Alas, there is not much of 2014 left now: it’s hard to believe the Millennium was 15 years ago!
I know that many (far more eminent than I) have attempted to slow the onset of time, so what chance do I have? The answer then, surely, has to be to fit more into the time that one has, therefore endeavoring to convince oneself that the passage of time is slowing. Mmm …
I can only sit here and speculate as to what the coming year holds for me: all going well (let’s say that means securing eight months work out of twelve) if I get to where I would like to be, financially, then I can definitely take my foot off the throttle in 2016 – and maybe even consider spending the toughest UK-winter months, November thru February, out of the UK.
While I am more than happy with how things have panned out since I moved back to Dunbar, (the main reason for that being to be closer to my daughter and my sister) - and providing I don’t have to endure too many Scottish winters over the upcoming years – I suspect it may be a while yet before I would even reconsider moving back to the south coast of England area.
January will be typically quiet, work-wise, for me but I don’t mind that at all, as it gives me a chance to (literally) put my house back in order. I’m increasingly aware – in hindsight, as usual - of my inability to eke out any personal time, any quality relaxation, when I am out on the road. Also, in spite of my willingness to learn – and to adapt to any changing aspects of my business – the fact of the matter is that I now know about rock and roll touring, inside out.
The above is by no means an indication that I don’t enjoy what I do. Far from it – as I have more “family” on the road, than I do at home. However – as I have alluded to, many times in these diary entries – I have about three or four years of “employability” left in this business, before I fall prey to ageism, particularly poignant when related to such a “young” industry.
When you are young, you are keen to travel any road that is open to you, confident in the knowledge that there is more than enough time to double back to the crossroads if your initial, chosen, direction proves not to be what you had hoped for. Of course, with the – almost unseen – passing of time, you just can’t afford to be so liberal with your choices. That’s the crux of the challenge facing me now: to draw a few deep breaths, to sift through a list of “later life possibilities” - and then summon the discipline to realistically reject the unworkable (for differing reasons) options and then walk determinedly away from them.
So, my trusty readers, hang in there with me, if you will. Let’s see if I can induce my epiphany (is it really out there somewhere?) to peek over the horizon of my life, following which show – finally believing myself to have a true direction to follow – you may just be a witness to my new lease of life. I don’t exactly have a limitless amount of time to sort this thing out.
In closing this week, with the New Year of 2015 almost upon us – and maybe with me closer than I think to the answer to life, let Heather Small of “M People” have her say with this week’s chosen track (and maybe a pointer for me) with “Don’t Look Any Further”. Until 2015 ..
Well, just when things were motoring along very nicely on “The Who” Tour ………………………..
Following Monday’s (15th) show at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena, Roger Daltrey suffered a throat infection and the band were left no choice but to cancel the final two shows of the UK tour, being Wednesday and Thursday past, and re-schedule them for mid March of 2015.
Being that it’s a good while (as best I can recall) since I was last involved with a tour that had to deal with one or more cancelled shows, you’ve probably not had to endure my little diatribe on the subject: let me just say in summary that, for those of us involved on the administrative side of the tour, cancelling a show, or shows, ends up being appreciably more work than actually just doing the shows. One day, I’ll give you an insight into the world of cancellation insurance, with all the attendant financial issues that tend to follow in its wake.
Said re-scheduling of the two shows will take place on 22nd and 23rd March next year, for which I sincerely hope I will still be available – however, I can’t be sure of that, quite yet.
I’m penning this week’s entry from back at home in Dunbar here, where I had always planned to be, even if both final shows had gone ahead. However, that still only leaves me a few days up here, in Bonnie Scotland, to get everything sorted out domestically - before Xmas day descends upon us. On the plus side, the goose is ordered - and awaiting collection from the local farm, along with a selection of locally grown vegetables (reasonably organized, huh?).
Once again, on the run up to Christmas, I am sadly aware of how over-commercialised the final two months of the year have become, on the lead-up to the 25th of this month: hordes of (literally) poor people spending money that they technically don’t have. It’s just not right. Given more time prior to Christmas (and maybe it’s up to me next year, to create the requisite amount of time, to do so) something just tells me that there’s more to all of this, more we can do as individuals to invoke the true spirit of Christmas. Something meaningful.
Alas, before we realise it, Christmas time is upon us – and we are inadvertently caught up in the festive period’s all-consuming machinery because, basically, we’ve been indoctrinated into believing this “is the way it is”. For most of us, it’s just the great escape for a month or so: deep down, especially as one of advancing years, you suspect there’s a more honest way.
More than anything – as always in my case – it’s good to be home at this time, all the more satisfyingly so since said home is now fully paid for: this alleviates the inevitable “when’s the next tour” concern and allows one to finally anticipate some unencumbered relaxation time.
So endeth this week’s “Christmas Ramble”, when there is much in my head – however the opportunity, over the next few weeks, to attempt to unscramble it. Is my epiphany on the horizon as yet? Hovering just below it, I pray. So what to choose for this week’s track - that may embody the gist of the above sentiments? I give you Huey Lewis with: “Don’t Fight It”. May the festive period indeed bring you much peace and contentment. You know I love Y’all!!
I’m poignantly reminded that I’ve obviously being doing this a while - when I am greeted on first name terms at Manchester’s “Phones4U” Arena (formerly the “M.E.N.”) by not only the loading dock security officer, but also Roma and Iain in the dressing room corridor – even the production and catering “runners” all know me. It’s not a boast – it’s just very humbling.
What this immediately says about my situation is that – over the past few years – I have been mainly involved with UK-based Arena touring: however, I’m pretty OK with that as it transpired with a measure of prior planning. Look: it’s great to visit the likes of Japan for the first time, then to go back there a second time (supposedly all knowing about the place, when you are with a “new” Artist) then when it gets to a third time the shine has still not worn off.
However, when it gets to your seventeenth time it basically just comes down to “this is a long way to have to go to work”. Ditto the likes of Australia and New Zealand, although in the case of the latter, it’s no secret that I have a real leaning towards the enchantment of the place. However, that’s even further to go (past Japan and keep going!) hence the reason I’ve always claimed that if New Zealand were “closer to home” its tourist trade would easily double.
So, what of the last week? Well, we last “spoke” one week ago today, following The Who show at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena (ostensibly the “N.I.A”) after which we travelled up to Newcastle on Monday, for a Tuesday show, followed by another travel day to Liverpool, subsequently undertaking the show there on Thursday past. The last show of the week was last night at the afore-mentioned Manchester “Phones4U” arena, following which – this morning – we travelled here to Cardiff, in readiness for tomorrow night’s show, right across the road here from the hotel, at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (formerly known as the C.I.A.). This show is unique on the tour in that the main floor will feature a standing audience.
As reported last week, all continues to be very enjoyable and very comfortable with this bunch of lads, the majority of whom have been treading the touring boards almost as long as yours truly. In all honesty, I would probably prefer to be playing an average of “five and a half” shows a week, rather that the “three and a half” that touring with The Who entails. Alice’s view is “don’t sweat it – just think back to those early tours where you were sometimes doing eight or nine shows (one time, twelve!) ‘back to back’ – and savour this tour”.
One more fairly busy year on the road, and then hopefully – around one year from now – I can look to diversify somewhat into a line of work (not entirely unconnected with what I do now) where I am more in control of my own destiny, more independent – and more autonomous. Pretty bold intentions, huh? Or maybe I’ll just go sun myself on a beach for a few months!
Only one week left on The Who now - and then the six pm train back to Scotland next Friday evening and a fair bit of scurrying around to transform the house into some sort of festive resemblance of the Christmas period. Next weekend’s track will undoubtedly be festive, but for this week’s little ditty (and always seeking to point to some sort of tie-in to the “theme” of the week’s diary entry) here comes Status Quo with “Rockin’ All Over The World”. XXXX
Who am I? I am the Tour Accountant for The Who – and I’m out here, having a real blast.
This past week, we have undertaken shows at Leeds First Direct Arena; Nottingham’s Capital-FM Arena and (today) at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena (ostensibly the “N.I.A”). However, touring at this time of year makes for cold venues as – until around midday, when the last truck is unloaded – the loading doors are almost continually open, and that inrush of cold air creeps all the way all along the backstage production corridors. Thankfully, these UK arenas are well prepared for the occurrence of this - and can furnish the backstage rooms with a variety of mobile “space” heaters, until such time as the building starts to “warm up”.
Did I mention last week – or possibly last year, when I also worked for The Who – what a great bunch of guys (and gals) there are, working with this band? To a noticeably greater degree than with most of the acts I have “recently” been involved with, demographically I’m working alongside several of my contemporaries, lads who’ve been well around the block.
There’s a relaxation of approach – and an acceptance of inevitability - that comes with having been in the job for a long time: far from complacency, it’s professionalism personified. These guys have been there, they’ve done it and they’ve been “comped” countless t-shirts - so they are very familiar with the nature of the game. With The Who being a most notable exception, most of our technical guys have “outlived” the majority of the Artists they have been associated with, down through the years. Most of our crew, therefore, would make great Artists, from the point of view that they’d treat their staff with reverential respect.
If you were to ask all those guys individually, then I’m sure – almost to a man or woman (as we have a few ladies in the ranks of the crew) - many of whom are in the 55 to 65 age bracket, then they would tell you they are just glad to still be doing it, living their own little dream!
Tomorrow, we head north from Birmingham to one of my favourite UK cities, Newcastle - a city about which I have waxed lyrical on several past occasions, so I won’t belabour the point excessively: just to once again take my hat off to the good people living in the North East. They will stream into the Metro Arena on Tuesday night, partake of a few beers and then subsequently proceed to enjoy themselves unreservedly. Those are my kinda folks entirely.
On a personal level – like everyone around at the moment – I’m just gearing up for the Christmas period and hoping to catch up with the close members of my family, that I’m aware I don’t spend as much time around, as I would like to. Moving back to Scotland was definitely the right thing to do, in this respect – and it will be a good while before I’ve any thoughts of changing. It would only really be the weather that see me considering moving back south.
So, resisting the temptation to highlight another Christmas song (that can wait until next week) for this week’s accompanying track – and paying heed to the previous paragraph’s sentiment – I give you (at least) a thirty-year old track from the once iconic band “Slade”, entitled “Take Me Back Home”. That – not commercial insensitivity – is the spirit of Xmas. XX
Well, today (ever-so-loyal readers), you definitely find me as contented as a piggy in poo.
To what can that be attributed? No other reason than I am back out on tour with The Who!
Today heralded the start of the “Who Hits Fifty” UK tour, with tonight’s opening show, across the road at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro (I currently sit in the Crowne Plaza hotel, after show, just across the way from the venue) easily now one of the most vibrant gigs in the U.K. With a full house, as it was this evening – and the band playing for a whopping two hours and twenty two minutes there was undeniable magic in there tonight – as well as “The Magic Bus”!
One day all touring may be like this, but the chances are that I won’t be around on “that day”: iconic touring bands such as The Who are now few and far between – and (as I’ve made note of, within these pages in the past) many of my touring contemporaries, in the same line of work as myself - who have been working for years, for what few iconic bands are left - have no intention of giving up their long term jobs and – quite honestly, who can really blame them?
So where to go from now, once this little jaunt comes to a regrettable end, on 18th December? I certainly have a few irons in the fire and it’s just a matter of “getting one’s ducks in a row”. There’s no denying that January is a very quiet month on the touring calendar, so this will give me a chance to catch up with the domestic side of my life, as there are still a good 10/12 cardboard boxes, un-emptied, stored in the garage (yes, I hear someone opine “then you probably don’t really need them!”). Of course, I can’t fault the logic in that assertion, however that doesn’t make it any easier to dispose of items that have some sort of emotional and/or nostalgic attachment to one’s (now considerable) past life and work.
I’ll deal with that after Christmas, I’m thinking – hopefully when either Alice or Jade are there to assist (nay to advise!) what items I really have no further use of. I still can’t believe Alice convinced me to part with my dear old “Jag”!! Only joking of course, as I know it was the only sensible option for me, when facing the combination of a solid three month touring period; a potentially expensive cylinder head repair - and the impending renewal of both the car’s MOT and insurance. Every time I see an “S-type” Jag, I do ponder the decision I made!
So the 1st of December beckons tomorrow morning, the day on which I sincerely believe that any connection with the already over-commercialised “period” of Christmas should commence. Like countless others of my generation, I am genuinely saddened that the increasing extent of “retail capitalisation” (surely glaringly evidenced by the recent “Black Friday” antics) is geared to relieve the “poor” people, further, of funds that they really don’t have. Despicable.
However, allow me not to cast a shadow over a generally heart-warming period of the year, by highlighting the least favourable aspects of it: rather to draw your attention to a most fab collection of songs (on a B.B. King album titled “A Christmas Celebration of Hope”) to commemorate the start of “my official Christmas period” tomorrow, the most appropriate track probably being “Christmas Celebration”. You’re gonna want to buy this album, I know it!!
You could be forgiven for believing I am presently located in Scotland, if I were to comment on the weather outside (as I begin to pen this week’s diary entry) as it’s “chucking it down”.
In fact, this evening finds me in London SW1, where it was raining when I awoke this morning – and it continues to do so with no sign of letting up, as of now (6.30 pm). Not that it has deterred London’s “tourist world”, with no apparent let up in the weekend influx of visitors.
This past week has seen me – with a little quality time on my hands – “yo-yo” back and forward as to how I might gainfully employ myself a few years down the line, once my level of experience outstrips most of the Personal Managers (never mind Tour Managers) in the game.
I have, possibly, two fairly divergent paths down which to venture: football is a most obvious one, being that – after eighteen years of being “officially” involved on the sidelines of player-representation - I have an impressive contact book of Managers, ex-players (many now in management themselves) and foreign football scouts – and it would seem a pity that all the hard work involved in amassing such a network, should not be put to some commercial gain.
Alternatively – and “closer to home” – are a few, specific, entertainment related projects that I have alluded to now and again, down the years of these diary entries - but which nevertheless involve a degree of financial risk in respect of their research and development.
If I split my spare time between both entrepreneurial avenues, the concern would then be whether I was gracing either with the requisite amount of time and attention, that would constitute “a fair shot”. I desperately need to square this away in my head, if only to steer my concentration in the direction of the favoured enterprise, before I start work with “The Who”, one week today in fact. As is only fair: to my current paymaster goes my full attention.
