and an insightful week it’s certainly been, to date.
As you may recall, we arrived here in darkness, last Sunday evening, in the seaside city of Nha Trang – surprised to find the sun going down at just before 7.00 pm in the evening. Therefore, initially, there was little to see. On awakening at the “Happy Light” hotel, near the sea front, on Monday morning last (2nd July), we were greeted with the sight of a wide boulevard – the French influence immediately apparent – running parallel to the full length of the beach front.
Down at breakfast, I was then immediately struck by how messy the restaurant floor was and couldn’t figure if it was the staff or the clientele who were responsible for this: however, being the stickler for tidiness that I am, I was greatly unimpressed by what I witnessed and decided – there and then – to look elsewhere from Monday night onwards. This led us to where we are now: The Diamond Bay Resort. Sure, it’s a fifteen-minute/eleven-kilometer ride back to the centre of Nha Trang, but the resort’s regular (complimentary) shuttle takes care of that.
I’d have to admit to not always being a fan of the “resort culture” (you know - keep you “captive” in the one location where, apparently, everything you may require is right there for you). Having said that, things have worked out well here, with the tranquility of the day being only a 15 minute ride from the gentle mayhem of the night. Enjoyable – and peaceful – as it has turned out to be here (I needed at least 2/3 days to wind down from the previous five months of literal non-stop activity), my gut feeling is that it will not match up to the lure of Thailand.
In support of the above view, is the incidence of the amount of Russians currently on vacation at this particular resort (and, generally, it would seem, throughout Vietnam): the occupancy here points to at least 70% of the guests being Russian. Now, any Russian reader is welcome to take issue with me here, when I say that my overall impression of them, based upon only the six days we have been here already, is of an ill-mannered, selfish, race. Not all of them, surely?
The above aside, there is certainly a diverse range of activities on offer at this “resort” (basically a hotel with a Spa) - from just laying around doing nothing, to renting bikes, to canoeing in the bay, to floating on the outdoor pool, etc. It will be interesting to see my view of things here, come this time next week: I’m not sure that “protracted inactivity’ is for me. BFN.
As I’ve said on several occasions, “What a difference a week makes”: hello from Vietnam!
However, before assailing you with my trials and tribulations, over the past seven days, it’s time to ‘fess up: you know when I admitted, five weeks ago, that – at that point – I had rarely allowed myself to fall so far behind with my diary entries, that it amounted to five full weeks?
Well – hot damn! – I only went and did it again: over the past twenty-four hours, here in Nha Trang in Vietnam (more about that later) I have managed to pen the last five weeks entries1 Now, when you read back through them – if you want, as I’m really not worthy of that much belated attention – it may not initially be that obvious to spot, as I’ve attempted to keep their topical slant by writing them in “real” time. I just couldn’t bring myself to “skip” five weeks.
Why Vietnam of all places, for this year’s vacation, as my regular readers (how are the three of you doing, anyway?) will be aware of my past leanings towards Ko Samui in Thailand? Nothing too scientific of an answer – simply the fact that, by the time I was I a position to confirm the dates of my vacation, all the flights heading this way, from the UK, were prohibitively expensive. Then, while worryingly wrestling with this issue, up pops an e-mail circular from Emirates Airlines to announce very inexpensive deals to a selected few South East Asian capital cities (I’m talking £550.00 return fares per person) – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) amongst them.
Snap decision time - resulting in young Alice and I jumping on an Emirates flight, connecting through Dubai, on Friday evening past and arriving into Vietnam last night: well, you wouldn’t want to Miss Saigon, would you? This evening – following a fairly tortuous eight-hour train journey (I’ll never complain about British Rail again – well, maybe) we are here in Nha Trang, the country’s foremost holiday resort, but with no international airport of note within the vicinity.
I guess you will have to wait for me to wax lyrical about the city and the region, as it’s blacker than coal here at the moment: sunset is just this side of 7.00 pm, out this way (not something Alice and I had envisaged when we booked the train tickets!). We are currently ensconced in the “Happy Light” hotel, facing out over the boulevard (the city was constructed by the French) towards the ocean. It may not be an ocean, but it‘s a bloody lot of water. Roll on tomorrow.
As is customary, when we head over to this part of the world, we rarely book the one complete hotel stay before we fly out of the UK. Being untrusting of hotel brochure photography – and knowing what an experienced hand can conjure up in ten minutes, on “Photoshop” – we just book the first night to cover our arrival: we then nose around the actual decent hotels in the area, waving a fistful of dollars, to see what deals are on the go. Admittedly, this process was almost the undoing of us when we visited Phuket last year, being unaware of the Chinese New Year holidays being in full swing. Aye, a few anxious moments there folks – but all sorted in the end!
So let’s see what tomorrow brings, weather wise and hotel wise. I also need to find a few moments over the coming days to drop a line to various music business contacts. I’m playing a risky game here (out of work at the tender age of sixty) but – yes, Gloria - I will survive!! BFN.June
“Strangest feeling tonight” as Joe Cocker once said on his “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” album.
The phenomena (and maybe no other word befits) that was “Westlife”, is no more. Sadly.
As I sit here, tucked away on the second floor of the Four Seasons hotel in Dublin, I wonder how it has really hit the four lads? Actually, they are all out in town tonight, initially to catch the England match, but mainly to have one last night together, prior to all heading home.
I made no effort to ingratiate myself into their company this evening – “hanging out with the Artist” was never my style, unless personally invited by them. Even so (slightly contradicting what I have just said) I actually declined the invitation to attend either Nicky’s or Shane’s respective weddings, last time I worked with them. I must tell you: it’s never a social occasion when it’s your “employer” that has extended the invitation. If their car is late, or there is too long a queue at the bar, or they’re getting hungry – they will only naturally turn to the likes of me and ask me to fix it (which – as hopefully all the Artists I have worked with would attest to – I am only to happy to help with, but it then ceases to become a social occasion for me).
Last night saw the party of all end-of-tour parties, as it was essentially more to celebrate the end of a career, as much as the end of a tour. Now, these lads have rubbed shoulders with a fair amount of folks over the last fourteen years and last night gave them a chance to corral most of them under the one roof, as a thank-you to them all, for their help down the years.
However, with the volume of people we are talking about here, “One Roof” necessitated hiring the floor area of Dublin’s prestigious “O2” arena. There has to be some irony in concluding a fourteen-year career in the very venue where you played more shows than any other facility (mainly, for the record, when the O2 arena was in it’s former guise as the infamous “Point”).
For me, now begins the clean-up process – mainly on the accounting side: experience has shown me that a good few days will be required to accomplish this. We have thundered through the last eight weeks with the speed and force of a freight train – with yours truly, confined mainly in the engine room, stoking the financial fires, attempting to keep the most memorable tour of the lads’ career on track (poetic, huh?) That, readers, did not even come close to “cheaply”. The time has therefore come to marry the pounds to the paper, if you see what I mean. To the above end, I will tomorrow travel down to Limerick, to the Irish offices of Westlife’s business management company, and spend a full day disrobing myself of all manner of documentation and complex spreadsheets, that I’ve accumulated over the last three months.
For the moment, however, I’m going to finish up this entry and wander down to the Four Seasons bar to raise a glass of decent red to my time with the lads. Occasionally, it has been far from easy (most of that will go to the grave with me) however – in the main – it has been eventful, it has been memorable and – of course – it has been wildly enjoyable. Go take an extended rest, lads, and we’ll hopefully see you somewhere down the road again. Until next week!
Hard to believe that Westlife will cease to exist, exactly one week today: but it’s a fact.
We just finished our second last show ever in Glasgow, earlier this evening. So – go ahead – tell me how many shows Westlife have played at the S.E.C.C., over the years? Forty-nine, folks - 49!! – the 49th being this coming Tuesday (there is no show tomorrow, Monday 18th).
The above record remains unchallenged: even such local luminaries, as “Wet Wet Wet” cannot boast of such an achievement. Longevity: it’s what every act looks to unwittingly attain, however several odds are stacked against even sneaking over the “decade” line. If it’s not “irreconcilable differences”; if it’s not substandard product (those in the know will tell you the second album is the hardest to break); if it’s not insufficient marketing – then there’s always the fickle public.
Constantly, I am approached by friends and business associates to give a listen to what they think to be a promising singer or band and (you know what?) most of them are: talent, sadly, is not a prerequisite to success – talent may only ensure that you have a chance of maintaining any success, but you’ve got to get there first. I do believe I recall Eric Clapton – during a music magazine interview many years ago – reckoning that any weekend in the West End of London, in any one of a myriad of live-music bars, there will be a guitar player who could give him (Eric) a real run for his money. It’s as much about right place/right time as anything else. Luck, indeed.
On Friday past, the Westlife lads played their last Newcastle show to a jam-packed, sell-out, “Geordie” audience, in an area of the country where they have always enjoyed an avid following. Regular readers of this diary may remember my assertion - of a good few years back – that I could settle in “the Toon” without any problem: it’s my type of town and it’s my type of people.
Can you believe that from where I sit, here in the Blytheswood Hotel in Glasgow, I am less than forty miles from home? So near, yet so far. I’m not one of those guys who feels at ease nipping home for a couple of days, while I am out on tour, even if the schedule allowed me to do so: if you’re out on tour (especially in the position of Tour Director) then you need to stay with the tour. Anyway, in my case, I’m not that keen to find that the central heating is still a tad noisy; the kitchen doorframe is rotting slightly – or the garage door is jammed. Who needs all of that.