In an ideal world there would be several bands like “The Who”: however very few of the iconic bands, hailing from the same approximate era, have been able to sustain themselves as commercial (touring) entities. How I yearn for such experienced management; for such accomplished musicianship; for such competent technical crew and – just generally - such a relaxed, “shit still happens – but we’re still here” unquestionably professional outlook.
It’s just a pity that The Who tour is only of three weeks duration – although the word on the street is that their Hyde Park concert in June next year is steadily heading towards a guaranteed sellout. Not bad for a band in their 50th year! I’m very chuffed to be involved.
Back up to Scotland tomorrow, in preparation for the band’s first show of the UK tour, one week today in Glasgow. While through in Glasgow next Saturday evening (prior to catching St. Mirren’s Scottish Cup game that same afternoon!) I’ll be taking the opportunity to catch up with a few of my “West coast” buddies, albeit rather briefly. Being that much of this week’s entry has danced around my upcoming involvement with The Who – and because I’m somewhat at a crossroads at the moment - what better than the band’s very own “Let’s See Action”? X
Well, hold on to your hats folks: for the second week running, my diary is being written to coincide with the actual date. Does this herald the dawning of a new era? I can’t swear to it!
So, this week, I have been home since Monday evening - with the highlight of the week having been Tuesday evening past, when I treated Jade to a belated birthday dinner, at a restaurant of her choice in Edinburgh where – as a father would – I arrived “present-laden”.
That’s Jade now twenty-five years old and I would be less than truthful to admit that I’m slightly saddened at the lack of time I had with both my children, during their formative years. Sure, all parents will say “they grow up so fast” but not all parents (the most obvious exception possibly being those in the forces and those – say – working offshore) have to endure extended periods away from their children, due to long-term work commitments.
On the positive side however (and in my case, believe me, it’s all about staying positive) that very lifestyle has fortunately allowed me to put a little aside, to help the children on their way, in the future - to enable them to plant a firm foot on the property ladder, at some point. I’m nevertheless aware – much as I’d like to think otherwise – that I can’t keep charging around at this frenetic as I have, over the past forty years. Sense starts to prevail.
You know, dear readers, a thought just flashed across my consciousness and – as it bears some relation to your good selves – I feel compelled to share it with you, and it is this: my “Diary of the Road” has increasingly wandered off the subject matter since A) I’m not touring so extensively as I once did and – probably more to the point – B) the narrative has centered around me, and what’s sloshing around in my head, more so than my chaotic lifestyle.
Can you somewhat forgive me for this – and if you can, I can assure you that (as I sense many aspects of my life currently finding their way under the microscope, via self examination) I will consciously make the effort to re-jig the style of content, and/or possibly make it a blog.
I’m also approaching a crossroads in my career, as I realise I am almost over-qualified to the point where I know more than the majority of young Artist managers that continually emerge in this business. There are only a handful of “old-school” management companies left, who can fully appreciate the role of the bona-fide Tour Manager, rather than the plethora of ex-minibus drivers and security officers who barefacedly assume the title “Tour Manager”.
I believe the sensible response to the above – rather than just bemoan it – is to find a way around it. On that note, I’m going to have to re-visit a couple of unique entertainment related projects that I’ve been fostering for a good few years now. The administration and execution of those said projects hold no fears for me – it’s just (and this is probably a view brought on by my advancing years) the thought of contributing much time – and a fair amount of money probably – if any of those projects were to fail to reach fruition, commercially. Still, a little research & budgeting can be accomplished inexpensively, so that’s worth a shot. In closing I’ll call upon David Bowie to take us out this week, appropriately with “Changes”. Tally-ho!!
Let the train take the strain: in this particular case, from Castlebar back across to Dublin.
Today (actually Sunday 9th November – can you believe it?!) marks the end of this Paul Potts tour of the UK and Ireland – finishing up in Castlebar last night, on the country’s west coast. I boarded this very train at 08.03 this morning, meaning I’m currently half way towards Dublin’s Hueston station, on the outskirts of the city – from where I’ll jump the airport bus.
Some of the scenery that we’re trundling through at this very moment (these “Irish Rail” carriages are very impressive, however) probably due both to several stops along the way and the rail tracks themselves having been around for quite a while, is most pleasing on the eye. Am I a “town” or “country” boy at heart? Most definitely “country” – it’s more inspiring.
On the touring front – with Paul’s project having been drawn to a close last night - there’s always a slight tinge of sadness (although, with a couple of particular Artists I privately recall, it was relief!) when a tour, almost irrespective of the length of that tour, finishes up. The camaraderie generated by taking a bunch of hardworking people – Artists and crew alike – and pitching them into the pressured, yet undeniably enjoyable, environment of six shows a week – is not so easy to convey unless, like most things in life, you’ve been there yourself.
The adrenalin that the Artist experiences from the adulation (there’s really no other word for it) bestowed upon them, as they strut around that stage “pandering” to a most captive audience, finds its way – albeit in a somewhat diluted form – to everyone connected with that particular touring operation. Make no mistake however as to the physical demands of the job.
From London tomorrow, it’s back up to “Sunny Dunny”, and my relatively new home in Dunbar, where there is much to keep me busy - mainly a multitude of pressing domestic tasks to prioritise. My dilemma (one of many, you may rightly observe) – being as anal as I know I am prone to be - is that while I’m continually trying to bring personal/business life up to date, I fear ever finding myself in the position where I have nothing left to occupy my time. In truth, I’m probably a fair ways from bringing everything smack bang up to date, as much because when touring work comes calling one’s personal life is literally “parked” for that time.
The continually nagging realisation is that I’ll never efficiently progress some of my own entertainment ideas until I lay aside a decent tranche of “development” time – and that would certainly not be while I was touring - but touring’s what takes care of the cost of living! This means, effectively, that I need to conclusively take an enforced break from my touring commitments if I’m ever to seriously take a prospective look at whether some of those projects – that have been washing around in my head for years now – might ever bear fruit.
Where did I read somewhere recently, the opinion that the supposed light at the end of the tunnel might just be another train coming towards you?! But guess what (unintentionally, I promise) that enables a great lead-in to a great track: none other than the iconic “Doobie Brothers” with “Long Train Running”. I have indeed lived through a great musical age. XXXX
I’m going to anticipate when I’ll know that I’m finally getting my chaotic life in order.
That time will indeed come when I manage to pen four consecutive diary entries on four consecutive Sundays – and the truth is that I’ve been unable to do so for a long time now. There undoubtedly continues to be too much going on in my life, and the only way to rectify this is to lessen (discontinue?) my involvement in one of the key aspects of my business.
It is indeed very impressive (well, I think so anyway) that I recognize the problem: rectifying it, of course, calls for a major shift in my approach – the main route to which I’m starting to realise, is to take an extended break from touring. And therein lurks the dilemma, as I don’t exactly have years left to run around this world, pandering to Artist wishes and wants. It is however this line of work that paves a direct thruway to where I need to be financially, before I believe I can take my foot off the gas, and consider alternative avenues of income.
Prior to the turn of the year, I will make little headway into the above as the current tour I’m on does not conclude until November 11th, after which I am due in Glasgow, to commence “The Who” UK Arena tour, on 29th of November. Sure, the “gap” is almost three weeks, but I know there is a danger that it will be quickly swallowed up by part travel; part domestic duties – and a short whistle-stop trip to Paris to hopefully keep my football interests afloat.
My general energy level remains good, and hopefully will continue so, through 2015 – after which I definitely need to look at taking my foot off the gas. Therefore, I need to plan to efficiently utilise the first couple of months of next year (traditionally, the quietest period in the touring calendar) to bring my personal and domestic life right back into order.
Just as (if not even more) important is to create some thinking space: I’ve previously waxed lyrical – on these very pages – of my belief that creative thinking is at odds with the minutiae of touring when I’m slogging it out on the road, at least sixteen hours a day. Therein lies the rub, the bane of my life: the need to be courageous enough to call even a temporary halt, without then suddenly chasing after the next work opportunity that happens along.
For next week’s entry I will try to articulate these feelings, somewhat more lucidly: the very fact that I currently sit backstage at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls – between stage production cues – desperately trying to finish “this week’s” entry (already over a week late!) really just bears out my point. These are times that necessitate careful thinking - and careful planning.
Oh, for the foresight of hindsight! However, with a few completely undisturbed hours, I may just be able to slightly short circuit that process - but the planning of that process alone, in turn, requires it’s own undisturbed hours. If you can harness a little patience on my behalf, you should garner some idea of what I’m getting at here (and when you do, could you kindly explain it to me?!). So, all in all, something of a mixed bag of reflections and emotions, this week, would you agree? If you do, that makes the choice of this week’s track a relatively simple affair. Step forward Smokey Robinson and the Miracles with “I Second That Emotion”!
I’ll once again repeat that there are few worldly cities as enjoyable as London on a Sunday.
That is indeed where I have spent most of today: wandering through the many city centre parks and streets, the latter of which are almost deserted – free from the clamour of the city’s workers who scurry purposely along these ways, on five manic days of the week. There was a time when I was part of that lifestyle – not necessarily as a regularly annual commuter, but nevertheless spending weeks at a time, swept along in the torrent of seething humanity.
I arrived down here late Friday afternoon, to make my way from Kings Cross - no longer connecting to another train to visit Alice deep in the Surrey countryside: Alice has now taken up residence in the “SW1” area of London, not too far north of the river. Pretty swanky, huh?
Many years have passed since I stayed in central London (the last time as I recall being just off the Bayswater Road, near Queensway) and I now sense – based upon the experience of the last few weekdays I have spent around here – that it’s not something I’ll ever do again.
Anyway, to more positive thoughts: I also have to report taking a day trip to Brighton yesterday, to visit my old mucker Russell Mason, “in town” from Qatar to catch his son Niall (a 17 year-old on the books of Premier League club Southampton) play his first game at Liverpool’s Anfield ground, as part of the club’s under-21 squad: and, yes, the boy done good.
On the work side of things, I’ve done an about turn in this last seven days: managing to ease myself off the “Big Reunion” tour and on to Paul Potts UK and Ireland tour, the latter which commences next Thursday, 23rd, at The Westcliffe Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea. This would have been the first tour of Paul’s with which I would have had no involvement and – having toured constantly with him for almost three years, between 2007 and 2009 – it felt inexplicably odd that I wouldn’t be heading out with the “team” (particularly Chris and Bob).
I was actually at The Westcliffe Pavilion earlier this year, on Shane Filan’s first solo tour – where I recollect that the local wardrobe mistress that was booked, didn’t actually show up. Fortuitously (good word, huh – probably in the wrong context here) Alice just happened to be with me that day and was quickly recalled from her town centre shopping expedition, and subsequently press-ganged into overseeing the wardrobe duties – for a “nice little earner”!
From all the different formats of concert touring facilities – being (largest to smallest) Festivals/Stadiums/Arenas/Theatres/Clubs – I probably enjoy the theatre circuit slightly more than the arena circuit, if the truth be known: the theatres are certainly more challenging and their staff, many of whom seem to have worked in them for countless years, are the salt of the earth. There’s a genuine appreciation of Artist’s playing at theatre level.
This time next week, I will be three days into Paul’s UK (theatre) tour – and heading for Newcastle, so more about that next week. In closing this week, here’s a killer track from Beth Hart – bearing no relevance to this week’s diary – called “With You Everyday”. Love Y’all.
Back in the land that could so easily have become independent – however, thankfully not.
On our recent trip to Canada, it was most surprising the number of people we encountered who – as soon as they had identified the Scottish accents – were keen to know which way we would vote! There was (for me, anyway) a substantial amount of media coverage while we were there: to the extent that, turning on the TV news in our Vancouver hotel room, we were astonished to learn they had actually flown one of their own journalists all the way to Scotland, to cover the developments, in the days leading up to the crucial vote. There we were - sitting in Vancouver on the Tuesday morning, listening to a Canadian journalist, who was reporting (live!) from one of the lesser known areas of Edinburgh (Craigmiller), with a bunch of “Yes” voters marching to the polls, in the background – waving St Andrew’s flags!
So here I am back at “base”, home in Dunbar – and “Sunny Dunny” is living up to its name.
Thankfully the above is the case, as my regular readers will know that I do not fare well on the “shortened” days. The fact that dusk up here in Scotland is settling in around 6.30 pm, makes for relatively long, dark, evenings – something I’ll just have to learn to deal with. The plan – as I’ve alluded to on a couple of previous occasions – come a few years from now, is to disappear to warmer climes, annually, during the period November through February – if I have no work projects during that time. By that time, I would hope to have managed to purchase a medium-sized “Buy-to-Let” property, the rent from which will fund the above trip!
I definitely sense a purposeful phase beckoning me, now that I don’t have to “report for work” next until mid November (I was “penciled” for the upcoming “Big Reunion” tour of the UK, in a couple of weeks from now, however management budget cuts have negated the need for a Tour Accountant) I’ve never had a better opportunity, in at least the last ten years, to concentrate on developing a couple of projects for the future: that in tandem with my, new-found, mortgage-free status enables me to sit back off things, with no immediate pressure.
My work prospects for the next three years are of no great concern to me, as I now have three “regular” touring clients who go out at least once every two years – in addition to a couple of prospective new clients who I’ll be meeting up with over the next few weeks.
From age sixty-five onwards, the concern will hopefully be less of a monetary one, and more that of an “activity” one. I would definitely want the involvement in one or two entertainment projects, however possibly not “full-on” touring – rather on some form of consultancy basis. I know my maker is coming for me at some point, but I won’t be sitting around waiting on him.
Earlier today I tackled the mammoth task of cleaning my “mono-bloc” driveway, the first of several, non-urgent, domestic tasks to be attended to, over the coming months. While home, the plan is to dedicate at least an hour each day, to working through those afore-mentioned tasks. So, what might be an appropriate track on which to tie up this week’s diary entry? How’s about a classic Lennon/McCartney track called “We (I!) Can Work It Out”. Bless y’all!
Ah, all good things must come to an end. Alas, the same can be said of great holidays.
As I sit here in the BA lounge at Vancouver airport (just don’t know how long this “silver” card is gonna last!) awaiting the London bound flight, I have much to reflect upon from my travels – and travails – throughout British Columbia, and Alberta, over the last three weeks.
We somehow managed to clock up almost three thousand miles in the above time (thank God the “Enterprise” car rental deal included unlimited mileage!) yet I’ve no immediate recollection of driving “pedal to the metal” on any given day. I guess we just drove a few hours each day, and it all mounted up. That may not be strictly true, as there were one or two days that – for instance arriving into Jasper in Alberta, to find that even modest accommodation was very pricey – we ended up clocking up almost three hundred miles.
Of course, there is a certain risk attached to such a travel strategy (i.e. “winging it”) that can probably only be relied upon, as we did, in the “low” - rather than the high – season: we found that the most inexpensive approach was to look to stay in smaller towns, a little off the beaten track, where most motels were rarely booked up (we have a thing about motels).
At one point, around the time of the end of the second week, there had been a plan to cross directly from Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, to the US state of Washington – a ferry crossing that would take under two hours and would have landed us at Port Angeles, on the north west coast of Washington State, about 150 miles from Seattle.
However, so taken were we with what Vancouver island (diversely) had to offer, we decided to forego the planned crossing into the US and spend a little more time on the island: venturing back to Port Alberni (which we “bypassed” on our way to Tofino and Ucluelet last week), after which we worked our way back over to Parksville on the East Coast of the island, on Thursday night past. We then travelled back to the mainland on Friday afternoon. That left us two nights to spend in the Vancouver area, before today’s departure back home.
What has humbled me most on this trip – as I always respectfully tried to glean a little of the history of each area we visited, particularly on the island – is the human effort and (sadly, in many cases) the human sacrifice that has gone before, to enable many of those small towns and settlements to proudly achieve what they have. Of particular note, is the “logging” industry - and how it has progressed down the years, from its very crude beginnings to its latter-day, multi-million dollar, industry. At times it has been a monumental struggle, for what – certainly in the early days – was a dangerous (and non-unionized) occupation.
These past three weeks have given me much food for thought, as to what I enjoy doing; what I would still like to achieve – and how much longer I will stay fit enough to accomplish both. With a good few weeks before my next work commitment, there is an excellent opportunity to put my personal affairs in order and decide where I want to be, this time next year. A fitting track, to close with this week, must surely be Simply Red’s “Holding Back The Years”.
So, tell me folks, what are the odds against the following happening to us, so far from home?
We are still out on Vancouver Island, venturing down in to the south part of the island over the past few days. Earlier this evening (Sunday) we check into a small Motel in the southern island town of Duncan (believe it or not!) called the “Thunderbird Motel”, only to be informed by the proprietors that – ten weeks previously – the band “Nazareth” had been staying at the very same motel, when undertaking a gig at Duncan’s Cowichan Theatre, in early July!!
So, two people from Edinburgh just happen to check into a small Vancouver Island motel, only to find that an iconic rock band – who hail from less than fifteen miles from Edinburgh - were billeted there, a few months back. Readers: this is indeed a small world.
Since last week’s diary entry – written in the town of Hope, one hundred miles East of Vancouver – we have spent six days of this week out on Vancouver Island, having taken the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo ferry (crossing time one hour and forty minutes) to reach here. Upon arrival on the island we headed for a small town called Tofino, which seemed to appear many times, in many “Trip Advisor” reviews, being mentioned as an “un-missable” region.
Tofino, apparently very popular with the surfing fraternity is a dead-end town (only in the geographical sense!) on the mid-west coast of the island: only one-way in, only one-way out. While we spent an enjoyable afternoon and blustery evening there, housed at the “Paddler’s Inn”, our fancy was actually taken more by the other notable town in the area, notably Ucluelet – only around twenty miles south of Tofino, and right on the Pacific Coast headland.
So taken were we by this place (Ucluelet) that we elected to “break with the holiday tradition” and spend two consecutive nights there, Wednesday and Thursday. Not only is the town able to boast it’s own (automated – as a sign of the times) lighthouse, on the point of the rugged coastline where many ships foundered in bygone days- but it also appears to enjoys a vibrant, fishing industry for the size of the settlement and it’s population.
Our accommodation in Ucluelet consisted of a small two-roomed cabin, with an outside decked area - which faced due west, across the town’s main street, to the Pacific Ocean beyond. On top of that, when we pulled the bedroom curtains aside on the first morning, three deer were nonchalantly munching the grass in the cabin’s back garden. Canada rocks!!
Since leaving Ucluelet on Friday morning, we actually had it in mind to strike out to a fairly northerly point on the island, called – believe it or not – Port Alice! However, two hours into the journey north, we realised that Vancouver Island is way bigger than it first appeared, and the decision was made to turn back south at Campbell River, and head for Comox, the town I first visited on the island, way back in 1982, when I worked for the “Shakin’ Pyramids”.
So, for this week’s track, I’m going to go with a late 60’s song by “The Springfields”, appropriately called “Island of Dreams”, to say thanks to this enchanting place. Love you all.
Some say there’s no Hope for me. But, yes folks, there is - because I am here in Hope, B.C.!
This last week, young Alice and I have seen some sights indeed, as we have motored through British Columbia and Alberta (the latter not strictly allowed on the rental car contract), here in Western Canada – culminating in the sighting of a brown bear crossing the highway today!
Since pulling out of Vancouver last Wednesday morning we have stayed overnight at a diverse array of towns, large and small. Those have included Williams Lake, McBride, Radium Springs, Penticton and – this Sunday evening – the southern BC city of Hope. Quite a journey, indeed.
There is no argument that Scotland can boast some impressive scenery, once you travel north of the country’s “central belt”. However – and this coming from a Scotsman – Scotland is hard pushed to match much of what we have witnessed here over the past five days: serious mountains (The Rockies, no less), deep ravines, forested vistas - even stunning glaciers.
Many of the above outstanding areas of beauty are nevertheless connected by long, remote, stretches of highway where there is no cellphone signal, no roadside emergency telephones and not a “State Trooper” in sight: in other words, no place to experience car trouble! There were certain stretches of two-lane highway, where we did not pass more than thirty vehicles coming the other way, for more than an hour – and very rarely finding ourselves overtaken.
It therefore follows that the sense of freedom one experiences on such stretches of road, within such vast mountainous regions, is almost palpable: a sense of freedom that I have been fortunate to experience on certain previous occasions, most notable while on motor-home holidays with the children, several years ago (with those trips throughout various US states).
Accommodation wise, we have utilized a variety of establishments, mainly quirky motels, with the odd campsite log cabin thrown in. It has occurred to me that there are worse jobs to be had, than just running around North America, rating and reviewing a serious of Motels. I’ll most certainly volunteer for such a project: I guess it must be the nostalgic part of me that feels so much at ease, billeting in motels, rather than “standardized” hotels - thousands of which I have graced with my presence, during over thirty years of exhaustive touring.
On the holiday front, we are out here for another six days and looking to make the best of it, mainly in and around the Vancouver area - and while the weather holds good (today, in the Hope area, the temperature has peaked at 26 degrees Celsius). On checking the internet, we discovered that the brown bear population in Western Canada is estimated to be around the 30,000 level – therefore we feel privileged to have “made the acquaintance” of one of them!
In capping a most enjoyable and relaxing week, in this “neck of the woods”, it would surely only be fitting to choose a song featuring a Canadian Artist. Therefore, I hereby present you with a track from a great Canadian rock band of a few years back. The band? None other than “Montrose”, and the song is called “Good Rockin’ Tonight”. Only the music will save me. X
How many times have I had to come clean on this page, about the actual day it was written?
On this particular occasion, I’m not terribly far out: possibly more interesting than the fact that it’s actually late Tuesday afternoon (16th) is the admission that I am currently 35,000 feet above northern Canada, heading towards one of my all time favourite cities, Vancouver.
The last six weeks of touring have been the usual flurry of sixteen-hour-a-day activity: although the show was not huge, in respect of (say) the amount of trucks, it was certainly huge in respect of the myriad of technical aspects involved in it’s presentation. Added to that, our touring ranks were swollen by around ten ITV personnel who, initially, were not prepared for the rigours of the road (who is, if they’ve never done it before?) and the debilitating effect of moving a “studio” show from place to place, and coping with the physical limitations of each different venue, took them a little getting used to, in the first few weeks.
However, it’s done and it’s accomplished – but I’d be misleading you if I were to claim that it was right up there with the more enjoyable projects that I’ve been involved with, over the years. Any tour where I’m unable to have all the truck drivers names committed to memory after the first two weeks out on the road, is a tour on which I am doing way too much. Sure, I confidently took on the dual roles of Tour Manager and Tour Accountant (which I have dealt with before, mainly because a multiple-show tour - such as “Ant ‘n Dec’s” was - allows me to do so) unknowing, to be perfectly frank, of the additional element of TV involvement.
As easy as it is to say at this point, I’ll certainly know better next time. With the lads’ management requiring a constant flow of accurate, updated, fiscal data, I can now look back and realise that such a touring operation requires the concentration and application of a “stand alone” Tour Accountant. My dilemma, as I’ve touched upon in the past, on these very pages, is that exclusively being involved in the Tour Accountant’s role – over the length of an extensive tour, for example – can drive one to distraction with the amount of figure and paperwork that the role typically entails. On the flip side of that coin, I would find it very difficult nowadays to deal with a “precious” Artist: less said Artist actually, in most cases, than some of their immediate “advisors” who do little more than further complicate things.
This may be a good juncture to mention Chesney Hawkes, an Artist that has been involved – possibly more so than any other – on this last Ant ‘n Dec tour. He is a man who has seen a fair share of notable success in his time, both on the performance and the song-writing side of things. An absolute gentleman: I’ve little doubt he would have lent a hand to loading our trucks, had we ever been really pushed for time. Another gentleman, definitely worth a mention, is Peter Andre – who also featured at certain of the shows on the tour and who, when reminded by me that we had both been on the 1982 UK “Smash Hits” tour, observed “Aren’t we all just happy to still be here, still doing it?”. Right on, Peter – we certainly are.
In closing this week, from the lofty elements of the stratosphere, the timeless track, which comes back to me, is The Steve Miller Band with “Fly Like An Eagle”. It’s great to be alive!
Please tell me the month of September is not upon us already. It is? Life’s passing too quick.
In truth, I’m sat on the Newcastle to Nottingham train this Monday morning (8th) catching up with my diary entries, off the back of a very hectic “Newcastle weekend” where we played four successful shows at The Metro Arena, over three days. Those “Geordies” are mad for it!
As a regular reader of these entries (Mr. Presumptuous here!) you will have garnered, from past mentions, that Newcastle is one of my favourite locales, in which to undertake gigs – and this last weekend has done nothing to reverse that view: I like the venue (as painful as it is to our technical crew); I like the people; I like the nightlife. A great city with a great heart.
This past weekend, coincidentally, Newcastle also hosted - apart from Jake Duncan - the (“world renowned”, if the local PR is to be believed) “Great North Run” which – in fairness – will this year boast it’s millionth entrant - although I’m typically unsure as to how many years the race has been staged: the vibe on the quayside the last couple of nights has been “magic”.
The weather has certainly complemented the weekends’ activities and on the occasions, over the past few days, when I stepped outside the Metro Arena to check for ticket touts – and to generally assess the flow of the audience into the venue – I intentionally delayed my presence out there just to bask in the warmth of the autumn sun, and absorb the rays (man).
So – here we are, facing the final week of this six-week touring extravaganza: while it has proved to be quite arduous for the majority of the ITV people (a different TV studio every night!) I, personally, have not found the schedule too punishing - being that we have only had to deal with two “back-to-backs” during the whole, afore-mentioned, period. I honestly wish it had been otherwise, as I would have been perfectly happy – increasingly so, as time goes on in this business of mine – to have clambered on and off a crew sleeper bus, between shows.
What cannot be denied is how well the “Takeaway Live Tour” has been received, with various media entertainment columnists gushing effusively about the content, presentation and good old entertainment value on offer. It’s excellent value for money, with the show lasting almost three hours, although that does include the obligatory twenty-minute interval. Nevertheless!
However, in terms of the cost of staging a “ten-truck” tour such as this, the Takeaway tour has been an expensive operation to conceive, to develop and – ultimately – to tour. Having proved a considerable learning curve for all involved, there is much we see that could be fine-tuned; both practically and financially, were the lads’ management (and, ultimately, the lads themselves) to fancy giving it another go, at some point in the not too distant future.
The time has come to make one last call on what minute reserves of energy my body may still possess, and push on through this last, upcoming, week of the tour. The use of the word “magic” earlier in this week’s entry, has provided me with a convoluted segue way into this week’s choice of track – and a Scottish band indeed. The song’s called “Magic” by Pilot. XXX
Although it will come as no surprise to my regular readers, Alice has remarked that I was straying into morbid territory with last week’s edition of the diary. She is no doubt correct with that assumption, however I don’t know any other way than to tell it how it is, with me.
However, I am certainly starting off on a brighter note this week – fairly surprising, as we have just finished a run of four London shows, over two different venues, namely the O2 Arena on Friday and Saturday, just there - and the fourth show at Wembley this evening.
Of course, London being London, the practicalities of the touring production invariably play second fiddle to the pomp and circumstance that being “in town” generates: I refer specifically to guest-lists; “exclusive” backstage parking and after-show parties. Tedious.
One day, a fair bit down the road from where we are now, I’ll share with you a few prime examples of how (and there’s possibly no better way to word this) “up their own arse” certain individuals become with their own, self-inflated, importance. Although, in fairness to a select few of them, it is often the lackeys between myself and those particular celebs – rather than the celebs themselves – who are the underlying problem. On countless occasions I have been haughtily informed by one of an Artists’ staff that said Artists requires this and that – only to learn that, in somehow finding oneself dealing directly with the Artist, that they have no knowledge of some member of their staff’s (typically) outlandish request, on their behalf.
What was it the bass player of Shakin’ Stevens band said to me all those years ago, when I was poised to question “Shaky’s” then (possibly still?) personal manager, Freya Miller, about some apparently preposterous Shaky requirement? I was wisely advised “Shut your gob to keep your job!”. Sure, I did then – but I’ve now earned the right to tell it like it is.
On the actual touring front, we are now four weeks into the actual six-week touring period and the show has been consistently receiving rave reviews. I sincerely believe there is the basis to successfully develop this “Takeaway Live! Tour” brand, which could “follow” the TV show out onto the road, on an annual basis. I’ve studied our average nightly audience, at reasonably close quarters and I’m convinced I can see a wide segment of our audience (particularly where families are concerned) who are certainly not regular “concert-goers”.