Following Tuesday night’s last show (ever?) here in Glasgow, I will once again take the Cairnryan/Belfast ferry over to Northern Ireland for the fifth (and final) Odyssey show. Another emotional night awaits the guys, as they say goodbye to one of their strongest areas.
And what for me, come the 23rd June? Surely, having survived (admirably?) my second stint on the Westlife merry-go-round, there is no tour that I need fear? Quite correct, if I may humbly say so – however, having had little time to draw breath over the last two months, it follows that I have had even less time to consider my life after Westife. Out of work at the grand old age of sixty? On the contrary – there is much life in the old dog yet. So, watch this space folks; observe me grappling with the ins and outs of Twitter and Facebook, while reviving many a trusted contact. I’ll be back, you know I will – if only regularly, every Sunday, in this here Diary!
If asked, I’m sure the Westlife lads would be the first to admit that this current tour is probably the most physically demanding they have yet endured. For several reasons…
Mainly, it’s the “routing”: sure, one could easily point the finger at the likes of our intrepid agent (John Giddings – there you go John, infamy at last!) however not so at all, in this case. Fact is that by the time the announcement was forthcoming – from Westlife themselves – that this would be their swansong tour, precipitating an unholy clamour for tickets, the opportunity to then consecutively extend many of the cities had slipped the lads’ grasp, due to the lack of “avails” in the major UK arenas. Belfast apart, the opportunity to “camp” at the same venue for a three/four day period was lost to us. No alternative but to endure a host of “back-to-backs”.
Then we come to the issue of the last ever Westlife set-list: what songs to leave out, how to pay tribute to such a successful past catalogue? Oh, I can tell you – because I was party to many a long and convoluted discussion on the subject – these four lads laboured well into many a pre-tour night, fashioning a set-list that ably reflected fourteen years of memorable songs. This – as you will have witnessed if you attended one of the recent shows – resulted in a humdinger of a show, not a kick in the arse off two hours, including a two-song encore. Lastly, on the “physically demanding” aspect, was the very tangible realisation, again from the guys themselves, of the need to near eclipse any show that had gone before. No pressure then.
On the last point, the palatable emotion of the occasion of their very last tour has (I believe) created a unique touring experience in the annals of Westlife. Would you agree, oh loyal fans? In support of one of the earlier paragraphs (highliting the missed opportunity of playing consecutive nights in the major cities) we have this past week played two separate nights at Birmingham’s LG Arena – both Tuesday and Friday, to be exact. This tour has indeed been a stern test of the patience and resolve of our crew. I’ve been there – I know what it takes.
And so the days slowly (enjoyably) ebb away towards the 23rd of June – the final Westlife show ever, at Croke Park in Dublin, indeed a fitting closure to an indisputably glittering career: as the days slip by towards that fateful day, I’m sure I can sense the dawning awareness, within each of the four guys (in their own particular way) of the end of an era. We can all feel it, trust me.
For my own part, it’s approaching five months since I stepped over the front door of my own home. Thank God for Jade spending some time there, as I slowly, cosmetically, prepare the property for a sale date, later this year. Yes, folks, it’s time to come back south again – about as far south as one can go, without leaving those (UK) shores: Brighton, or thereabouts, I think. It’s probably fair to say that if I had not made the headstrong decision to return to Scotland twenty years ago, then I would probably have my own “ghost” writer to pen these diary entries. Anyway, what it is, is what it is – and I should just be thankful that I am fit and energetic enough to contemplate such a “move”. Stay with me folks – I’m convinced there’s more to come!
Let the past week be known as “the Belfast week”: the passion of this city will be sorely missed. Admittedly, we are back here one more time (20th June), however this last week – during which time we played four jam-packed shows at the Odyssey Arena – has only served to concrete my long standing view that the audiences in this neck of the woods are hard to beat. They’re wild.
Now, please don’t take it personally if you happen not to be an inhabitant of one of the following cities, but I have to tell you that – and this is only my view – the audiences in the likes of Belfast, along with Glasgow, Newcastle, Dublin, Liverpool and Manchester, appear noticeably more excitable than those of many of the other UK cities. I think I know the answer why.
Life – particularly during the current economic climate – has proved to be tough especially, it would seem, in the more “industrialised” cities: yet, tough times breed hardy souls, and those hardy souls need to seek occasional release for their frustration (?) and their boredom.
Enter the likes of Westlife, a bunch of lads with a typically entertaining show, underpinned with an excellent catalogue of major hits – but, yes of course, this needn’t just be Westlife. To each his own: such is the power of this medium we call music. It can indeed “Raise You Up”.
I (believe I) know how difficult things are for the majority of people in Northern Ireland. You’ll understand that I can’t enter into specific detail, however part of my job as Tour Accountant is to monitor the sales figures for the lads’ merchandising – and I can see that the likes of the London shows are measurably ahead, sales wise, than the likes of Belfast. While obviously there is additional income to the lads in respect of the variety of merchandising items on offer, if people don’t have the money, then they don’t have the money: thankfully the lads give excellent value for money, performance wise, with almost two hours in show length. That’s the main thing.
On two of the nights – from four – which we have played here in Belfast, I have found myself (at the last minute, and with the show already 2/3 songs underway) with a few tickets in hand – mainly as a result of some of the boys’ guests having to call off at the last moment. On both occasions – most unlikely that those tickets could be sold at the box office at such a late hour – and fully confident that the lads would unquestionably endorse my actions, I have popped out to the back gate to find a few forlorn girls, merely awaiting a glimpse of the lads after the show.
The sheer joy (disbelief, then joy) on their faces, when I’ve given them the opportunity to race around the front of the building and catch the remaining show – only ten or so minutes “old” at – indeed makes one feel exceptionally good to have been able to make their day (year?).
Now, in closing, an admission: I actually started this week’s entry, minutes after boarding the Dublin/Holyhead ferry, earlier this evening. However (it’s now after ten pm, in the Birmingham hotel), having endured possibly my worst ferry crossing in the thirty-seven years I have been doing this, I’ve only just managed to finish this week’s entry. Girls and boys, I was in a bad way about four hours ago but – fear not – I’m back: back to continue the good fight, and all for you!!May
What an absolutely fabulous day here in Glasgow: I’m indoors – but I’m looking out on the world.
At least I am facing a window, here in the SECC production office: albeit I’m a little worse for wear, having driven up overnight from last night’s Manchester show, arriving here at 4.20 a.m..
Then, tonight – fool that I am – I’m going to head down to Cairnryan after the show, to catch an early morning ferry to Belfast, where we will spend most of next week. I can’t wait actually, as this will allow me the opportunity to catch up with my accounts and my venue settlement paperwork. I kid you not: undertaking both jobs on a tour of this magnitude, is a tough call.
Why put myself through the mill like this, with any “time off” having to be spent rooted to my hotel room, concentrating on the Tour Accountant role? Well, oh loyal readers, the simple truth of it is – I need to re-balance my own personal books, as a result of my dalliances with football.
How I love the buzz of discovering a young player - hitherto unknown to the footballing establishment – or unearthing a raw, talented, youngster with real potential and promise. However, the process of doing so has proved to be an expensive business, and I’m living proof of that. The time has come to exercise extreme caution, when it comes to the matter of further outgoing expense, where my football interests are concerned (I’m surprised I’ve kept to that).
Holding my hand up - clearly for the world to see - I will tell you that today, 27th May, I am forwarding five (5!!) weeks’ diary entries to my website company, all at the same time: this is certainly something I am not proud of however, again, it reflects the intensity of the workload, when one is covering two roles on a major arena tour, such as this. So, apologies for my lateness.
It is now 01.20 a.m. on Monday morning, although I am still sat in the Glasgow SECC production office, on the back of the lads having performed a rousing show here, a few hours ago. I’m in no real hurry to leave here, as I’m booked on the 07.30 am ferry from Cairnryan, on the south Ayrshire coast, to Belfast docks. As I write, the lads have gone off to a Glasgow nightclub to (now, technically) celebrate Mark’s birthday: heaven’s knows when that will draw to a close!
As well you can imagine, I’ve done my fair share of parties, the intimate details of many, which will go to the grave with me. My best party was probably the launch party, staged at a Hollywood High School gym, to commemorate the launch of the iconic film, “Saturday Night Fever”: now, that was a party (I just happened to be in Los Angeles with the “Bay City Rollers” – we’re going back quite a ways now – filming a TV pilot, which coincided with the date of the SNF party). When they love you in Hollywood, you can’t put a foot wrong: when they don’t, you can’t gain entrance to a bus shelter, without knowing someone – or without bribing your way in.
So, off I must head to the ferry: I won’t be looking my best when it docks into Belfast at just after 10.00 am tomorrow morning: however, there is no show tomorrow so I may even treat myself to a massage, in an attempt to ease these aching muscles. The next week will be spent in Belfast, where the concert crowds are not noted for their tranquility. Folks – I just can’t wait!!
Can you believe that we are six more Westlife shows down the line, since we last spoke?!
Yes - while the lads would be the first to agree that there was a time when it was unusual for them to visit any more than two cities in any given week – this is what you call a “real” tour.
As such, the lads have had to preserve their stamina and consciously limit their (once notorious) “post show” activities. Added to this, they are essentially all family men now, therefore this relatively new role brings with it responsibility and restraint – for the time being anyway!
Check out where we have been, since this time last Sunday – Newcastle, Liverpool, Cardiff (twice), Sheffield and - only a matter of a few hours ago - Birmingham’s LG Arena. Tough, huh?
Rather than travelling on to Nottingham after tonights’ show (although just under 50 miles) I’ve elected to keep everyone here in Birmingham, to enable them to have a travel-free 24 hours: with the intensity of dates such as we will experience on this tour, undisturbed rest will be a major factor – and a major necessity, if they are to make it through, with no troubling ailments.
With the attendant long hours – in conjunction with the other associated strains of touring life – it can take several days longer than it normally would to shake any bug that latches on to you. For my own part, I had the greatest intentions of stocking up on copious supplies of quality vitamins, however time constraints - and a myriad of early-tour distractions - have put paid to that. So here’s hoping I can make it through this stress-suffused period with no major mishaps.
There are many, new, demands on the Westlife lads’ time, both individually and collectively as a result of their fourteen-year career now drawing to a close. Another aspect of my role is to assist the lads to take care of those various commitments, while not losing sight of the main reasons they are still hare after all this time (apart from some cracking songs); a loyal fanbase.
To many of their intrepid and committed followers, Westlife represent way more than the opportunity to catch a few exciting shows, during the summer of each year: to them it also represents some form of annual structure to their lives, to their “Westlife social life”. Over the years, many of those girls have formed lasting and trusting relationships with kindred spirit Westlife fans, from all corners of the UK. They will miss both aspects of their “new” life.
However, that life must go on – for the Westlife guys themselves; for all of us associated with them, down the years and – of course – for their legions of devoted followers. Indeed, it is the end of an era, but an era that can be looked upon by all of the above factions. Anyway, we’ve not reached that point yet! There’s a good four and a half weeks of life in the Farewell Tour yet, so let’s all make the best of these good times to come – and then deal with it on the 24th June
Well, folks, I’ve actually caught up with all my diary entries now – at a point where I had fallen as far behind as I ever have: that being an indication of just how much of a workload I’m having to deal with on this tour. Fear not, I’m still alive and well - just a bit older than I was last week!!
Back on the road again – and how. The Westlife Farewell Tour is already underway, folks!
As of today, we have already completed three shows, namely in Cardiff (Thursday 10th), London’s O2 Arena (last night) and Sheffield Arena (only finished the show two hours ago!).
Prior to last Thursday’s opening show in Cardiff (that’s earlier this week) we had spent the three days, at the beginning of this past week, honing the production elements of what is a fairly complex show in readiness for loading out of Elstree studios on Wednesday evening past. Hopefully you will have a chance to catch the show at some point over the next six weeks: is it the best Westlife show of the past fourteen years? That’s all down to personal preference.
For me, personally (and doing my best to avoid the emotional aspects of this, being the last tour) it will have to beat the memorable Westlife “Turnaround” tour of 2005. However, it’s too early to make that judgment – particularly as I’ve yet to see this show from start to finish!
My “quality time”, ironically, is when the lads are actually on stage; my assistant, Rachel, and myself always try to grab the lads for 15 minutes (7.00 pm – 7.15 pm) each show evening, to update them on any itinerary changes – and also to check what individual arrangements of theirs may require to be actioned. Invariably, we come out of those mini-meetings with a handful of items to deal with – many of which require to be sorted before the end of that night’s show, when the guys are primed to do a “runner” directly from the stage - back to that night’s hotel.
Point being: with so little time to action any such amendments to our daily schedule – or to assist the lads with changes to their personal/family itineraries - then the ideal time to accomplish this is while they are on stage, when the distractions are at a minimum.
Sure, I would love to indulge myself by coolly hanging out at the “mixer position” for the entire evening’s show, however – especially on a tour like this, where I have undertaken both roles (Tour Management and Tour Accounting) - I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. However, there is no need for me to feign surprise: this has been the pattern of my life, for many years now.
Back to the business of touring: last night’s London O2 show was the first of four that the lads will perform in the capital. I suspect those four shows will become increasingly manic, as the fourth one (the last Westife London show for a long time to come!) approaches. You know, for all the time I have been associated with this act, I continue to be – respectfully – dumbfounded by the intensity and loyalty of their fan base: endorsed by the fact that they recently topped an “MTV – Battle of the Boybands” poll, finishing ahead of a whole host of luminary “boy bands”, including The Wanted, NKOB, One Direction, N’Sync and – surprise – The Beatles! Major, huh?
So, this is us in touring mode for the next six weeks now, culminating in two huge shows, outdoors, at Dublin’s legendary Croke Park. There are, however, many long, trying, days to be endured prior to that. Let the journey begin; let the challenges throw themselves at us; let the Westlife circus descend upon you, but – most of all – Let There Be Love (Nat King Cole). See ya.
I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again: production rehearsals can be tougher than touring.
The above observation has certainly been put to the test, this past week – with two very long days (yesterday and today, so far!) having been spent in the confines of this soundstage, here at Elstree Studios on the northern outskirts of London - Borehamwood to be exact.
Never mind that the crew moved in here in the early hours of Friday morning, with equipment turning up from all over the country, to be pieced together to make up the stage set, which we will unleash upon the world, next Thursday (10th) in Cardiff (calm yourselves, Westlife fans!!).
What is not helping our cause, over the next four days (we move out of here Wednesday evening, 9th) is the fact that ITV are shooting “The Voice” on the soundstage next to ours – meaning they have hogged all the available dressing rooms/production offices! In fairness to The Voice, they have been based at Elstree for months now, for the rehearsing and transmission of their show, so it is us who are essentially treading on their patch somewhat.
However, I can report that we are co-existing quite comfortably as “next door neighbours”, added to the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to briefly ogle Jessie J’s best asset (I caught a glimpse of her teetering down her dressing room corridor, earlier. If I was 30 years younger …
Otherwise, back on the Westlife soundstage, it’s all hands to the pumps as the technical pieces of jigsaw are assembled into the Farewell Tour stage-set. Of course, I can’t reveal too much about the show - I can only say at this point that the lads will not be confining themselves to the stage (there’s food for thought, for the intending concert-goers amongst you!).
In passing, I have to say that some of the framed “black and white” framed movie posters that adorn the hallways of these old dressing room corridors in Elstree, are indeed enchanting. My regular readers will know that I have a hankering to have lived through the 1940’s and 1950’s (part of which I actually did, but I was only eight years old!) – with the likes of Ava Gardner, Dorothy Lamour and Jayne Mansfield being regularly featured, up there, on the silver screen.
Driving to and fro from the studios - to the Village hotel, close by - these last few days, I am forming some quaint images of how Borehamwood High Street must have been, back when the studios were at their peak (and back in the days when the “Commonwealth” reigned!).
Was it all about pre-war values then? Having gone through what most people had to go through in the early forties, was the British population just happy to have emerged victorious and alive? Undoubtedly, to have come through that period (everyone having lost at least one close family member and/or relation – and therefore hardly unscathed) must have had a profound overall effect on the vast majority of the adult population of Great Britain, to the extent of uniting the nation and re-defining family values. Sadly, with relatively few people around now who survived that era, the afore-mentioned values have all too, but disappeared. We can read and we can research but – unless we were there – we will never, ever, know about the pain. Love y’all.April
Today, my patient friends, is indeed a day of transition: last night we completed the final JLS show at Sheffield Arena then today was spent deeply engrossed in a meeting with my new assistant, Rachel, as we grappled with the multitude of Westlife tasks we now have to deal with.
However, we were able to do so in a rather charming hotel in SE1, in London, namely the Bermondsey Square Hotel: I had chosen this particular hotel due to it’s proximity to the Westlife musicians’ rehearsal facility, “Music Bank”, which is located in London’s SE16 district.
You may initially be thinking to yourself, “well, he’s unusually forthcoming this week, with what may be considered reasonably confidential information”. Truth is, folks, that I’m not really giving too much away: by the time you read this (probably because I’m penning it, about three too weeks late!) the Westlife lads will be long gone from this facility – heading to our “full production” rehearsal facility at Elstree Studios, in Borehamwood, in Hertfordshire.
Let’s face it: it may be a while before the lads are in tour rehearsals again (if ever!), therefore I’m not exactly “letting the cat out of the bag”: still, it’s good – is it not – to give you access to privileged information, even if it is somewhat out of date?!
Anyway, if you are ever down the SE1 neck of the woods in London, I can recommend the restaurant that is part of the Bermondsey Square Hotel. It goes under the name of “Greggs Kitchen” and – as already mentioned – the standard of food was excellent: from the egg and vegetarian sausage bap in the morning (which allowed me to skip lunch) through to the fish pie in the evening, they were able to demonstrate a range of delicious – and well presented – dishes.
On the work front, young Rachel and I sat in the hotel restaurant for about four hours earlier today, as we awaited our rooms being vacated (Sunday mornings rarely provide hurried guests).
Still, we covered a whole host of Westlife related subjects, all pertaining to this upcoming “Farewell” tour: just as well - as that will enable Rachel to push on with a bunch of logistic-related tasks, being that I’m going to have to lay aside a fair amount of time, over the coming few days, for “squaring up” my JLS accounts – and then packaging the lot off to their offices.
So, soon it begins – the final Westlife tour! It’s hard to believe, really, as the lads prepare to bring down the curtain on a glittering fourteen-year career. Has it really hit home as to what it actually means to each of the four of them? Even by their own admission, I think not.