The confession I have to make is that I have not yet witnessed the show in it’s entirety, either from start to finish – or as a collection of it’s component parts – because when the show is underway that’s when I enjoy the most undisturbed time in my backstage office. Hence the opportunity to fully concentrate on the Tour Accountant’s aspect of my dual touring role, but the most crucial part of that role - as there are considerable sums involved.
Drawing to an end this week, and with rather a diverse mix of preceding thoughts, we come to the point of choosing a track that has some bearing on “the week that was”. So, how’s about this little number from years gone by from “The Tremeloes” – whose Chip Hawkes I had the pleasure of meeting at last night’s O2 show. It’s called “Silence is Golden”!. Indeed.
Good evening, oh tolerant readers: before we start this week, I have to share with you a sobering phone call I received earlier today which, as you would expect, has thrown me a bit.
There I was - tearing around my hotel room with Amber (Assistant Tour Manager) patiently awaiting me in the hotel lobby downstairs - when my phone rings for the umpteenth time of the day so far, announcing in the readout that it’s an old pal, Jim Blyth. As I’m reaching for the handset, I’m thinking “Damn, Jim sent me a text a few weeks back and I’ve omitted to get back to him – it’s as well he’s calling me directly, as it now gives us a chance to speak”.
I suspect you know what’s coming here ….
“Hey Jim, how the devil are you?”, I exclaim, before he has a chance to get in a word edgeways. “Jake” comes the reply from Jim’s wife Pamela “is that you?”. Sadly – in more ways than one, I can now reflect – this is Pamela calling around everyone in Jim’s phone directory to check if they are aware that Jim passed away a few days ago. A sobering situation indeed.
Living (and dying) proof that we’re all going to go at some point, so be sure you are making the best of it while you are still here. What do I recall a guest of Oprah Winfrey once advising, when the discussion on her TV chat-show centered around bitter family disagreements and our seeming long-term difficulty to eventually resolve such long-running domestic disputes?
I poignantly remember Oprah’s guest offering this: “We only choose they way we live, not the way we die – so don’t leave it too long to resolve such issues”. What is being said here is pretty much the message in the “Mike and the Mechanics” song “The Living Years”. While the lyrics (and in certain cases the sentiment) may be claimed by many to stray into the land of “cheesy”, there are few – especially those of advancing years – who can’t relate to the words.
Shall I attempt to lift the mood with a wee insight, as to the goings-on of the last week?
Well, this week has seen us undertake five shows, commencing with last Tuesday’s (19th) – and the first of four in total - show at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena, then a day of travel required to take the ferry to Belfast, where we played four shows, between the 21st and 23rd, with two shows yesterday – Matinee and evening – to complete a very successful Belfast run.
Currently, I’m aboard the “return” ferry (no breakfast at the hotel this morning!) from Belfast to Cairnryan, on the south-west coast of Scotland, which is then only a two-hour tour bus ride back up to Glasgow, where we are due to play the remaining three shows in that city.
And there went another week! Just glanced at the touring itinerary - from the start of production rehearsals, through to the day we travel home on 14th September – to note that we only be able to boast two proper days off, in the whole eight-week period! In closing - and with the opening paragraphs of this week’s diary in mind - the chosen track can be none other that “The Living Years”. Jim Blyth, wherever you now are – this one’s for you mate. Love to all
“Oh …. I don’t belong to Glasgow, dear old Glasgow town, but the show is here – so I must be -where it’s going down”. Not quite the words of the original song, but a fair take on it.
So, here we are in Scotland’s “other” big city – mainly because they have three two arena-type venues and we (in Edinburgh) have none: and it may be a long time before that changes.
For the past week we have enjoyed the luxury of being based out the same hotel, not having to pack or unpack our suitcases for a whole week: in fact, between 10th and 28th August, we will only find ourselves staying in three different hotels. Let’s hear it for the Tour Manager!
Staying throughout the week in Manchester meant of course having to “commute” to the two Leeds shows, held on 12th and 13th (Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week) but that still only encompassed a 75 minute journey, door to door, so it was worth the minor hassle. Having done this job for so long now, I’m acutely aware of the need to minimize the travel days.
Don’t ask me why (something else to add to the long list of planned Google searches I may never get around to) but travelling is definitely mildly tiring – so the less of it, the better. However, to compensate for the above, there is no motorized travel to undertaken at any point over the next couple of days, as a result of the hotel being just across from the venue.
On the personal side of things, I’m going to steal a visit to my favorite clothes shop, while here in Glasgow “Blitz on West Nile street, in the city centre: it’s a while since I purchased a new suit, but that’s all about to change. A boy’s gotta spoil himself once I a while, come on?
This SSE Hydro Arena (even though it’s in Glasgow!) is a fabulous place to view a major gig and I’m looking forward to my fellow countrymen – and women - affording Ant ‘n Dec a most warm welcome when they take to the stage on Tuesday evening: when the Glasgow crowd gets behind you, there’s little that will be allowed to get in front of you. “Long Live Live”, I say.
Tomorrow, there being a consecutive second day off (it’s rare to have one, never mind two in a row) I have elected to take a round trip to Edinburgh to catch up with Jade, and my sister Jane, before heading back to Glasgow, mid-evening, in readiness for the next day’s load-in. It’s uncanny you know, but I believe I would rather have had just the one day off only – rather than being “laid off” for a second day – and contemplating what mischief to seek.
Anyway, we’ll be back into the swing of things by 07.00 am on Tuesday morning, prepared for whatever the day has available, then onwards to Belfast where the lads have to conjure up four shows in the space of three days (methinks somehow that the dancers will take things a little easier, this time around. Young and energetic they may be. Invincible they are not.
In closing this week, I’m actually going to link you to the YouTube version of “I Belong To Glasgow” by Mr Willie Fyffe, from many years back. View and be astonished. We’re something of a mad lot up here but we sure now how to party – and that starts Tuesday night!
Good evening from somewhere on the M6, driving north from Birmingham to Manchester.
The delay in this week’s diary entry reflects the pressured start to any major arena tour.
I’m sure I’ve confessed in the past that when I undertake both jobs (Tour Manager and Tour Accountant) on the same tour, I seriously have my work cut out for me. On this particular tour, the added element of ITV’s involvement has placed further constraints on my time.
Like all things in life - where a person can hardly understand what another person is going through, unless they have experienced the same situation and environment themselves - it’s difficult to convey, in any articulate form, just how manic the touring lifestyle can become.
And here’s the rub: if, by chance, I find a few quiet moments to stand off that “mayhem” then I’m increasingly struck with the realisation that my own personal life has been placed on hold (and, nowadays, such reflections lurk in the shadows of the relentless march of time). An odd sort of dilemma indeed: if I stop long enough to think about it, I think about stopping!
The above said, there is always some “needy” person bounding into the tour production office, to immediately rouse me from such melancholy musings – and set me back on track, reeling towards multi-tasking oblivion. Increasingly, however, a small voice in my head reminds me that this situation has to be dealt with, so I’m aware of the need to plan towards it.
On the work front, the first week of the tour has seen us undertake a total of five shows, the first two of those over the opening nights in Cardiff (Wednesday and Thursday past), followed by three shows at Birmingham’s LG Arena, to take us up to today, Sunday, which featured both a matinee and an evening show: those double-show days can be particularly strenuous and there’s a few dancers currently fast asleep on the tour bus, as we head up to Manchester (with a day off tomorrow) to check into the MacDonald Townhouse, at around 12.30 am. Further proof that the lifestyle is not always quite as glamorous as it may seem.
There’s a total of thirty-four shows to be undertaken on this tour and while we only have two bona-fide back-to—back performances, it’s still a fair stretch - with another six of the tour’s upcoming show days also featuring a Matinee performance. The key, as I keep respectfully reminding our exuberant bunch of dancers, is to pace oneself: just because there are several “recovery” days, that doesn’t mean that they will retain their fitness levels, to equate to where they were at the start of the tour (some are paying heed: some are not).
Having said all that, the audience reaction to the shows has been most encouraging (there is much content of the show that requires differing degrees of audience participation) and what additional tickets are left are now flying out the door. I’m convinced this “brand” can be developed to the point where a touring show can follow hotly on the heels of the TV run of the same show. To that end, this week’s track is a stomping old soul favorite called “There Ain’t Nothin’ Like a House Party” by The Showstoppers. Until next week, oh tolerant friends.
I would have to argue that the colour red has always worked in bars for me. That probably stems from the recollection it triggers, of the downstairs bar in the Radisson Hotel in Manchester (ironically, the former iconic “Free Trade Hall” where I did several shows).
Here I sit in the lounge of my Cardiff hotel, and it too predominately features the colour red: however, being a Sunday night, it cannot quite come up to the vibrancy of the afore-mentioned establishment, in which I have spent many a memorable (raucous?) evening. I don’t know if you have experienced a similar situation, but every time I have the opportunity to visit that “red neon” bar in the Radisson, I can just tell it’s going to be a good evening.
Anyway, this is it: the calm before the “storm”, with both a technical set-up and a full rehearsal day, before the first Ant ‘n Dec Takeaway Tour Live show this coming Wednesday, 6th August. Yes, a couple of long days ahead as the creative team apply the last couple of finishing touches to what (as I mentioned last week) has all the makings of a very entertaining show. Trust me – there’s a whole raft of innovative technology in play here.
But – that’s yer lot! To learn more of what’s happening with the show, you’ll have to turn up!
The rather welcoming aspect of this tour is the noticeable lack of “back-to-back” shows, only two in fact: Nottingham to Newcastle and an across-town trip from London’s O2 to London’s Wembley Arena. However, on the flip side of that coin, we are undertaking at least two performances in most of the cities we play, several featuring Matinee performances to meet the healthy demand for tickets. There is a particularly notable five shows in Newcastle, the general locality from which the lads hail – all during the weekend of the “Great North Run”.
Thirty-four shows in all, on this imminent Ant ‘n Dec tour, having been eclipsed (by only the one show!) by the recent “McBusted” tour - in which I was also involved - for the title of “biggest arena tour of 2014”. It’s probably a long time (if ever?) since I could lay claim to having worked on the two largest tours on the UK arena circuit. There’s little doubt that – having tended to concentrate on the UK venues (just how many times can one travel around the world?) – I now know those venues “intimately”, to the obvious advantage of the Artists that I tour with, in an effort to develop and maximise all possible, available, income streams.
Oddly, as I sit here this evening in the hotel bar, determined to ease my diary entries back on track (I have ninety minutes to accomplish that, this evening!), I’m aware of the ambient noise being generated at the end of the bar by a group of boisterous (yet harmless) North Americans - who appear to be linked a tour party, but not “tour” in the way I am used to.
So, as my disjointed rambling draws to a close, this fine Sunday evening in Cardiff, I wonder what song (hopefully appropriate to some facet of this week’s entry) I might foist upon you, my long-suffering followers? Aha! - this track has just popped into my head, which would also seem to fit with this mellowing part of the day. It is the iconic James Taylor with the beautifully crafted ballad, “You Got A Friend”. And you do. Feel free to call me anytime. XX
As the first week of Ant ‘n Dec rehearsals draw to a close, it’s shaping up as a cracking show.
There is certainly way more to this tour than just throwing the band on stage at 8.30 pm, then “retiring” to the production office backstage, for a good ninety minutes of quality time to catch up with one’s workload, undisturbed by the “Arteest’s” requirements.
This - and not even just technically – is a fairly complex and comprehensive production, marrying several diverse entertainment sequences (apologies I can’t expand upon that folks, however I’m sworn to secrecy prior to the first show in Cardiff, on Wednesday, 6th August). However, if you fancy witnessing a “rootin-tootin” two-hour entertainment extravaganza, then free your fingers to do the walking, and book yourself a couple of tickets to the show.
As is always the case in production rehearsals, one has a limited amount of time to complete a whole host of preparatory tasks, while sat in the one location for a few days on the trot. Once the tour itself gets underway, one’s days can just perplexingly disappear in a fog of “firefighting” tasks: show-days just fly by inexplicably from the minute you set foot in the production office. Nevertheless, even after all these years, I still struggle to explain how I can confidently breeze into the production office at 10.00 am, throw myself at a prioritized list of jobs, grab some lunch on the run – then look round to find it’s gone 6.00 pm!
Am I possibly deluding myself that it’s ever going to be any different? Am I too long in the tooth to be able to effect any long-term change? (but, no, it’s true what they say - it’s never too late to change). As a result of these recent thought processes, I’m slowly approaching a state of mind where I suspect I need to make some positive changes, come the turn of the current year. May the God of Positive Decisions be with me: I believe I’m going to need him.
On the work front, we have one more week of production rehearsals left and then we are off on the road, with Ant ‘n Dec, for real. I would imagine that by this time next week, I’ll possibly be hovering on the fringes of “stir crazy”, chomping at the bit for the return of my nomadic existence. That’s no criticism of the rehearsal facility (which I am happy to divulge, this time next week, when we are no longer there!). One day, the subterfuge will be gone!
The remainder of my year, work-wise, is pretty well spoken for: once I finish this little jaunt then I am back up to Scotland to undertake some work on the “new” house (my daughter – who is staying there at the moment – has proved herself to be something of an adept handywoman: I certainly know where she didn’t learn those impressive floor-laying skills).
October sees me back out on the “Big Reunion” for the (can I refer to it, as this, I wonder?) the “Boy-Band Special”. Between November and December I’m back involved with The Who, the band I went out with last year – and on whose tour I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Actually, in remembrance of such an enjoyable tour (long may that continue this year) here comes a great track from that very band that takes me way back to my frenetic youth and such memorable times. It’s called “The Kid’s Are Alright” – and this kid is doing just fine, thanks!
Time to stop messing around, with the start of technical rehearsals for Ant ‘n Dec tomorrow.
Between rehearsals and the tour, that’s me committed – now – until the middle of September.
As a result of the professional organization that surrounds Ant ‘n Dec, there has been considerable “lead-in” time expended on this project and – while such advance care and attention is crucial to the success of such a project – it’s great to now be making a serious start to the touring side of things, to find myself in my most comfortable of environments.