Life without Westlife? How will the legions of fans adjust to the emptiness in their lives? I suspect that not having the annual bout of touring to look forward to, is a major blow in itself. However, the “social life”, that following the band gave them, will – I reckon – be sorely missed. Many of the girls (more like women, after 14 years now) have grown in parallel with Westlife and may find it hard to fill that void, in the years to come. Can the void be replaced? Will they possibly find another Artist/Act to allay their affections to? Somehow, I think that it will be Westlife or nothing. It is with these unanswered questions that I close this week’s diary…
Good evening from “Nightliner 3”, the JLS crew bus, on which I’m heading up to Glasgow.
Now, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue to pen this edition of the diary as – although it is relatively quiet here in the downstairs lounge - I suspect a wild (party) evening approaches.
The reason? Well, as we pull out of Cardiff within the hour, that will be three “back-to-back” shows completed, with the middle one being the final O2 show of this JLS Arena tour: suffice to say it’s been a tough few days for the technical guys, the unsung heroes of this massive tour.
However, I suspect there’s not too many of them heading to their bunks, when the final truck is loaded tonight! One immediate telltale sign is a matter of only a few feet from where I sit: in the tourbus’s small galley area downstairs, I spy a “mini” keg of local cider, probably fifty litres or so. God knows how the guys managed to source something like that, when they’ve been stuck in the Cardiff Arena all day. Nevertheless, the keg is poised there, awaiting heavy usage. Now, I’m going to have to finish this entry off tomorrow in Glasgow, as the other guys are starting to pile on to the bus, in ebullient mood – which is no place for a laptop, the workhorse of my day.
Fast forward to the lobby of the Menzies Hotel in Glasgow, where I now sit - licking my wounds!
You will recall I suspected a party atmosphere was brewing (a most apt word) on my bus, from the minute the first couple of guys came on board. My suspicions were right on the money. As I assumed DJ duties – utilizing a very impressive audio system in the downstairs lounge – the cider keg was set upon by carpenters and lighting technicians, with equal determined frenzy.
What entailed over the following four hours developed – increasingly as the morning went on – into a mesmeric haze. Much loudness of music, much boys-will-be-boys, much fervent hilarity.
Now, while there was absolutely nothing illegal going on as we cruised up the M6 towards Scotland, on our forty-two foot party bus, it has – for the most part – to be viewed as “what happens on the tourbus stays on the tourbus”. Suffice to say that WKD would not have been disappointed, had they decided to shoot their next advertising campaign, on our bus last night.
The responsibility for ring-leading the festivities once again fell to Chris Bridges (Head Carpenter) and Johnny Harper (Lighting Crew Chief) and – once again – they did not disappoint.
I have to tell you that nights like those are magical (I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed several in my time): a bunch of dedicated guys, to whom eighteen-hour days are commonplace, just letting rip, prior to a non-show day: all fuelled by some great tracks played by yours truly.
I’m honoured to be in their company – company that I will miss to some degree (both Chris and Johnny – and Ian Stevens - are of the same ilk as me) when I am consigned to the band bus on Westlife. One day (one day) I’ll re-live those occasions in greater detail with you. However, for the present time, I must keep my counsel. You’re as much my family as those guys are. Respect.
Let the record show this to be one of the rare occasions (hope springs eternal that it becomes less rare in the future) where I actually penned my diary on the Sunday to which it pertained.
So – my people (as if I was worthy of that!) – where do you find me this fine Sunday evening? Precisely? OK, I’ll give it to you: The Falcon Hotel, Aircraft Esplanade, Farnborough, UK.
In the job that Alice has (Welfare Services Officer) she can find herself being posted, even on a temporary basis, at fairly short notice – to cover a staff shortage at another location. In the case of tomorrow morning, Alice will be spending a week at Deepcut Barracks training facility, here in Hampshire. Hence we have checked into said delightful little hotel – directly across from the Farnborough Aerodrome Complex – before I rejoin the JLS tour tomorrow.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the five-day break, in the middle of the JLS tour, although it gave me a chance to catch up on the multitude of Westlife-associated logistical tasks, that have been queuing up for my attention. I’m now pretty much on top of Westlife world, therefore that project has to laid aside for the next twelve days, while I concentrate on “Phase 2” of JLS.
As the JLS mid-tour break commenced earlier this week, with the last “Phase 1” show at Dublin’s O2 on Monday (9th) there is not a whole lot to report on the touring side. I would have to say that even though the Dublin fans know how to party – and I’m always enthused to be in their company – the O2 Arena there, is the most expensive venue on the arena circuit (easily). For my part – to save me uprooting what little hair I have left – I have had to learn to (almost) accept the high costs involved with undertaking a show there: I would almost prefer that the facility reverted to it’s former guise as “The Point” (albeit with something of a reduced capacity) when the costs were noticeably lower than what we are having to “wear” nowadays. Do think of me, when I am tasked with settling the final two Westlife shows, at Croke Park!
These past few days, spent along the south coast of England – based out of Eastbourne – have only further reinforced my view, formed over the past few years, that it’s time to move south again. Much as though I don’t want to “leave” Jade up in Scotland (although who knows where her next posting will take her), I’m afraid I’ve had enough of the dark Scottish winters. I’m now honest enough to admit that the dark does not sit well with me, casting – as it does – a similar hue on my moods. It’s lighter down this way and it’s warmer down this way – so I have to move.
If both my children were still based in the Edinburgh region, it would certainly be a harder decision to make. However, I’ve looked at it this way: if it’s good for me in the short term, then it’s good for my children in the long term. There is a further, none-too-inconsiderable, reason for me to make the move – in that I need to downsize, property wise, for obviously practical reasons. Brighton (on the English south coast – for any of my foreign readers) has much going for it, apart from it’s suitable proximity to London and Gatwick Airport. I want to be penning December’s diary entries from there. Apologies if I occasionally bang on too much about the proposed move, but it’s firmly at the forefront of my future planning. Your patience is noted!!
Dear, patient, readers – you find me in subdued mood this evening, having reached my 60th year!
Should such an age be viewed as some form of milestone? Well, slightly chillingly, is the irrefutable realisation that, having reached such an age, one has certainly lived a good bit more than half of one’s life. So time to concentrate (would you say?) on the quality of the remainder.
There’s little I can do for the next three months, as I am working almost every day: after that, I need to take a couple of weeks off (with, hopefully, my house sale well underway at that point) and re-assess my situation. This much I know: I don’t necessarily want to stop working – I just want to redress the balance a little. Once my property situation has been rectified, and I have purchased again down south, a great, onerous, weight will have been lifted from my shoulders.
Tonight, I’m back at the Radisson Blu hotel in Belfast after the second of two shows: normally – as has been my mode of travel on the JLS tour – I would be Dublin bound (the site of tomorrow night’s show) on the “Nightliner Hilton”. A slight change of plan has been put into place, as Alice travelled over to visit me – arriving Friday evening past – here in Belfast, therefore our plan is to catch the train to Dublin tomorrow morning. It’s a fairly brief two-hour trip south.
Earlier this week, we played a show at Aberdeen’s A.E.C.C. (Tuesday), followed by two nights at Glasgow’s S.E.C.C. – soon to be superseded by a 12,000 capacity arena, the construction of which is now well underway, due for completion in the Autumn of 2013 (I believe). You know what? The Glasgow audiences deserve it – their enthusiasm deserves it. Things have come a long way since the days of the Glasgow Apollo – where I was involved with many shows. Check out the Glasgow Apollo on Google (formerly known as Green’s Playhouse – a famous old Glasgow cinema).
Stop me reminiscing, whatever I do! Do you think, at some point in the not-too-distant future, that I could “dine out” on my escapades of the past thirty-eight years? Food for thought.
In terms of the past two nights shows, here at the Belfast Odyssey, I have witnessed at first hand – once again - just how wild the Irish fans are (both north and south). I applaud their enthusiasm and their energy – it invigorates and energises me, and I thank them for it.
You will note that I have not dwelled on having reached the ripe old age of sixty (I actually chose to write the number in “long hand” rather than as a numeral – it sounds better!): what am I to do, but accept it gracefully; be happy that I have come to a point that many poor indivduals have never done – and have done so, enjoying good health and wonderful memories. Deep, huh?
So, this evening, I must take my leave of you. I can only thank you for sticking by me this far. The plan is to write the diary every Sunday – when it is meant to be – so that it is unrushed and topical (which – let’s be honest – it has not been on many occasions). I know I can write better in the future – it’s the least you deserve. There is better to come from me. I love the business that I am in: and, in bands like JLS and Westlife there are truly great people out there. There is however a dark side to this business and one day – one day a while’s from now – I’ll tell you!
Way aye! (that being a common expression in “Geordie land”, specifically the city of Newcastle).
Such a pity that we have played a show here tonight, in such a vibrant city, but have to leave overnight for Glasgow! Newcastle, tonight, counts as our fifth show of this last past week.
I have settled in, no bother, to travelling with the crew, on one of the three “Nightliners”, each of which has fourteen upstairs bunks. “Nightliner No. 1” has the caterers (5); the Production Manager and her assistant (2); Riggers and tracking engineers (5) and the Stage Manager. “Nightliner No. 2” has the video crew (5); the sound crew (5) and our two winch operators. My bus, “Nightliner 3” has the lighting crew (5); the carpenters (4); the Pyrotechnician – and me!!