The fact that things – work wise – have not been too “full on” this year, as compared to the previous two years, has enabled me to take advantage of what, so far, has been a great summer. The calming weather (you know I’m not a “lie and fry” type of guy – I just relish the sun on my back) has also served to ease me into what I could maybe term “positive reflective” mode: whereby I can collect and develop my thoughts, to formulate some sort of workable plan for the future. Debonair as I am, I can’t deny I’m not getting any younger.
In fact (and this view will definitely need to be revised once I reach the end of this working year), I sense the gentle onset of a move to be rebalancing of my work/leisure activity, with more emphasis on the latter, and less emphasis on the former. Can I discipline myself to do so? More importantly, will I find any time in the next eight weeks to think more about it?!
Oh, to look forward at myself, looking back at myself: that would be a most beneficial insight, an indication as whether my life was heading in (even) close to the right direction. Is it at all possible, I sit here wondering, to train ones self to accomplish such a thing? Or is this just how it happens in life – you stumble “blindly” onwards, believing, of course, that you’re on the right track: rarely taking a moment or two to step back from the fray?
While I have the greatest respect for the accomplishments of these two lads that I’m about to go on the road with (and who appear to be very dedicated to their craft) my working kinship nowadays is certainly geared more towards the guys on the production crew, many of whom I’ve known for over twenty years – and a few of them out with me on this very tour.
So, as another eight weeks of my life is about to be spent in a familiarly nomadic existence, my personal life typically finds itself deferred to the back burner: however, this is entirely of my own doing and I know for sure that once I get back into the swing of things (it only takes a couple of days), I will recognize the benefits of being within my own comfort zone. Sure, certain aspects of being on the road have to be lived with: there’s rarely any change out of a twelve hour day; it’s either a show day or a travel day, but never a “day off” - and the majority of venue production offices around the country (and the world) are not noted for their windows, their abundance of natural light – or even their comfortable chairs!
The buzz of the touring environment is however hard to deny, and here to corroborate that is Bonnie Raitt with this week’s track choice, “The Road Is My Middle Name”. Until next week
A warm Sunday afternoon’s greetings from the world’s only truly international city: Paris.
Prior to me diving headlong into my “Ant ‘n Dec” commitment – with the start of rehearsals imminent – I took the opportunity to spoil myself, by slinking off to Paris for a couple of days (you will recall from last week’s entry – won’t you?! – that I elected to take an untried route to this great city: on the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry, and then the train to the centre of Paris.
That actually worked out fine, although - with only one (dis)functioning ticket-collection machine in Dieppe station – I was the very last one to board the train bound to Rouen, with a connection to Paris’s burgeoning St Lazare station: France is indeed a very populated country.
Based here, from the Hotel Terminus in the Bois Colombus district of north-east Paris, I have been able to meet with a host of my French footballing contacts, throughout the day – and maybe – just maybe – I may have discovered one or two potential gems. As history will show however, that’s almost the “easy” part – now I have to find clubs willing to give these young lads a chance to show what they can do. However, I’ve painfully learned to be selective!
Thing is – I need to be quick about it: not just from the point of view that those same clubs are being peppered with players from every different angle (mostly, by agents who – unlike myself, thankfully – need to be moving players, to put food on the table) but also of course because, one week from now, I’ll be racing around, totally immersed in my real job.
Still, even though I am a consummate professional when it comes to my “day job”, I cannot lie that my peripheral involvement on the football side is what truly finds me inn my comfort zone. In respect of the representation of players, I’m absolutely less driven by what I might make, rather than what I might find. With the right player, the money will come eventually.
This time next week, as I pen the pertinent diary entry, I will be sat in a North Middlesex hotel, preparing for an early load-in to production rehearsals the following day – and then let the mayhem begin! As yet, actually, I have not had sight of the list of production crew who are earmarked for this Ant ‘n Dec gig, therefore hopefully some “well-kent” (Scottish expression) faces will make an appearance. As I may have noted at some point in the past, I am probably now less enamoured by those persons on the stage than by those in front of it, or behind it, if you follow my drift. The first can’t survive, without the second or the third.
With the Ant ‘n Dec tour firmly in the bag, a vacation planned to Canada after that – then the “Big Reunion” and “The Who” tours to take me up to Christmas, it’s time to start to cast a weathered eye towards next year’s work prospects. I’m sure that Olly Murs must be considering another road outing (it’s now been over a year since the last one) and I now have a couple of irons in the fire, in respect of newer talent and fresh management companies. So, no great panic – just a gently nagging awareness to keep a look out for myself, next year. Now, what track might fit the closing mood of this week’s entry? How’s about the Mick Hucknell penned, “Simply Red” composition “Holding Back The Years”. I leave you with love.
I know the following may not necessarily mean a lot to you, but it sure means a lot to me!
Tomorrow (Monday) I hand over my year-end accounts to my company Accountant (a real Accountant, Jane is – unlike The Great Pretender that I am!) and this, for me, represents the end product of two days painstaking work to have all the paperwork logged and collated, in preparation for it’s audited submission to Companies House, by September 30th coming.
It’s always a relief to have completed the project: however, such satisfaction doesn’t unduly linger – as it is soon tempered by my need to know just how much tax I’m going to have to pay, in respect of last years’ business. Anyway, my involvement in the process is over for another year – and I’m most pleased about that (and in the year I became mortgage free!).
Then it’s back down to London on Wednesday, to catch up on my Ant ‘n Dec commitments, followed by a wee trip out to Paris over next weekend, to hook up with a few of my trusted football contacts out there (yes, I still have the bug somewhat, but it’s literally only a hobby now – so the days of it having a noticeably detrimental effect on my bank account are firmly in the past). Most of these French guys I know are ex-players that I did my best to assist when they travelled to Scotland many years ago and are the salt of the earth, just trying to eke out a living, doing something that they firmly believe in: trying to unearth a “diamond”.
I’m actually taking a previously untried route to Europe’s most international city (in my view) namely as a “foot-passenger” on the Newhaven (East Sussex) to Dieppe ferry, then a two and a half hour train ride from there to the centre of Paris, once again staying in the Asienerers area of the city, in my trusted “Terminus Hotel” - where Russell and I have always stayed.
I will, however, have to get my “arse back in gear” come Tuesday 15th (I return from Paris, by the same reverse route, on the Monday evening) as the Ant ‘n Dec project continues to pick up speed. Oddly enough – and please accept my apologies if the following is not news to you – having recently been involved with the UK’s most extensive arena tour of 2014, with “McBusted”, I now find myself involved with the second most extensive 2014 UK tour (missing out on the “title” by only 1 gig: McBusted play 35 shows to Ant ‘n Decs’ 34 shows).
This upcoming tour with Ant ‘n Dec is of rather an unusual format, compared to what I would be used to, being that it’s not a matter – literally – of sticking the band/Artist onto stage at 8.45 pm and then going back to collect them, and heading for the tour bus, at 10.30 pm. No, this is an “all round entertainment spectacular” featuring, I believe, many of the “gags” that were played out during the recent successful TV run of the “Saturday Night Takeaway”.
Meant to say, in closing, that my daughter Jade announced to be earlier today that she wants to spend more time down at the house in Dunbar during the times that (sadly, in that sense) I am away from home, mainly in London. I will be able to have sensed her presence, when I return from my travels. In recognition of this news, I have decided to go with an appropriate track this week, from the blues guitarist Buddy Guy, called “She’s A Superstar”. See y’all!
Oh, I do like to be beside the sea-side, oh I do like to be beside the sea. Well, today - I am.
Torquay, to be exact: on the South West coast of England, around 216 miles from London.
Probably one of the more popular sea-side resorts, on what is questionably called the “English Riveria”, it is nestled in a natural bay, about thirty miles south-east of the city of Exeter – and adjacent to another sea-side town called Paignton (the general area is known as Torbay).
Alice and I managed to secure a great little deal in one of the myriad of “Bed & Breakfast” accommodations, just up the hill from the harbour. We actually intended to take a pleasant drive around the bay to the afore-mentioned Paignton, but found ourselves unable to do so, with the roads closed between both sea-side towns, to accommodate the annual “Torbay half-marathon”, with several hundred locals taking part in the very family-orientated event.
I thought (as I may have made mention of, in the body of a recent diary) that I may have been able to land a few weeks of ad-hoc work, between finishing with “McBusted” and the commencement of Ant ‘n Dec rehearsals, scheduled for mid July, with the tour kicking off in Cardiff, on Tuesday 6th August. I’m almost quietly thankful that nothing has come up for me, work-wise, during said six week period as it has allowed me to concentrate thoroughly on the complexity of the Ant ‘n Dec project, the second largest UK arena tour of the year.
All arrangements for the tour are proceeding admirably, considering the comprehensive nature of the entertainment that comprises the two-hour long show: I would have to honestly say I’ve had to replace my “rock ‘n roll hat” with my “television hat”, to adapt to a rather different approach to the requirements of this performance. There is much I am learning!
This project will keep me busy until September 14th, after which I am going to look to slip away for a couple of weeks vacation - with the opportunity to re-visit Vancouver high on the holiday agenda. It is a city – and surrounding area – that I would recommend anyone to visit.
As far as my own personal situation is concerned, I continually grapple with the dilemma of finding some (head?) space away from the chaotic vocational lifestyle that I lead – if only to be able to figure out some form of a long-term alternative to my chaotic vocational lifestyle! My head swims with a complex variation of many possible ideas, both from a work and personal standpoint of view, knowing – increasingly – that they cannot all be entirely fulfilled.
One of the approaches that I’m looking to streamline is to continue to push on with any work prospects through the end of this current year – and then just ease back a little, and allow the work to come to me. It’s no secret that I want to reach a certain level of financial security and then take my foot off the pedal and enjoy the fruits of my labour. We’ll see.
In recognition of this charming little area of Torbay, this week’s track come from my all time favourite artist, one Otis Redding with his 47 year old song “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”.
Guess what? I’m actually back home in Scotland for a while – and the weather’s brilliant!
So, there I was on the train up to Scotland last night, who’s penultimate stop is Dunbar, where I of course I now reside. So I need to tell you that – as a result of knowing my travel plans three weeks ahead of time (yes, very unusual for me – I know) I managed to book a first-class fare for only £12.00 more than the advertised “standard” fare – and with free drinks, snacks and internet included in the first class price, it made a lot of sense to do so.
However, by the time you cross the border into Scotland on the last train on a Saturday night, there are very few people left in the three first-class carriages: however it still came as something of a surprise, when making my way between two of the afore-mentioned three carriages, to startle the first-class steward and stewardess - welded in a fairly heavy clinch!
Each time I return to Dunbar, I can definitely sense an increasing comfort level with the place. Get this: earlier today, in the woods not far from my house, the local community club had set up a “Teddy Bears Picnic” for parents and toddlers –there was even the opportunity to purchase pizza slices, brought along for sale by some of the children’s’ mums!
It may just be that it coincides with the periods that I am home, but there always seems to be some form of cultural/civic activity taking place in the town. Did I mention that Dunbar was the birthplace of John Muir, a world-renowned conservationist with – in his time – some fairly good connections in high places, notably the US president Theodore Roosevelt? You won’t be disappointed to read of the life and times of John Muir: we even have a small museum situated here in the high street in Dunbar, commemorating his many achievements.
I am absolutely at my ease here in Dunbar, especially at a time of year where the days are long and light, and the weather such that I can walk into town,wearing only a T-shirt. The test comes – particularly in my case – when I have to endure my first full winter here: there is less of a concern, on my part, for the obvious downturn in the weather, as there is for the dark, early, nights and the severely shortened days. Let’s hope I’m out on tour somewhere.
It’s been a while (well, a good few weeks anyway) since I have strayed onto the subject of football but what about England’s poor showing in the World Cup? If they are beaten by Costa Rica this coming Thursday, then I believe it will rank as their worst showing in any World Cup competition, ever. Now, I know that us Scots have little to “write home about” on the subject of prowess at international football level, but the signs are ominous for England.
I’m glad to be away from the arena of work (no pun intended) for a few days, to enable me to take some time out to consider other possibilities, work-wise for the future: that’s something that is always difficult to accomplish when I’m in the “eye of the storm”. Oops: looks like I may be slipping towards a brief (but not totally unfamiliar) melancholy moment, therefore how’s about some music to lift the mood? One of the few tracks that invariably does it: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band: “Old Time Rock ‘n' Roll”. The music will save me!
In a forlorn effort to atone for last week’s late (well, much later than normal) diary entry, Jake makes a flying start to this week’s edition at no less than 10.50 a.m. – on Sunday, today!
There’s too much going on in my life – I will readily admit to that – and I’m conscious of having to make some sort of start to re-scheduling my everyday, all-consuming, activities.
This morning, I find myself delightfully positioned, sat here on the hotel verandah (more of this later) - looking over to their gardens, to the calm waters of the South Coast, albeit below a patchy, overcast sky (but with the weather pleasantly mild). My relaxed state of mind is underpinned by the fact that, for once in a long time, I’m not involved in a show here!
I should briefly expand upon the above observation: while the event management and box-office staff at the Bournemouth International Centre (B.I.C.) are good people, the facility itself, measured in net income per paying customer, is one of the most expensive on the UK “arena” touring circuit. How I miss the old “Winter Gardens” – now reduced to a car park.
My reason for being down this neck of the woods for a couple of evenings? Mainly that, with Alice working in a fairly secure facility (we shall say no more about this – lest she loses her “privileges”!) – my movements are fairly restricted, unless Alice is there to accompany me. Not as mysterious as it sounds actually: however, with Alice having two particularly long shifts this weekend – and the promise of the continuation of the glorious weather – I decided to slip away to Bournemouth for a couple of nights, returning to Surrey early this evening.
As I write (exactly at this moment) I am sat in the front lounge of Bournemouth’s Savoy Hotel where it cost me £94.00 for two nights “B & B” - try securing that rate at it’s London namesake! Can I just say that I am far from the oldest attendee in the breakfast room this morning, so that should allow you to start to form a picture of the place. Nevertheless, the staff (predominately Portuguese, for some odd reason) have been most courteous, the room was well appointed enough for the price – they even honoured my request for a bath - and the public areas of the hotel, in particular the afore-mentioned verandah, were very tranquil.