Last night we did not pull out of Manchester until around 2.00 am, then the guys/gals on the first “call” (Rigging, Stage Management and Production Management) here in Newcastle, were falling off the bus at 06.30 this morning. It’s far from glamorous on such occasions, believe me.
One thing I’m definitely in favour of, in respect of Newcastle Metro Arena, is the lighting in the audience area of the facility. Soft purplish lighting (as I recall) features all around the interior walls, behind the raised seating - making for a very relaxing and “warm” atmosphere. Such thoughtful touches can make all the difference with inducing the concert going audience into a “party” frame of mind. If you’ve attended this venue, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about. Generally speaking, my regular readers will know of my affection for the Newcastle area.
This city, along with the likes of Brighton and Glasgow (possibly odd choices, I know) are cities where I believe I could live: they breathe life, with Brighton having the advantage of the sea. As I’ve mentioned on a previous occasion, there’s something about the calming effect of water for me personally – in spite of the fact that I swim like a brick. Doggie paddling a speciality.
The most pleasing aspect of the last week, personally for me, is that Jade was able to spend a couple of days down in Manchester with me. Faced with not being home until around the middle of July, I do not want to go that long without seeing my children. Of course, there’s not much I can do in the boy’s case, as he is still far away on the East coast of Australia – however, thankfully, in Jade’s case I can do something about staying in touch. I wish I could see Jade (and Bradley, of course) on a more regular basis but my chosen vocation in life prevents that. I guess (I know!) I’m having to come to terms with what all parents eventually have to come to terms with: your children have flown the nest. Yet – thinking about it – it may be that I’m better situated to handle their “remoteness”, as I have spent much of my working life away from both of my children, therefore it has to some degree softened the blow of estrangement.
So, Newcastle, be still your vibrant heart! I shall return to these parts in the not-too-distant future, to partake of the colourful nightlife that is always on offer. OK, I know I’m knocking on a bit, but I still reap the psychological benefits of youthful and well-intended exuberance. My comfort is being in the company of good and warm human beings. On this I thrive. See ya soon!March
Well, that’s our first three JLS shows at London’s iconic O2 Arena completed, as of tonight!
This has been a frantic – yet enjoyable – weekend. Let me make no secret of the fact that London shows are always busy occasions, particularly in a venue such as the O2. Add to this the JLS lads “anchoring” of yesterdays’ televised “Sports Relief” Matinee show, at the same venue, and you’ll understand that I (and the other 41 members of JLS’s production crew that I travel with) are relishing the anticipation of our evening off tomorrow night in Nottingham.
Again, unique to London (and New York and Los Angeles!), what is actually taking place on the stage is almost eclipsed at times – by what is happening behind it. Let me explain.
Those prestigious, capital-city, gigs always manage to attract a fair smattering of “liggers”, those individuals who are more concerned with the overall occasion, than with the performance (“dahling, I don’t pay for my tickets, no, no!”). This is definitely part of the “pazzaz” that goes hand in hand with “the big rock show” – and, yes, it tends to be the rock gigs that attract the largest percent of freeloaders.
I’m sure the Oasis lads, to use an example reasonably “close” to home, have found cause to occasionally reflect, on the amount of comps they allowed to be given away, when they were at the height of their success (especially on some of the stadium shows).
How to avoid it? Learn to say “No”. Some of the world’s major acts now operate on a “no comp tour” basis: the Artist/Artists buy their own allocation of tickets, for personal distribution - this usually being for their close family and friends. It follows that if the Artist buys his/her own tickets, then everyone else has to fall into line. I’m a committed disciple of that method.
However, I digress: back to the past week on the road with JLS. Prior to bailing into London’s O2 Arena at the crack of dawn, on Friday morning (23rd) the earlier part of the week was taken up with three shows at Cardiff’s International Arena, a venue most familiar to me. I must have undertaken at least a hundred shows there, in the last ten years: of course, having spent two of those years with Paul Potts, who just lives “along the road”, has probably accounted for a good 20% of that figure. For those of a strong constitution, Cardiff’s also a “vibrant” nightlife city!
The boys (JLS) are in fine form, spearheading a stunning show that many of their contemporaries will gaze upon admiringly, wondering what they (the contemporaries) may have to pull out of the bag, to equal such an entertaining spectacle. Having said that – as I find the need to be increasingly honest about my views on these things, coming more and more to the fore – I have to wonder what the JLS lads are going to come up with, themselves, next year!!
Have we strayed a little too far from what it’s all about – the music, the songs, the individuals? I’m convinced the same thought process will cross many an Artist’s mind, who nevertheless – naturally – wants to give their fans the best value for money. I may have mentioned a few months back that I attended Kylie Minogue’s opening night of her world tour, in Dublin, to be confronted by a lavish Technicolor extravaganza that at times belittled the very songs it was meant to accompany – and on that thought, oh resilient readers, I will bid you good evening. BFN
All hail Cardiff! You find me here, this fine evening – on a “day off”, preparing for three shows on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thanks are in order to both the Mercure Hotel, here in Cardiff and our blond(ish) Production Manager, Karen Ringland, for assigning me a spacious corner room, where I now sit – allowing my loyal readers an insight, as to this “wild” life of mine.
Actually, if “wild” is your bag, then Cardiff is right up there with the UK’s most vibrant (manic?) nightlife cities. Into the same bracket, I would put the likes of Liverpool, Glasgow & Newcastle.
However, as is generally the way, Sunday night will be a somewhat dumbed-down version of both Friday and Saturday. You may recall that Alice and I spent the New Year of 2010/2011 here, as the then JLS Arena Tour kicked off its second phase at the Cardiff C.I.A. on the 3rd January 2011. “Wild” is the understatement of what was going on in this city, over those few days. The locals down here certainly do not do anything by halves, when they are out of an evening.
This past week has seen the JLS 2012 Arena tour kick off with four shows on the trot, a “double” at Liverpool Echo and a “double” at Birmingham’s LG Arena, these shows having taken place between Wednesday and Saturday nights. Unfortunately, we found ourselves having to check into the Mercure Hotel, here in Cardiff, the morning after the Welsh rugby game! Luck, however, was on my side in the form of the Edinburgh football “derby” being screened in the bar of the hotel, from lunchtime onwards today – even better that Hearts trounced Hibs 2-0!!
I’m travelling with the production crew on this tour, who are spread across three “Beat the Street” 14-berth sleeper coaches. The production crew is the guys that make it happen for the Artist and I am most at ease being around them - additionally benefitting from their natural camaraderie, and not forgetting their acerbic humour. Their days are long and hard, on show days (either five or six, out of each week) whereby the first – rigging – truck has it’s doors open at 06.45 in the morning, with the self-same truck not pulling out of the venue until 02.30 am the next morning. Of course, multiple show runs (only ever three at the most, mind you) give the guys something of an occasional break, as they are not involved in a load-out, every night.
As you can deduce from the above daily schedule, there is a maximum of five hours sleep on offer, when a show of this size entails “back-to-back” performances. Not for the faint hearted, indeed. Having said that, the buzz of being involved in such an adrenalin-fuelled environment gives one great personal satisfaction at the workload accomplished within a 24-hour period.
This upcoming week sees the three shows at the Cardiff International Arena, as detailed above, then – following a deserved day off this coming Thursday, the JLS lads have three huge shows (in every respect) at London’s iconic O2 Arena, including a charity matinee on Saturday 24th.
By the way, just in case some intrepid reader may be thinking that they could catch the band members at this hotel, over the next three days, the not-so-good news, in that respect, is that the band members always stay in different hotels from the production crew. I’m still here of course – but well past meriting you hanging outside the hotel all night!! There was a day…
Good evening from the depths of West London, the scene of JLS’s tour production rehearsals.
This is our fifth day at this location: two more to go then, on Tuesday evening (13th) we’re on our way up to Liverpool’s Echo Arena for the first of two shows on Wednesday and Thursday.
Since returning from China on Sunday morning (last week, 4th March), I spent one and a half days, based in Blackburn, looking at a couple of football-related projects for this coming summer. Our experience of last summer’s (fairly expensive) exertions – initially two trips to France, followed by the football “camp” based in Glasgow, for two weeks – has allowed us to form a template for the discovery and hopeful development of young players, predominately French, who have slipped through the net of football, and may yet have something to offer.
The plan this time is to hold two “trial” games of prospective young players, again in the vicinity of Paris, possibly over the weekend of 26th and 27th May, this year: this time, at much less cost! My partner in the project, Russell Mason, who flew in from his base in Qatar last week, to discuss these future plans with myself and our French Scout, Omar Rezgane, will plan to be back in Europe – Paris specifically – for the above dates. I, unfortunately, will not be able to be there as a result of my commitments, at that time, to “Westlife” (their production rehearsals commence the day after my last show with JLS!) – and, alas, I have to put the paid work first.
I should mention that my involvement on this current JLS arena tour of the UK, is that of Tour Accountant only. My good friend Steve Martin has taken over the Tour Management of JLS (Steve worked with the lads on their first UK – support – tour, therefore he was the lads immediate choice) because I need a little time over the next few weeks to prepare for the Westlife tour. This is Westlife’s farewell tour - after fourteen years together - and having worked for them for almost three years, from 2003 – 2006, something compelled me to want to be there for their last outing. I’m most fortunate to be able to be involved with both acts.