The mention of the Portuguese staff dovetails neatly into my main observation of yesterday - as I aimlessly wandered the streets and park areas of the centre of town – that nearly every third voice I ambiently (such a word?) overhead, was spoken in a foreign tongue! Is there a stealth “invasion” of Bournemouth, quietly at hand? I believe there exists one or two foreign language schools here (how’s a young boy meant to concentrate on his studies?) – maybe they are all giving language lessons on the side, to the indigenous population, to make ends meet!
Increasingly, I feel less guilty about spoiling myself (was there ever a need to?) for a few days here and there, during periods of relative downtime. Life – as I’m continually reminded – is too short. Thankfully, weekends like this one start to bring that message home to me. In closing, this week’s track choice has just hit me – there is absolutely no competition! With a searing guitar solo, here comes the Commodores with “Easy on Sunday Morning”. Time? 11.39!!
Good evening folks: I have just returned from the edge of the world (well, Scotland, anyway).
These last couple of days have been spent in the vicinity of John O’ Groats, the most northerly settlement in the UK and (for those hordes of my foreign followers) the starting point for many a charity walk/cycle - to the most south-western point of the UK, namely “Lands End”, some 874 miles the whole way. Google maps will show the extent of the journey!
We left Edinburgh yesterday morning (myself, Alice and Alice’s son David – the latter who coincidentally created - and manages - this website), to make the almost three hundred mile drive north to visit Alice’s daughter, Sarah, and her husband Chris. Last October, Sarah and Chris – recently married at that point – decided to forego city life and relocate to a fairly remote part of northern Scotland, a short distance south of John O’ Groats, north of Wick.
This country of mine, specifically the north-east in this example – on days like today - bathed in the beautiful sunshine we have enjoyed for the last forty-eight hours, is hard to beat for stunning scenery and rugged coastline. Trouble is, that sunshine and warmth (the type of weather that allows you to stroll around comfortably, adorned only in a T-shirt and jeans) only “visits” that part of Scotland for around one hundred days of the year. The rest of the time it comes down to braving the elements: with the wind maybe being the most formidable.
That’s not to take anything away from the rain and snow, the latter, which can render many “smallholdings” (such as Sarah and Chris own) – which are dotted over an extensive area of open countryside – unreachable for days at a time, when minor power cuts are not uncommon.
So, what I’m trying to say is this: only the hardy types need follow in Sarah and Chris’s footsteps (if you can find them in the snow!) as – especially during the deep winter months – you will need resolute character and a love of the lifestyle, to be able to “warm” to the place.
On the other hand – lest I appear to be painting too bleak a picture of the area – there is undoubtedly some form of “spiritual serenity” that gently descends upon one’s soul (for me, even in the short time I was there) to leave one questioning the pace of one’s own lifestyle.
Back with a bump! Work-wise, McBusted are all put to bed now - and the focus of my concentration has switched to this “Ant ‘n Dec Takeaway Tour Live!” project, which – although not due to play it’s first date until 6th August in Cardiff – involves a lot of work. Strangely enough that’s me had an involvement in the two biggest UK arena tours of the year, McBusted only being able to lay claim to the “biggest” title, by virtue of one extra show (they played thirty-five shows, whereas the Ant ‘n Dec outing takes in a total of thirty-four!).
With the main topic of this week’s diary being my thought-provoking trip to the far corner of Scotland, I’m going to dig out an old, iconic, “Canned Heat” track (must be at least 40 years old) called “Going Up The Country”, for this week’s choice. Apologies that I fell a little behind with “publishing” this week’s entry. I will definitely be back on track by this Sunday! Love y’all
Sadly, tomorrow sees the final date on this current McBusted tour. It’s come so quickly.
To be honest, I unfortunately won’t actually make it to Dublin tomorrow (for the last show) as I’m heading back to London to attend a production meeting for my next project, “Ant ‘n Dec’s Takeaway Tour – Live!”, the touring version of a very successful prime-time TV show (that was by way of a little explanation - just in case you don’t happen to live within the UK).
This tour differs from most that I am generally involved in, to the extent that there will be no musicians up on stage: it is essentially an entertainment spectacle, featuring a differing array of “situation comedy” pieces, linked by musical interludes and audience participation.
Not that easy for you to visualize, unless you have seen the TV show in question. However, this format brings with it several diverse challenges, not normally associated with a touring rock ‘n roll show. Hence the reason that – although the opening show in Cardiff is still a fair ways off (August 6th) - the complexity of the show calls for the planning to start now.
My McBusted activity, this last week, has consisted of our final visit to Birmingham (4th show); two Brighton Centre shows (Weds and Thurs) and, last night and tonight, two shows at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena. I can report a very smooth ferry crossing of the Irish Sea: I’ve had a couple of rough ones over the years, as I’m sure I’ve recorded in this diary’s pages.
While McBusted are a bunch of really decent lads (they took the time to come by my office backstage and collectively thank me for the work I had done on their behalf) my closer relationships nowadays tend to be founded with the production crew – on this McBusted tour I have had the pleasure of working with a group of particularly hard working individuals, many of whom I’ve toured with on several previous occasions. These are stand-up guys and gals.
Upon reflection (with McBusted’s tour earning the title of the UK’s biggest arena tour of this year), I’ve stared at a lot of breezeblock for a lot of hours, rarely aided by a window – and in most cases (in at 10.00 am, back out at 02.00 am) for sixteen hours at a stretch. While I obviously greatly enjoy what I do, it’s not good to be out of natural light for such elongated periods. However, I tell myself that – due to a combination of my differing touring roles – that particular mode of touring (being the Tour Accountant, but travelling on the crew bus) is unlikely to repeat itself for at least another six months. Let there be light!!
After tomorrow’s meeting, it is my intention to return to Scotland for a few days, to check on how my little house is surviving without me and – more importantly – to catch up with my daughter and my sister. I need to spend as much time as is reasonably possible with them, as this vocation of mine has seen me absent for unnaturally long spells. Time is not on my side.
The Ant ‘n Dec tour is a solid chunk of work, my involvement stretching to almost three months, by the time all the upfront work is allied to the touring itself, so I have to go for it. As such, the iconic Beatles track, “We Can Work It Out” is what I leave you with, this week.
In a supreme effort to redeem myself, let the record show it’s currently 11.05 am (today!).
This, dear tolerant readers, is one of those odd occasions when I am staying at an airport hotel, but not actually taking a flight anywhere (indeed, I have even not arrived from a flight either), being that “there is not a room to be had at the Inn”, in Brighton in this case.
So, here I sit, in this bright atrium in the lobby of the Gatwick Hilton, well in time for my bus departure at 12.00 noon, back to The Brighton Centre for the second of our two shows, this evening. After this, we only have three shows left on the UK mainland: the last of our four shows at Birmingham’s LG Arena, on Monday evening, followed by shows number three and four at the Bournemouth B.I.C., then overnight to Belfast, via the Holyhead to Dun Laghoire ferry - with then just the two Belfast and one Dublin shows left, to complete the tour.
It’s all go, huh? Hopefully, by this time next week, I can give you an inkling as to my next involvement, a production meeting for which I will attend in London on Monday 2nd June. This next project calls upon me to return to “dual role” mode, as both the Tour Manager and the Tour Accountant: however, I’ve had plenty of practice at it – so the challenge knows no fears.
This past week, we have undertaken five shows in seven days, on this current McBusted tour, namely an initial three back-to-backs, taking in Sheffield, Nottingham and Newcastle – and finishing up the week (last night and tonight) with these two Brighton Centre shows.
I’m travelling back into Brighton on the “early” bus and once I have re-set my office up, I will look to do what I should be accomplishing more often – and step outside the venue for a little time during the day: all the more poignant today as (so far) the sunshine is beckoning. As I mentioned in last week’s entry, I have not benefitted from enough natural light on this tour: I need to guard against a future repetition of such a situation, by disciplining myself to religiously spend thirty minutes of each working day outside the venue, weather permitting.
I want to go on record to say that (while being honest that I’ve not had a lot of contact with the McBusted guys themselves – but they’re a very decent bunch of lads) I’ve enjoyed keeping company with a bunch of good lads – and lasses - on the production crew: when I’m travelling on the crew buses, my relationship with the crew guys takes precedence over that with the band. Honestly, I’m not sure how much patience I have for “Artist World” anymore.
Let me ask you: do you ever have those odd moments in time where – due to an odd combination of (say) location, mood and circumstance – a very meaningful thought flashes across your consciousness, that you desperately try to rescue, to see where it may take you? No? Ah, well then, stuff you!!
Seriously, it happened this morning, while I was returning to my restaurant table from the breakfast buffet, the thought being “surely I have more to offer this world than crunching numbers”. Trouble is – in the touring environment there is little time to think of anything else, other than keeping the wheels turning. With that thought in mind, here comes Taj Mahal’s great motoring track called “Six Days on the Road”. Love y’all!!
Welcome to this fine sunny Wednesday morning, here on Tyneside - at the Metro Arena.
Wednesday?!! I know: I was doing so well there for a few weeks back, “publishing” the weekly diary on the Sunday, the day it’s meant to be. Alas, with this other project awaiting me in the wings (more of that at some point, over the next few weeks) I’ve fallen a little behind with my weekly workload. This much I’ve discovered: if I don’t find the time on a Sunday, to pen my diary when it’s meant to be done, then the middle of the “next” week looms very quickly.
So, yes: apologies for being a few days behind this week – however, with a window in my production office on the second floor of the backstage dressing room block today, here in Newcastle, I’m able to observe blue skies – as well as our twelve blue production trucks!
The McBusted touring schedule is easing off a little (only four shows in the last week) with – as of “tomorrow”, Monday 19th – nine UK shows remaining followed by the two Belfast shows, and the final show of the tour, on Monday 2nd June, at Dublin’s highly-expensive O2 Arena.
As I have reiterated several times over the ten (plus) years I have been penning this diary, I have great fondness for the people of the North-East of England, who are very much of the “word hard – play hard” culture. These God-fearing people are the salt of the earth. I need to do something for those good people – to thank them for providing me with a decent lifestyle, by way of all the concert tickets they have purchased, on all the shows I’ve worked.
Actually, there is an embryonic process parked somewhere at the back of my head, with that very purpose in mind. However, it’s not something I can instigate quite yet – as I have to remain aware of the need to continue to eke out a living from the business it would concern. It is however a dilemma – and as the months (and years, God forbid?) roll on, I’m poignantly aware of the need to “put up or shut up”. I’ll sit outside for fifteen minutes at some point today and see if I can’t order a few of those basic thoughts, in this befuddled head of mine.
I’ve spent the majority of this tour travelling on the crew bus – complete with individual bunks - only deviating occasionally, when Alice has come to visit and we’ve managed to source a cheapo “Laterooms” hotel - after a couple of the shows where I would normally have over-nighted on the bus, onwards to the next city. However, bussing beats flying any day of the week: it’s just not practically possible to cover distances of more than three hundred miles, “back-to-back”, therefore – in those situations – one has no choice but to take to the skies.
The crew bus that I travel on (“Bus 2”) – one of three on this tour – has somehow earned the moniker of “The Party Bus”. I have to immediately stress that your clean-living author in no way contributed to the garnering of such a reputation – I just “plays the music and sets the ambience”. Everything has then just tended to snowball (avalanche?) from there. However, guys that put in sixteen-hour days, sometimes for several days at a time, surely reserve the right to let off a little steam? In their honour, and in memory of a few of the more rocking nights on Bus 2, here’s Slade’s version of the old Wanda Jackson’s hit, “Let’s Have a Party”.
I’m definitely not getting enough you know – natural light that is. I need to be getting more.
I know the above to be the case because, as I sit here in Jury’s hotel in Liverpool, ahead of tomorrow’s second Echo Arena show, the floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounge are allowing the midday sunshine to pour into the hotel’s lounge seating area. I could easily drift off.
So, yes, my first confession (it may be the only one today) is that I’m penning my diary on this Monday morning as – having just finished a run of three consecutive Manchester shows – yesterday just ran away with itself, and midnight was – typically - upon me before I knew it.
This morning we found ourselves trying to check into a hotel that was sold out last night, off the back of Liverpool’s final game of the football season. Consequently, I’m sat in the aforementioned lounge, leisurely attempting to make efficient use of this “waiting time”.We have now completed 19 of the 28 “UK mainland” shows on this current “McBusted” tour - and all is coming along very nicely. After tomorrow night’s show, we are on our way north to Glasgow, for the final time – and shows three and four at the city’s SSE Hydro Arena. I would urge you to catch a show there, if you haven’t already managed to do so: a feat made appreciably easier if you reside in Scotland (come and visit me in Dunbar at the same time!).
On Thursday past (8th May) I attended a big production meeting for my next project, which commences in the middle of July – but details of which I can’t divulge for a couple of weeks yet. Having played two shows at Cardiff’s C.I.A. arena – with a third and final one to come later this month – I just stayed back there on Wednesday night and caught the train into London the following morning. Then Alice met me in London, around six in the evening, when the meeting had finished – and we boarded Virgin’s “Pendolino” (tilting!) train from Euston to Manchester: it is indeed the oddest feeling when that train “leans over” at almost 140 mph!
So here we are in Liverpool: a city that – along with the likes of Newcastle and Glasgow – is the living embodiment of the “work hard – play hard” way of life. Bless every one of those good people who just get on and deal with the life that they have encountered. Capitalism cannot, however, leave those same people be: intent, rather, on unscrupulously extracting every spare penny of disposable income they have managed to save, convincing them that this or that gadget in indispensible - or that they cannot afford to miss this or that concert!
One day – when I no longer depend upon this business for my income – I’ll maybe publicise a few home truths, thereby attempting to enable the good people some sort of insight into how they are being taken complete commercial advantage of (not the best grammar, I know).
What to play you today, as this week’s diary entry comes to a close? Well, considering the city we are in for the next thirty-six hours, it can only really be a Lennon/McCartney track: so many to choose from but – possibly bearing some relation to where I currently sit, career wise - how about this wonderful composition, called “The Long and Winding Road”? Love y’all!!
Glamorous? Please tell what is glamorous with facing a concertina wall in Sheffield Arena?
That’s exactly where you find me, this Sunday afternoon, fourteen shows into this current McBusted UK Arena Tour, in this tiny backstage office, ahead of tonight’s sold out show.
We arrived here off the back of another two sold out shows (last night and Friday) at Birmingham’s LG Arena, so I think we would have to say that, all in all, things are going pretty well on the tour. We are fourteen shows in, with another twenty-one to go, through June 2nd.