With a show this size (eleven trucks, sixty-five touring staff) at least two days are required to load-in, assemble and test the various systems that are about to be rigorously hauled around the UK for the next eight weeks; therefore, the lads from JLS did not arrive for their first day of production rehearsals until Thursday past, forty-eight hours after we first loaded in.
So now, the lads have three full days of rehearsals under their belts, as of this evening. There are two days left here at the rehearsal facility and we are now at the stage where the “full dress” runs – two tomorrow and two on Tuesday – will commence in the morning. These have been long days at rehearsals, when we generally arrive around 09.00 am in the morning, then rarely leaving here before 10.00 pm in the evening. Sure, I won’t deny there are certain glamorous aspects of this whirlwind life that I lead – however, such long rehearsals days are just down to stamina and graft, with “glamour” being for some other days, out on the tour.
Still, we’re all (band and crew alike) desperate to complete these rehearsals and head on up to Liverpool for the first show. By this time next week, we’ll have done four shows! See you then...
Yes, folks, to quote the Beach Boys song: “Round, round, get around – I get around”.
From Shenzhen, in China, on the occasion of last week’s diary entry to – control yourselves (look how confidently I use the plural) – Manchester Airport’s Terminal 2. Shall I backtrack for you?
You may recall that I left off with you last week, in Shenzhen in China, the last of “three in a row” run, and our fourth show on the China mainland. We’ve since played another three shows in China and – last night (hard to believe, sitting now in Manchester) – played a show in Hong Kong.
So, to recount the remaining shows in China. On Monday past, (27th Feb) we boarded another inter-city flight, this time from Shenzhen to Wuhan (check out some of the cities we played, on a map of China) another city of several million inhabitants, of which I had never even previously heard of. As memorable as all the shows have been, what actually stood out in Wuhan was the quality of the hotel, namely the Westin. Now, I’ve stayed in a few decent (and a few not-so-decent!) hotels in my time: however this hotel in this “unknown” city, is right up there in my “twenty best appointed hotel rooms” listing, of all time. An electric massage chair in the room!
The day after the Wuhan show, we flew to Chengdu – a city particularly noted for it’s extensive Panda Park, to which the lads were exclusively invited and where they actually held the pandas (I’m sure you may have come across some evidencing internet-based images, illustrating young baby pandas poised on the knees of various, sanitarily-protected, Westlife members).
The visit to the Panda Park – on Wednesday - attracted serious media interest, and no shortage of Westlife fans – initially blocking the entrance to the park, upon arrival, resulting in the lads “staying put” in the passenger vans, outside the park, for a good thirty minutes, before we could clear the way. In fact, everywhere we went in public (airports; gig arrivals and departures; hotel foyers) there was always at least around 100 Westlife fans. I actually believe – having witnessed how they conducted themselves when anywhere near the lads – the security forces we encountered in most of those cities were “inciting” the fans rather than calming them.
With the Chengdu show under our belts, we headed down to Guangzhou (formerly Canton, in the days when I was out there with Wham!) and on the way in from the airport there was immediate evidence of the city having the greatest “Western” influence, of all the Chinese cities we had previously visited, with the possible exception of Shanghai. However, with Guangzhou being a mere 110 miles by road, from Hong Kong itself, this was always going to be the case.
We made said road journey on Friday night after the Guangzhou performance because of the relative urgency in reaching Hong Kong, where we played our last show of the tour last night. Thank God, folks, that the venue was only a matter of ten minutes drive from the airport, as with a flight departure time of 11.25 pm, we were still loading our equipment, backstage, into the vans at 9.50 pm. Yes, that departure can be filed under “seriously close”. Being jet-lagged out of our brains, upon arrival back here at 4.32 a.m. this morning (you heard that right!) I don’t anticipate falling back into UK time, for a good few days yet. Oh yes, I’m going to sleep tonight!February
Can you believe this one? Four shows undertaken in China since we last “spoke” a week ago!
As far as two of those four cities are concerned (Hangzhou and Shenzhen) Westlife can now uniquely lay claim to be the first “Western” band to have played there. Hard to believe, huh?
Having arrived here on Tuesday past (21st) - to be greeted by airport mayhem, in the shape of around five hundred fans - our first show was, fittingly, played in the country’s capital of Beijing, at the Mastercard Arena, a venue not untypical of many mid-sized arenas in the U.S., with a capacity of 8500. Thursday was earmarked as a travel day to allow us to fly south to Hangzhou, to undertake a show there, on Friday. Being only around 120 miles from Shanghai, we at least did not have to endure “airport madness” on the next leg – making the journey by bus. At this juncture I have to say that I can’t help thinking how “disrespectful” it may possibly be, to go thundering into a foreign country, knowing so little of it’s culture and its peoples.
This was my first time in Shanghai and – although, typically unable to put my finger on it – I warmed immediately to the place. A “vibe” not unaided by our hotel experience there: the establishment being one “Indigo Hotel”, gracefully situated on the banks of the river and offering stunning views of the main part of the city and some very “adventurous” architecture.
Shanghai, for me, exhibited influences of London, Hong Kong, Seoul and even a touch of New York. I would definitely like to re-visit the city and spend some time wandering around there. We’re going to leave this country, in a flurry of agitated activity, having learned little.
I really have little idea how that country “ticks”: a major portion of the indigenous population appear to earn very little, yet over 60,000 fans manage to find around £40.00 each for a ticket to attend a Westlife show: can someone walk me through that, because perplexity abounds.
So – back to this past week on the road: an early hotel departure ensued this morning, to enable us to catch a 0930 flight to Shenzhen, our last of a three-in-a-row run (one of several flights that we will be undertaking during our relatively short stay here).
So, the chances are that you’ve never heard of the Chinese city of Shenzhen, yes? Who could blame you? However – get this – the city has a population in excess of ten million! Can you get your head around this country? China may, one day, become the biggest touring market, country wise, after the U.S.A.
Subsequently, I’m just sitting here quietly in the foyer of the Marriott Hotel in Shenzhen, post show, quietly wondering what opportunities I might be able to carve out for myself here in China. I certainly wouldn’t make any impulsive decisions until I could find a little time to closely study the rapid development of this part of the world; to re-assure myself of it’s touring future. However, I can confess to having experienced great adventure, in China, so far.
Another week – and three Chinese shows - to go: be under no illusion that there is any ease involved with touring uncharted territory. It’s graft all the way, however the challenge is certainly invigorating. Don’t touch that dial – more Chinese stories to follow next week. BFN.
I’m holding my hand up on this one: I’m airborne to China (with Westlife) on Monday evening.
Yesterday (Sunday, 19th) was a fairly hectic day for me: I didn’t finish up at Olly’s Liverpool Echo Arena show, until just after midnight, after which – being the fool that I still am, on certain occasions – I jumped into the “Golfmobile” and drove south, direct to Heathrow airport.
Not to take a flight you understand, but to check into the Airport Sofitel, divest my overloaded car of the Westlife wardrobe (which had been delivered to me, on Saturday, in Manchester) and then run round to a fairly-deserted “Europcar” drop-off, to hand the car back in. So, as well you can imagine, by the time I actually made it to my room in the Sofitel, it was gone 5.00 am.
With the lads hairdresser due to arrive prompt at 9.30 am – and with a fair amount of work remaining to be done on my behalf, both to finish up Olly’s tour and also in preparation for the Westlife lads departure to China later that day, I never actually made to bed that “night”. Of course, the plan had always been to grab some sleep on this flight – which is exactly what I’m going to do, once I have completed this diary entry (I can feel myself wilting already).
So, what awaits us in China? Well, this will be my fifth trip to the country: as most of you are probably aware, I first set foot there in 1985 with Wham!. My second visit, was on behalf of Philip Morris & Co., to study the feasibility of launching their highly successful US “Marlboro Country Music” tour in China (however, even after spending a solid three weeks based in Beijing, we were unable to obtain government approval for the venture. More “recently” I have returned back there – both with Paul Potts – for a Volkswagen car launch and a recorded TV appearance.
Naturally, much has changed since the mid-eighties: back then, I can distinctly recall our hotel-bound cars, repeatedly having to maneuver themselves around all manner of “farmer traffic”, on already-rutted highways, on the way in from the airport. Contrast that with today’s freeway link that “collects” you almost on the airport perimeter road and propels you towards the centre of the metropolis that has become modern-day Beijing. I think I prefer the mid-eighties time.
As I recall from my most recent visit to China (with Paul Potts, around a month ago, to record three songs for a Chinese New Year TV Special – aired on the eve of 24th January), the weather was bitterly cold. Off I went to Tiananmen Square, around 4.00 pm – Paul and I and our local Chinese liaison - clad in only my suit jacket and jeans, unaware of the steep evening temperature drops that South East Asia is prone to. Once you are out in the middle of what is one of the world’s largest public squares, there is nowhere to hide, weather wise. The actual temperature variations, countrywide in China, can show as much as a 12 degree centigrade swing.
I’m struggling to stay awake now as a result of doing exactly that last night, therefore I’m going to have to draw this week’s entry to a close. By the time we next speak I will have my feet planted firmly on Chinese soil for my first live show there in over twenty-five years. “Those were the days of our lives”. Those lyrics just came to me, from a song, somewhere deep in my subconscience. Oh, yes, there’s a lot of stuff keeping those words company! Until next week…
To those that had reason to doubt (that I was falling weeks behind with my diary entries – how dare you!) let it be known that I’m sat in the production office in Sheffield Arena at 11.14 pm this very evening, telling you like it is. The act has gone and the load-out has started.