Michelle (our wardrobe mistress) and myself – both of us who spend the best part of our working days, in easily over half the venues we play, in window-less environments – decided to strike a blow for fresh air and enjoyed our mid-morning coffee sat outside the backstage.
Really, it can’t be good for one to go for hours on end without the benefit of any natural light: it makes me think of the hundreds of shows I must have done over the years, during the winter months, where I stumbled off the tour bus in darkness, to make my way into the gig, and then – at least twelve hours later – exited the venue into that same darkness. Well – let’s face it – I can’t take those days back now, but I can sure be more aware, in the future.
I cannot deny that thoughts such as the above have, “of late”, found their way into my thinking processes: it’s only natural (but not natural light!) that a tendency will develop to foster such reflections, as time goes on – undoubtedly accelerated with the onset of age.
Look, folks: I can’t be a bouncing, effervescent, energy force at the point of every weekly diary entry: you have to take the occasional “rough” week with the innumerable smooth ones. Who knows what combination of factors is responsible for the shaping of one’s daily moods? Sure, if you fall out of bed on the wrong side – although on a tour bus there’s only one side you can fall out of – then you may not be off to the greatest of starts but, of course, it’s down to you to make the best of the situation, and improve upon the rest of your day.I just can’t help thinking that, from time to time, I may have more to offer the world, than this continual battle I wage with trying to convince Artist management that there is a way to effectively reduce the costs associated with concert touring, without – in any way – cheapening the final product. Too many Artists are seduced by the big fees and the big rock show, to actually understand that both of those can be achieved with – in more than most cases – significantly less “overhead” spend. Bless them: they think it’s going to last forever. Anyway, back to Sheffield, the location of tonight’s concert: famous for many things, not the least (possibly more so in years gone by, though) the manufacture of steel. In fact, it is with that in mind that this week’s accompanying track features a man born in Sheffield, almost as long ago as I was born – and who went on to have a fairly successful music business career (could it be either of us I’m talking about here?!). The man’s name is Joe Cocker – and here he is covering a soulful John Fogerty ballad called “Long as I can see the light”. Over to you …
Good afternoon, from a wet, slightly windy, Newcastle - sat in the Sandman Signature hotel.
Since we last spoke, we are five shows further into the tour, however only in two different (differing?) cities. This evening there is no show, therefore here I sit: making the supreme effort to complete this week’s diary entry on the day of the week that it was to be penned.
If you are a regular reader of this journal (masterpiece?!) you will know that I’ve always retained a certain fondness for the North East of England: the people are genuine, energetic, hard working and fun loving – recognise any of those characteristics in anyone you know?!
It’s probably just as well that our night off is a Sunday, and not a Saturday – as Newcastle is one of a few select “don’t-stay-in-on-a-Saturday-night” cities that I have often frequented. By the looks of the bar in the hotel (named, oddly, “The Shark” – there must be a reason for that!) this town has more of a buzz about it on a Sunday night, than Edinburgh on a Saturday.
Normally, having just completed a run of three shows at London’s O2, I would be relieved to have left that venue behind - complete with it’s usual, attendant, stresses and distractions. Ironically, it was one of the smoothest three days I have spent in that facility, with this band being surrounded more noticeably by close family members, than the usual “hangers-on”.
Previous to the three London shows, we played a double-header (Mon/Tues) at Bournemouth’s International Centre where, as a result of the physical limitations of that building, we were unfortunately unable to incorporate the walkway, the B-stage, the “flying saucer” and the OMFG zone, within the production of those two shows. Nonetheless, the band still went down a storm: typically - tirelessly - working the whole sixty-foot width of the front of the stage.
While I know it means so much to many bands to play London’s O2 for the first time, as was the case with McBusted this week (they had previously always played at Wembley Arena), it’s astonishing – and, some might say, great business – to observe what a money making machine that facility is. One poignant example alone is the “O2 American Express VIP Lounge”, whose entrance is located within the covered concourse of the facility: a quick peek at the entry cost, online, points to £4,050 membership per year, and there are reputed to be around fourteen hundred members of said Amex club. As the Americans would say: “Do the Math!”.
However, the above is only one of several lucrative little sidelines that are up and running, every time there is a show in that building: the act are purely a – albeit reasonably well paid – catalyst to prime that myriad of additional earning facilities for the AEG organization. Where is the band that will allow me the time – prior to any agreement they my finally enter into – to investigate and negotiate on their behalf, where further income can be realised.
In closing, and with this vibrant city of Newcastle in mind, this week’s choice of accompanying track is an out-and-out rocker, called “Crazy Nights”, by the iconic US rock band “Kiss”. I bid you a fine evening and thank you most sincerely for sticking by me (always).
Ooops….. slipped behind with this week’s entry. It was bound to happen at the start of a tour!
Today (Sunday) sees us enjoying a welcome night off in Bournemouth, having completed three shows, back-to-back, at the start of this McBusted tour, specifically: two Glasgow shows (Thursday and Friday past) and last night’s performance at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
Oh, aye – it’s been an arduous seventy-two hours for our production crew, having slept only about twenty of those hours. This has evolved into a big ‘ol tour (we’re now at twelve trucks) however I’m sure you’ll agree – if you have a chance to catch one of the shows – that it’s one hell of an entertainment spectacular, all for the ticket price of £39.50 (£42.00 in London).
I have to say that the lads themselves (you will recall there are a total of six of them, being the amalgamation of the bands “McFly” and “Busted”, with the exception of one former Busted member, Charlie Simpson) sound excellent – and there’s no shortage of boundless energy on display, as they tirelessly work the stage and the “D thrust” to maximum effect.
All the lads in the band have popped into my accounting office, at individual times over the last few days, to briefly introduce themselves. It’s odd to think that – in McFly’s case – the band have been around for almost ten years to the day and I’ve never caught them live. It’s one of those typical situations where I couldn’t have named you a McFly track at this time last week, however I have instantly recognized the “hooks” from three or four of their more familiar compositions (while I’ve been beavering away backstage, on the accounts) - no doubt as a result of hearing the songs in the background, when I’ve had the radio on, at home.
As of today, we have played two out of four Glasgow shows, to launch the tour, and there now follows twenty-eight shows in England, a further two Glasgow shows – and, finally, two Belfast shows and a show in Dublin: altogether, thirty-five shows, which makes for arguably the biggest arena tour of the year. In terms of the amount of arenas played on one tour, there was a time when Westlife would have given the McBusted boys a run for their money, but it is now the latter band that are currently “kings of the hill” – and deservedly so.
Next week is possibly the most intense touring week out of the six that we will be out on the road, being that – in addition to the Bournemouth shows tomorrow and Tuesday – we have the “Big Rock Show” taking place in London next week, with three shows at the iconic O2 Arena.
The three London shows are complete sellouts at this current time, however your uncle Jake is going to see – in conjunction with our Production Manager, Iain Whitehead - what further seats may yet be able to be released for sale, once the production and stage are in place, come 1.00 pm this Thursday, 24th. This is an expensive show to keep on the road, folks!
So, in closing, what might be an appropriate track to accompany this week’s diary entry? Well, I’ve gone for the song “Two Can Have A Party” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: an older song indeed – but testament to the fact that these “two” bands are indeed partying on!
Well, well: last week in the Doha departure lounge, but this week in “McBusted” rehearsals!
My UK readers (yes, you three!) will no doubt be aware of the amalgamation - if that’s the right word – of the two bands “McFly” and “Busted” into “McBusted”, although one of the original Busted lads has declined an involvement as (I believe) he has his own music projects going on, and wants to concentrate on those. Are you impressed that I’m quite well up on what’s happening with this band already? Actually I just found it all out on the Internet.
I’ve not formally met the lads themselves, as today was only the second day we have been here – and yesterday was a, full-on, load-in and set up day: therefore the band only arrived late morning to begin a sound-check, and start working their way through the set list. No doubt I’ll catch up with them at dinner – they need to know I once played drums for The Bay City Rollers: I’m sure they will be gob-smacked to be in such esteemed company (not)!
We have three more rehearsal days here and then we are off to Glasgow for the first of two shows at “The Hydro” (with another two at the same venue, in mid-May). This is a fairly extensive arena tour, taking in 32 shows in the UK and three in Ireland - possibly the most significant arena tour this year in the UK (but don’t hold me to that). Business is impressively good – and I’m here to assist in making that business impressively better. Know what I mean?
It’s funny, you know: I don’t miss the Tour Management side of things, as much as I might have imagined I would. I know I will consider, carefully, any upcoming Tour Management gigs that may come my way - as I suspect that my patience is not what it was for “Artist world”. Of course, it would very much depend on the nature of the Artists: if I could choose, I would probably prefer to be in the employ of my “contemporaries”, but all my contemporaries are slowly slipping of the conveyor belt of rock music, therefore my choices are proving limited!
In an ideal world (as I’m sure I must have mentioned on these pages previously) I would be covering both jobs of Tour Manager and Tour Accountant, quite accomplishable with an efficient Assistant Tour Manager, however – again – I may prove to be fairly fussy if/when it comes to a choice of act, with whom I would be willing to undertake the dual roles. We’ll see.
My South East Asia break has certainly started to crystallize my thought patterns, in respect of the years ahead: I am increasingly plagued by the need to want to do something meaningful, and that may not necessarily relate to the music business – most likely not, if it gets to that stage (no pun intended!). We all have an idea of where we would like to be financially, in life, to give us the security to take our foot off the pedal: in my case, having been about as low as it’s possible to get on the financial ladder (i.e. completely broke!), I just feel the need to make sure I’m in a position where such a situation ever happens again.
So – what is the choice of music this week, which may encapsulate what I have been banging on about, above, or which may follow the line of my mood? How’s about this little Otis Redding tune, with a doleful title, but nevertheless an uplifting melody. See what you think …
Here I sit (almost transfixed) observing life in Doha airport’s transfer lounge. Captivating.
Also – get this (as I’ve just heard it over the Tannoy system), and this might seem a contradiction in terms, but Doha airport is a “silent” airport, in respect of flight/gate departure announcements – and it’s true! For the last ten minutes, all I’ve heard is one gate change announcement (which needs to be drawn to passengers’ attention); the occasional “no smoking” & “unattended baggage” reminders and, of course, the announcement informing you that it’s a “silent” airport. Otherwise, you need to keep your eyes on the information screens!
Not so sure which “version” I prefer: he continual announcements, probably most typical of a large US “hub” airport like Chicago or Dallas Fort Worth – or this almost disarming serenity.
Anyway, here I am connecting from Bangkok through to London, with a four-hour layover. It was fairly tough crawling out of bed at 05.30 am this morning, at the “Crystal Suites” hotel near Bangkok airport, having only arrived back at the hotel at 01.45 am, as a result of spending last night in the company of Simon Napier-Bell, now based in Thailand for many years (if you think I’ve done a few things in my time, check out what Simon’s accomplished!!)
After a few hours of catching up (it’s been a good fifteen years since we last saw each other) we enjoyed an excellent dinner at Simon’s hotel for the night, the Millennium Hilton on the river in Bangkok. The evening was crowned with a visit to the Leboa hotel and – it’s piece d’ resistance – “State Tower” open-air roof bar and restaurant, overlooking the sprawl of Bangkok, far below. It was mind-blowing, like floating in space above the city – complete with a jazz band!! Now, as with most things in life, that sort of unique sensation comes at a price: in this case, the equivalent of £15 for their “special” Apple Daiquiri! But, trust your old friend Jake, the experience is not to be missed, if you have any reason to be in Bangkok. Go on, take a couple of minutes and Google the Leboa Hotel & State Tower – check the pictures!
Back to my movements, over the last week: I spent four days on Koh Tao, returned to Koh Samui for Thursday and Friday nights, then back into Bangkok at lunchtime yesterday, in preparation for hooking up with Simon. Trust me guys (because you all know I am nowhere near “Andrew Carnegie status” yet), the most costly part of holidaying in Thailand is the return Bangkok flight: once there, with a good bit of internet research under your belt, it is relatively inexpensive – for some of the breathtaking views on offer. It cost me an average of £60.00/day to include hotel, breakfast, dinner, water and a £6 Thai massage each day!
Has the break cleared my head a little? Most certainly: but I’ll wait until next week, when my thoughts have settled down somewhat, in respect of how (I think) I see the way forward. I know I there’s a need to conclusively “clear my decks” a little – and to dispense with a fair chunk of the admin, in favour of the creative. I have to cure myself of “Analysis Paralysis”.
In closing, and having made special mention of Simon Napier-Bell from last night, here is the iconic track “Life in Tokyo” from one the many bands (“Japan”) that he successfully managed.
Good afternoon (on a Sunday no less!) from as close as I may ever get to paradise.
No, I’m not on Canvey Island! Rather I am on a somewhat contrasting island - in the Gulf of Thailand - namely Koh Tao. Maybe I’ll just stay out here, with the Wi-Fi! It crossed my mind.
I actually ended up here “inadvertently” - as my original destination was indeed Qatar (half downtime, half work-related) - to hook up with my buddy Russell Mason, whom I’m sure I’ve made mention of in the past - and who owns a successful event management company there.
However, as he also has a couple of business interests in the Philippines Russell had to dash off to Manila on Friday evening, from Doha, to deal with something that requires his personal attendance. Thankfully, Russell had alerted to me to this change of plan at the beginning of this week past and – being that I had a flight booked on Qatar Airways to go down to Doha, who also fly from there to Bangkok – I was able (through one of Russell’s local contacts at the airline, thankfully) to “re-write” my ticket to enable me to stop in Doha on Thursday and Friday past, before connecting on to a flight down to Bangkok – and then to Koh Samui.
However, folks, I have to report that Koh Samui may have had it’s day, compared to how it was in 2007, when I first visited. Therefore, tired of the once-unheard-of (in these parts) Russian accent - and too many “Suzy Wongs” trying to tempt me from the sidewalk into their girly-bars with their omnipresent “Welcome – where you come from?” cries – I demonstrated my penchant for the odd knee-jerk reaction and jumped on the ferry to Koh Tao yesterday.
And here I am, reached by a two-hour ferry trip which makes a stop, 30 minutes after leaving the “Big Buddha” pier on the north shore of Koh Samui, at Koh Phangan - possibly recognizable, name-wise, as the island location for the hosting of the “Full Moon Party”. Initially, I believe, this was a once-a-year event however – obviously based on the success and subsequent draw of the event - it would now appear to have taken upon a monthly residence.