I have only to drive a mere 38 miles south to Nottingham tonight: one day all “back-to-backs” will be of such a short distance (that will be about the same day that you can buy a concert ticket at face value!) – which actually enables me to link conveniently into this evening’s gripe.
Pardon me if I become somewhat animated over the following paragraphs, however I am becoming increasingly astounded at the proliferation (lots and lots) of secondary ticketing agents leeching off the live music industry: and we seem powerless to bring it to a halt. I might just have to do something about this in the future – a gargantuan task, make no mistake.
You can’t believe how certain music business factions are taking the moral high ground, claiming to be instrumental in constructively tackling this endemic scourge – yet, quietly through the back door, they are effectively, officially, scalping sizeable quantities of excellent tickets. How are they managing to lay their hands on such quantities? Oh, there’s ways, believe me. I have only dipped my toe in the water.
In the last few weeks, however murky water, indeed it is. How’s about some government-monitored, “master” website that acts as a conduit, guiding the fans only to the legitimate sites? I’m just blown away by the extent and depth of this growing issue.
Back to the touring business at hand: this past week, we have played two shows at the Brighton Centre (Tuesday and Wednesday) then Birmingham LG Arena (Friday), Wembley Arena (last night) - and of course this evening’s not-too-long finished performance here at Sheffield Arena. Tomorrow finds us in Nottingham Arena, to complete this four-in-a-row run – after which, deservedly, the crew enjoy a day off prior to Wednesday and Friday’s shows in Bournemouth.
Just to diversify for a second, I want my regular, long-suffering, readers to know that reward (of a fashion) awaits them at the end of the long road that we have travelled together – in the form of the TRUTH. The truth about what I really think of much that I have witnessed, over the preceding thirty-five years: alas, it will be a fair while yet before I am in a position to open my heart – and stop a few others beating! (about two seconds after my lottery win, I reckon).
My style would never to be to name and shame (no matter that a certain few most definitely merit it): more my approach will be to focus on the elements of this business that leaves many would-be Artists shell-shocked, beyond recovery, after being dragged through it’s machinery.
In closing this evening, I have to bring to your notice the current dissatisfaction of young Alice, in observing that she has received not a syllable of mention in these dispatches, over the previous weeks (God, the womenfolk don’t half get tetchy, at the prospect of unawareness). Allow me to put this right so that she can return to her cleaning and cooking: Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice. Just remember me when you’re famous, girl. Bye for now!
Back on the road again!
You find me, today, four shows in to the Olly Murs UK Arena Tour – and this evening having just completed the second of two London “O2” shows: isn’t the boy doing extremely well? Olly, not me, that is. I hope Olly doesn’t mind the fact that I am pleasantly surprised (yet, of course, impressed) that we are selling out every one of these shows. Long may this last for Mr. Murs.
Sure, there was every indication that Olly would enjoy healthy attendances, but we are – as they say in this business, folks – “clean and green”; to the wall; not a seat to be had anywhere.
Of course, as I believe I touched upon last week, I am as happy as a piggy in poo, to be involved in a touring operation that features an all-singing, all dancing (literally) live concert band. One of the outstanding features of Olly’s show, for me personally – and you’ll understand why – is the James Brown medley. Oddly enough, when the JLS guys were considering a theme for their medley section on last year’s arena tour, I ventured a selection of James Brown tracks. Give the JLS guys their due, they did hear me out (their collective ability to listen and learn is one of several impressive traits they have developed – and which will contribute to their longevity) but in the end opted for a medley of “stone-waller” boy-band tracks, that proved a big winner.
Unfortunately, both of Olly’s production crew buses are full to the brim, with not a spare bunk in sight: this has necessitated a hire car for me, so I’m driving from show to show in one of Europcar’s finest (a 1.3 Volkswagen Golf which, in spite of my foot not being terribly far off the floor for the majority of time that I spend on the motorway) is “returning” me a cool 41 m.p.g.!
So, to recap over the past week, we finished production rehearsals in Wakefield on Tuesday evening, then “over-nighted” into the Cardiff Arena for the first of two consecutive shows. Of course, I must have “played” that venue a good fifty times in the last fifteen years – but all the more reason to know just where I can eke out a few more hundred pounds of Artist income. In that respect – because all of these venues will hold back a certain amount of seats until the production loads in, and they can verify the stage “sight lines” – the most obvious way to increase the “top end” is to (comfortably!) house as many fans as possible for the performance.
Yet, one should not maniacally attempt to accomplish the above at all costs (but, oh yes - and you can read about it in my autobiography, to be published when I have no further need of income – there are those that inconsiderately, and unscrupulously, go it at with a passion): on the contrary, one should do so with consideration and a business will to lure those fans back.
Anyway, as I have no bunk on either of the afore-mentioned crew buses – and the technical crew (although Olly is great guy – and I’m warming to him by the day) who are the real heroes of this operation, are already an hour into the “O2” loadout – it’s time for me to strap myself into the Golfmobile and wing my way towards Brighton, a town that not only houses our next two shows (Tuesday and Wednesday coming) but to which I am gradually warming as a possible locale, when – for the last time – I depart bonnie Scotland. Don’t touch that return key! BFN.January
Well, hold the bus – all change! I’ve just returned from Olly Murs tour rehearsals in Wakefield!
Why didn’t I tell you about this last week, you would be well within your rights to enquire? Well, avid (patient) followers, that’s because I didn’t know! Honest Injun. No sooner had I fired off last week’s entry to be uploaded, when – at Monday lunchtime – I was asked to spend the next three weeks with Olly (prior to my departure to China with Westlife) as his Tour Accountant.
Funny old world, huh? Now, yes, there was me saying that having the next three weeks “free” would certainly be advantageous, to push on with a plethora (she’s a nice girl) of domestic tasks. Admittedly, for a few minutes there – following the initial contact from Olly’s people – I pondered graciously declining the offer, and staying put in Edinburgh to oversee the work requiring done on the house (‘cause you know how much I’m keen to downsize, in the near future): however, quite apart from the excellent relations I enjoy with Modest Management, who also look after the likes of JLS, Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction, who nowadays can turn down three weeks of well-paid work, no matter the nature of our chosen vocation?
So, how did the remainder of the week unfold? Well, obviously, following Monday’s lunchtime call – and my acceptance of the work – I had to get my skates on: initially to re-schedule a bunch of household tasks that were plannedd from tomorrow onwards (30th Jan through 4th Feb) and, latterly, to prepare the various accounting programmes to mange a tour such as this.
Olly Murs, gentleman that he is, has – to date – 95% sold a UK and Ireland arena tour: that, folks, in these financially austere times, is no mean feat. I am now here to help to push it on to 100% total sellout: and, I would have to say (having kept my powder dry for a long time – up until around now) there are few who do it better. At this point, if Tim Hook - a very accomplished Tour Accountant, and a decent lad to boot - were to step forward and question my claim, then I would have to hold up my hand and admit that he is definitely one of “the few”. Sure, there are many, many, qualified accountants in this world, a fair amount of whom are generally aware of the basic mechanics of concert touring: however, of course, life on the road is way beyond that. The Tour Accounting (learned only by the seat of my pants, in the case of your weathered writer) is almost the easiest part of it: undertaking the work in a different city each day, packing and unpacking several times a week or – as I prefer to do – spending 4/5 of those nights on the crew sleeper bus, is where stamina, resource and patience come into play.
One is out here operating with a tight-knit team of professional concert technicians, getting little change from a sixteen-hour day, six days a week: out here tells you much about a person’s ability to handle intense work schedules and meet stringent deadlines (but the buzz is terrific).
Today, Sunday, is the second of four “production” rehearsal days, then we are out of here, down to Cardiff, for the opening two shows of the tour. It’s great to be involved, it’s great to be part of such an efficient operation and – to top it all – it’s great to be alive! Until next week, fans…
Jake makes it back from the Orient! But, wait for it – fool that he is – he’s going back again
Yes gang, I can “exclusively reveal” that I will be returning to the vastness of China on 20th February, with the Westlife lads, to undertake seven shows in mainland China and one show – at the tail-end of the tour – in Hong Kong. This will make it my fifth trip to China in 25 years.
I arrived back into Heathrow, from Beijing, this past Monday (16th) on the daytime flight from Beijing and have, thankfully, encountered no traces of jet lag this week, yet: oddly enough, I generally find myself more afflicted when flying East to West. On the outward (night) flight to Beijing, a week past Thursday, I followed my reasonably successful routine of having dinner (always served within an hour of take-off, on night flights), watching a movie – and then getting my head down. The final part of this routine is keeping oneself busy upon arrival at one’s destination, the idea being to fall in with the time scales of the “new” territory. So, whatever you do, try to resist the temptation to lay back on the hotel bed for a while - or to take a bath!
Having already booked a connecting BA flight on Monday from Heathrow to Edinburgh, after arriving from Beijing, I found myself back in the house by 6.00 pm that evening. My next touring venture is as noted above, meaning I’m due back at Heathrow in a few weeks time.
Now, I could go nosing around for bits and pieces of work over the next month however – quite apart from the fact that I need to put six/seven days of pre-tour work into Westlife’s China/HK dates – if I don’t organize the various cosmetic refurbishment jobs to be done in the house, while I’m back here for the next few weeks, then it could be July before I manage it.
The biggest task, house wise, is the re-modeling of the bathrooms: once this work has been finished, I’m on a home run. It’s hard to believe that I’ve existed with said bathrooms in such a poor state of repair, for over five years – but, relatively speaking, I’ve hardly been there.
There’s only two “main” jobs to be completed after the above: the re-laying of the conservatory floor covering - and a minor upgrade to the central heating system (the latter to bring it into line with the new super-duper condensing boiler that was installed just under two years ago).
The housing market – as any British reader will know – remains stagnant, to the point that my local friendly estate agent, kindly paying me a second visit over the last few months, to proffer some free advice, has conservatively informed me that my house is probably still worth only what I paid for it! I know I’m in the same boat as the vast majority of house owners, but... ouch!
So, lets see how organized I am this coming week, in scheduling the above work: naturally, as each of the main four tasks are dealt with, there will flow within me a renewed enthusiasm for the remaining myriad of minor tasks, many of which (believe it or not) even I am capable of!
I’m in sight of the “For Sale” sign outside the house and that’s a huge incentive for me to keep the pressure up to complete all the works. Sorry to bang on so much about this house issue. XX
In the past, dear readers, I have communicated to you from some fine, and faraway, places.
This week sees no exception to that, as I sit here (in the wee small hours) in the Grand Westin Hotel in Beijing: things have changed markedly in this city, since the occasion of my first visit – back in the summer of 1986 – with Wham!.
In the twenty-five years since that initial visit, the centre of Beijing now looks like Canary Wharf. I recall little of tall buildings, glass edifices and concrete throughways, back in ’86. I’ll admit I don’t have crystal clear recall of that period – but I nevertheless retain a gallery of snapshot images from the time spent in and around the city: one of those distinct recollections is of the run from the airport to the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel (still there, I’m told – however the modern traffic nightmare that threatens to strangle the city, has prevented a quick visit).
On that drive towards the hotel, I clearly remember the driver continually negotiating his way around errant farm workers, struggling to propel their donkey-driven, overloaded, carts in any sort of straight line. Alas, no more: within minutes of leaving the (now extensive) airport complex, the congested freeway into town introduces itself – with not a farm worker in sight.
The occasion of this visit was to accompany Paul Potts, and his Musical Director, Chris Taylor, down here, where Paul appeared tonight in a huge, pre-recorded, New Year – Chinese New Year, that is – TV gala: one of my prime functions, similar to many previous roles I have undertaken (endured?) down in South East Asia, is to ensure the client sticks to his part of the bargain. You might wonder why there would be such an emphasis on a “regulatory” role, what with the event all tied up contractually, before we even set foot on the plane. Oh, for it to be so simple!
The trouble with this part of the world, as it percolates up to the “Western”: standards by which most of us conduct our business, is that they see no problem with “moving the goalposts once the Artist is physically in the market. They are paying good money, so why should that not be their divine prerogative? (that’s their line of thinking anyway). Generally, it manifests itself in a persistent assumption that the content/look of the event/performance can be altered to their liking, despite what has been contractually agreed. The core of this approach centers around the fact that – once the Artist is here, he/she will be far more vulnerable to deviation.
So, yes, that’s where I generally enter the fray. Although we arrived here Friday (13th) – unlucky for me? – it took the TV show’s producers until midnight last night to announce that they had pre-recorded all of the orchestra tracks, when we were under the strict impression we would be working with a live orchestra. So, you follow the subterfuge here, yes? Inform the Artist of a significant change to the proceedings, when there is insufficient time to change it back to how it should have been. Now, in spite of the fact that Paul’s management have insisted on full payment of the fee prior to our departure, if Paul was one of those Artist’s – and thank God he’s not – that threw a strop and just jumped back on a plane to London, then guess who takes the flak for his non-appearance: and, of course, those people deviously know this. This has made for a frantic, past, twenty-four hours. It’s enough to have you climbing the (Great) wall!
Help me Rhonda – help me get more out of my life (what a band the “Beach Boys” were, yes?)
So, the New Year is officially upon us, one week old already: I can’t boast monumental change on my part, just yet: except the mild boast that I’ve consumed no bread in 2012. More to come.
Can I just tell you (if I haven’t already done so – the old memory may not be what it once was) that prior to the onset of the Christmas period I was weighing in at just under 12 stone – 168 pounds – which was a fair achievement for me, when you consider I was over 13 stone – 182 pounds – when I came off JLS’s summer tour in August of last year. At my (our?) age, it’s not so easy to shed those extra pounds.
Nevertheless, I have a method that works for me.
Initially, I adhere to the “South Beach” regime - can’t quite recall the author’s name – but, as always, a Google search will reveal all. “South Beach” - may prove too tough for many, but I have learned to deal with the first two weeks, that prohibits (are you ready for this?) any form of pasta, baked goods, fruit, sugar – even “natural” sugars – and alcohol. Could you handle that?
I’ve yet to conclusively study the actual process(es) that result in the loss of at least a pound every two days (if you are indeed carrying excessive weight), however it has it’s roots in the complete abstinence of any form of sugar, which – in conjunction with your pancreas and the regulation of insulin secretion – somehow causes your body to attack it’s fat stores. I think.
Anyway, folks, it works for me. Living on my own most of the time definitely helps: I just empty the fridge and cupboards of the “offending” foods, stocking up on chicken, fish, vegetables and salad greens. If you obviously need to lose weight – and you can strictly stick to South Beach’s “Phase 1” guidelines for the first two weeks - you will definitely drop 7 – 10 pounds fourteen days. Of course, where it all becomes unstuck for me is when I’m back out on the road, at the mercy of excellent tour caterers with their wide array of comfort food, on offer every day.
Enough of that: didn’t mean to bang on about the weight-loss thing for so many paragraphs. What else is occurring in this topsy-turvy world of mine? Well, gang, hold on to your hats because this week’s “scoop” (it’s time I gave you one of those) is that I am returning to the fray with Westlife’s Farewell Tour! What a turn up for the books, huh? It was meant to be.
As my regular readers will know, I spent almost three years with the lads, back between 2004 – 2006, a manic period indeed, but most enjoyable: never a dull moment with these boys, oh no. Their six week UK and Ireland tour, from mid-May through until the end of June, is already 97% sold out, on average (pretty impressive, when you consider that the final two shows will be staged at Dublin’ 85,000 capacity Croke Park – no shortage of tears, all round, at that show!).
So: plenty to keep me busy over the coming months. Who knows – if my football endeavors can unearth the next Lionel Messi before the end of June, then it may be my last tour as well – wouldn’t that be something?! I’m off to change my cellphone number meanwhile! Until next week.
Before we go any further, may I wish all my regular readers a very Merry Christmas! (I would have done so last week, had I written last week’s entry on the day I was meant to. Ooops).Here, today, starts what I suspect will be a defining year for me: let’s face it – I am four months away from my sixtieth birthday (a milestone in itself) therefore there’s an argument that I can’t continue this global marauding indefinitely. Consequently, come the end of this year, I should start to consider the other commercial avenues that could possibly be beckoning me.
The other day, I was thinking “OK, continue your touring exploits until you are sixty-five – because you are in apparently excellent health – and then, with your house paid off and a little reserve cash in the bank, go reasonably indulge yourself, while you’re still fit enough to do so”.
The above plan is reasonable folks, because – apart from anything else – I have no fear of hard work. Where it may fall down slightly is that, paradoxically, as I slowly become older (it’s unavoidable in this life) I become marginally less employable. The reason being, most of the Artist Management in this country are now younger than me: the Managers who are extremely experienced, are confident in their abilities – and who have a close relationship with their Artist(s) – fear nothing from a guy like me (in fact, I like to think those particular managers recognize the contribution I can make in the ongoing development of their clients).
However, where it can – truthfully – become a little unstuck for me, is when a younger management set-up is looking to staff the tour of one of it’s “meteoric-rise” Artists: they take a quick glance at my C.V. and it makes them nervous (remember that over the length of – say – a four month world tour, the Artist/Act will spend way more time in the close company of his/her Tour Manager, than they will their personal Manager: that’s a worry for some of the latter).
So, we win some – we lose some. I have no wish to enter the world of personal Management – I’ve seen first hand how grief consuming it can be. When a tour is finished, I hand in my accounts, tidy up a few loose ends and then that’s me cut loose, on the trail of my next gig. Not so, if you are the Artist Manager: you are continually on call, at the whim of your famous charges. Sure, if you land the right Artist, you are home and dry – however it’s an interesting observation to note that – as a personal Manager, your Artist/Act will need to gross upwards of £750,000.00 a year before you are exceeding the sort of money a successful Tour Manager can pull down on an arena tour. Guess which of the two jobs is liable to give you the least hassle?
Well, onwards into the unknown, that currently masquerades as the year 2012. By this time next week, I should be able to disclose some interesting news in regards to my work involvements over the upcoming months. This last week I have used the annual “downtime” between Christmas and New Year to stay on top of all issues domestic - all geared towards the sale of my property by the middle of this New Year. That will be a major weight from my shoulders: I just can’t keep pace with the routine maintenance required on the house and garden, because I am out of the country so much. Finally, may I wish all of you (my loyal readers) a prosperous New Year: let’s go there together, bravely, and see what it holds for us.
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