However – and, yes, this is probably showing my age (but, one day – trust me - you’ll fully understand!) – judging by the various examples of young, misled, youth falling off the ferry at the Koh Phangan stopover, I probably made a wise decision to have Koh Tao as my final destination! OK, so me and my youthful cohorts might have looked a little odd clambouring off the ferry (back then) in our flares and platform shoes, but at least we had music that one could dance to! If you hail from my generation, it’s far too tempting to view rap music with a “c” prefixing the first of those two words. Ah, bless the young – but they’ll learn.
So, there you have it – again a shining example of what a difference a week can make. By the way, I trust you don’t think I’m “showing off” by being honest about my location: it’s really not too difficult to reach from the UK folks - and not too expensive either - provided you can get in at least a month ahead of time to book your Bangkok return flight. Will this be a life-changing break? Well, it will definitely be a bank-balance changing break. This week’s track (at which I am proud to say I was present at the recording of!) is indeed appropriate ……
Indeed, I have penned my weekly diary from many diverse corners of the world, over the last ten years (ten years?!) of it’s life – and this week it’s Weston Super-Mare!! To some of my more “distant” readers, I should probably explain that it is a delightful seaside town, in the south-west(ish) part of the UK, about 19 miles south of Bristol (and 123 miles from London).
With Alice having four consecutive days off, over this weekend, we decided to adventure to a region of the UK where I had only ever undertaken a live radio show (“T4 on the Beach”) but never actually resided. Now - I have to caution you - British seaside towns in the month of March are not exactly the most vibrant places on earth: but that was just fine with us.
One of the first things we discovered about Weston Super-Mare – based upon us sighting what is probably the most modern-looking seaside “pier” in the UK – was that the main (old) pier was the subject of a fairly catastrophic fire in 2008 (one of those occurrences that prompts one to question exactly where one was at the time of the incident, being that one recalls nothing about it). There are stark images on various internet sites of the fire damage.
Five years on, the completely gutted, refurbished and re-modeled pier is almost “futuristic”, in it’s nightly neon splendour: not at all in line with the look and character of the “original” piers on show in the likes of Brighton and Hastings. Tradition bull-dozed by progress?
If I was prone to being a little more articulate (than I am) today, I could certainly make some comparisons of the likes of Weston Super-Mare, versus some of the afore-mentioned, iconic, UK seaside towns. Maybe it’s down to the fact that WS-M is not within “striking distance” of London that it does not enjoy the same familiarity as some of the other resorts.
On the “holiday” theme, may we take this opportunity to thoroughly recommend “The Parasol” guesthouse, on Wallsicote Road in Weston Super-Mare (should you find yourself compelled to race down there, the minute you have finished digesting this week’s entry) - as the hospitality on offer was most impressive. Convenient location; comfortable bed, great breakfast (including the availability of veggie sausages!). Bigger hotels should take note.
Switching subjects slightly here, I should tell you that I’m disappearing off to Qatar next week for around ten days, to spend some time out there, with my friend Russell Mason, as we continue to gently persist in persuading the Qatar Football Association to “bring us into the fold” to assist them with managing specific, football-orientated, events and presentations.
Well - I can’t go on doing what I am doing forever (that being the touring side of things) therefore I have to stay increasingly vigilant to the possibility of other event-related opportunities. It’s no secret that football is my first love, however it’s a costly “hobby” and – as yet – cannot be allowed to eclipse my main work: as always, once in a while, it’s an enjoyable diversion but I know I need to stay focused on the main chance. That sentiment dovetails nicely into this week’s choice of track, which features the Canadian band “Bachman Turner Overdrive” appropriately titled “Taking Care of Business”. Take it away, boys ………
Aye – and it’s good to be home, is it not? Safer than staying in Dublin for St Patrick’s Day!!
Especially after they also triumphed with landing the “Six Nations” trophy in the rugby – Dublin must have must have been one crazy city on Saturday night (and Sunday “morning”)!
I flew out of Dublin (having finished Shane Filan’s tour, off the back of a three-night stint at the Olympia Theatre there) just after midday yesterday, into Heathrow – and then onwards home to Dunbar via train, finally crossing over my doorstep at around 11.15 pm last night.
This past week has been spent in Ireland: we played the second of our two consecutive shows in Belfast on Monday night past (10th), after which we travelled directly to Dublin – in preparation for the three shows there, on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday as mentioned above.
Sure, there is still a fair amount of cosmetic work to be done on the house: however, it is certainly more than “livable” at the moment. The impetuous, OCD, side of me just wants to crack on and bring the house up to spec, in the shortest time possible. However – surprisingly – there is a newer part of me that’s learned not to concern myself too much with what needs done back home, when I’m out on the road. It’s not as if the house is in a poor state of repair (unlike the former property, when I purchased it in 2005) – and it’s only twelve years old.
I’ve decided to (bravely) take another two weeks off and head for sunnier climes: I can’t exactly put my finger on it for you guys, but there is a slightly nagging feeling that I am approaching a fairly important juncture in my life, when I have to make a serious decision as regards the balance between work time and personal time. It is rare that I ever turned down work in the past, however I foresee a slight reverse in that view, come the onset of 2015, by which time I will hopefully have gone some way to correctly attaining the said balance.
During the time that I am away (a couple of weeks from now) I shall hopefully be able to report back to you in a far more articulate manner than I am managing to do this evening! There are a myriad of thoughts running a relay-race around my head at this time, that I intend to file into some form of order, over the coming weeks, as I sense a sea-change approaching in relation to how I anticipate the next few years will successfully (?) pan out.
Yes, money isn’t everything: however esoteric daydreaming does not accomplish payment of the household bills or magically pour fuel into the car (and, in my case, the old Jag can drink it for Scotland), therefore I’m a good ways off yet, being able to consider “the life of Riley”.
As I sit here in my cool little office in the house, with Billie Holliday playing on the stereo, I’m prone to wonder just what I actually need to get by in this life – because things seem fairly complete for me at this very moment. I’ll try and fathom the answer for you by this time next week. In the meantime, I do believe that our friend Sue should be the subject of this week’s chosen track, being that she is once again her own woman. Therefore the appropriate choice of song must indeed be “Alright Now” by Free (I’ll explain one day). BFN.
Good evening from a wet and windy Belfast, where Shane is appearing at the Waterfront Hall.
Because we have two shows at this lovely venue – and there’s only so much of the accounts that I can prepare on the first of the two consecutive nights - I’m actually making a start to this week’s diary entry, during my dinner break: a case of blogging and biscuits and cheese.
Tonight sees our fourteenth show (from a total of eighteen) on the tour: another one here tomorrow night, as already mentioned, then three shows in Dublin to complete the tour. I would have been quite happy to continue with further shows, however Shane has achieved over 90% of average sell-out on this first tour, which constitutes a raging success.
Tonight’s show is promoted by Peter Aiken, a long time acquaintance of mine, in the concert touring business – and a very successful Irish promoter within his own right - with whom I’ve done many shows, spread over a wide variety of acts, for over twenty years now. He and I will undoubtedly spend a fair part of tomorrow afternoon trying to put the music world to rights. I’ve long had a fondness for Ireland, which stretches way back to my early days, on the club circuit in both the north and south of the country, with the “Bay City Rollers”, a band who enjoyed major touring success over here, long before it came to them in the UK.
You know, I just paused to think of those times – almost forty years ago – for a few minutes there. How, as I increasingly ponder nowadays, have I managed to keep going since then? Countless countries; eight passports; thousand of early mornings; weeks – and months at times – spent away from home; children growing up too quickly. I’m breathing deeply now.
Once this tour is finished – and because the next project is possibly three weeks away (more on that one, when I’m in a position to make it public) - I feel the need to step off the treadmill for a few weeks and re-locate myself to a far off place – with suitable weather – to slow to a stop and think about my immediate – and not so immediate - future. Deep, huh?
Well, I took a short break from the diary entry there – a Tour Accountant must account, you know - and that I have done over the last couple of hours. When one has consecutive shows, the final accounting is not undertaken until the last night in “the run”, in this case tomorrow evening – after which we are leaving directly for Dublin, for Tuesday morning’s load-in, there.
As previously mentioned, this has been a most enjoyable little tour however, if I’m to strike while the iron is hot, I need to jump onto something of two or three months length - just to give me that financial “head of steam” to which I have often referred in these pages. I’m confident of being around for a good few years yet, however I become less “employable” as time goes on. Hence the reason I have to throw myself, currently, into whatever work I can.
As this week’s entry draws to a close, I want to share with you a track that – for some inexplicable reason – can lift me from (almost) the darkest of moods – although I’m in good sprits tonight: we all have one or two songs that do likewise for us. Over to Mr. Elton John …
03.21 am: what significance do you think that time may hold, during this week’s diary entry?
Well, oh loyal readers, that was the time I arrived into Cardiff this morning, bleary-eyed, in Alamo Car Rental’s finest Fiat “Panda” after leaving last night’s (Saturday’s) show at Blackpool’s Opera House: I may have explained that, as a result of us being a bunk short on the Shane Filan crew bus, I bravely volunteered to “self-drive” throughout this UK tour.
I would, however, be misleading you somewhat if I didn’t admit to wondering about the sense of such a decision, especially at 03.21 am this morning. Still it’s done and – last night’s trip apart – there’s only one other “killer” journey to make, that being Nottingham to Bournemouth on Monday night coming. The other trips have all averaged under three hours.
So, it’s been a fairly busy week, gigging-wise, since I last “spoke” with you – six shows in seven days to be precise. A quick run-down is as follows: Manchester Bridgewater Hall on Monday past (27th Feb); Glasgow Concert Hall (Tues); Newcastle City Hall (Weds); York Barbican Theatre (Thurs); Blackpool (last night) and finally Cardiff St David’s Hall tonight.
The “Theatre” touring circuit certainly presents more daily challenges that the “Arena” touring circuit. Sure, arenas demand bigger productions – but there are bigger spaces to accommodate said productions, and far more people around to help our crew stage the show. However, particularly where many of the US arena venues are concerned especially if touring during the winter where you can find yourself falling off and on the tourbus in complete darkness. Unless a memorable incident lingers, one gig just melts into the other.
One more week left on the UK sector of Shane’s tour, then we are off to Ireland for five shows (two Belfast and three Dublin), the week after next – and they’re all sold to the wall. This has been a most enjoyable outing: two trucks and two buses and under thirty touring personnel. I’ve dealt with ten times this amount of vehicles and people, on large stadium tours in the past and – while it impressively beefs up one’s CV – I honestly could not claim that such tours were any more “enjoyable” than the one I’m on right now. One doesn’t need to keep proving one’s ability to deal with the Big Rock Show: one has to be (ultimately) happy.
What’s next – touring wise - after Shane Filan, you may be prone to enquire? Well, folks, you know I have to play my cards fairly close to my chest, until I can “go public” on what my next project might be. There’s a definite couple of irons in the fire right now – and one or two of them may prove just as enjoyable as what I’m doing now – so watch this weekly space.
Otherwise, how is my head? Well, again, as this little “blog” is something of an open forum, one can’t unfortunately lay one’s soul bare, with no heed of the possible consequences: but, one day there’s a fair chance I’ll say “to hell with it” and divulge the more distasteful side of this business – but I’m a long way that yet. In this particular vein, let me leave you this week with an iconic Joe Walsh (Joe who?!) track that possibly alludes to some of the less salubrious sides of this business from which I have carved a 40-year career. Tell it, Joe ...
Well, three days into Shane Filan’s tour and we’re 100% sold out to date? Not bad, huh?!
Now Shane being the good man that he is, he would be the first person to hold up his hand to the fact that the tour is not 100% sold-out throughout, however - right now - directly from his Tour Accountant (me), I can tell you that we will surpass 90% of sellout overall.
There’s many an Artist would give their right arm to be able to boast such vibrant business, first time out. From what I have seen so far, based upon Shane’s first three performances – and of course provided the quality of material keeps up the standard of what is on the first album – I can see Shane probably having a sustained and successful touring career.
The mention of travelling to Scunthorpe, in last Sunday’s entry, can now be revealed as the location of Shane’s tour’s production rehearsals, specifically Scunthorpe’s Bath Halls – the subject of a complete refurbishment, a few years back, and now boasting the attention to detail of backstage and dressing room facilities that could embarrass a few arenas I know!
So, to recap: the production rehearsals took place on Wednesday past, 19th, after which – with me travelling on the crew bus (a situation becoming increasingly attractive to me, touring wise, as time goes on) we “over-nighted” to the first show at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, followed on Friday evening by a performance at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall – then last night at the iconic Hexagon Theatre in Reading. Now, I’m in Manchester this evening, with a night off, prior to tomorrow’s fourth show at the Bridgewater Hall.
I have to say it is a very enjoyable little tour: two trucks, two buses – and with a total of only twenty-nine personnel, including said bus and truck drivers. I’ve undertaken many a tour in the past – mainly stadiums in this upcoming example – where the touring entourage has numbered five times that, but I have a sneaking which scenario is more enjoyable to me.
So now, starting with the afore-mentioned show across the road tomorrow (we are currently billeted in Jury’s hotel in Manchester) from the venue, we have ten more shows here in the UK, and then two in Belfast and – finally – two in Dublin. There are many in my business who would argue against the need for a Tour Accountant on the “Theatre Circuit” but, slowly, the detractors are seeing the sense in my methodology ….. slowly.
After this tour, I’m hoping to have an involvement once again in the “Big Reunion” TV project, which I last went out with, prior to Christmas: therefore, at this time, I’m looking to see what I may be able to pick up, work-wise, beyond April. This business of mine is such that the phone can go at any second- and suddenly you find a world tour dumped in your lap.
All in all, it’s great to be back out on the road again, working with a fine bunch of touring professionals and having an involvement with a new touring Artist, at this embryonic stage. So this calls for a relevant track to accompany this week’ diary entry and I have settled for an old “Canned Heat” track, from way back, appropriately titled “On the Road Again”!!
Home, home on the range – where the deer and the antelope play (familiar with that song?).
Well, the first part is correct: I’m certainly home. However, I absolutely do not live on a “range”, rather a comfortable little three bed-roomed house. As far as deer and antelope playing: well, I did spot my first squirrel “playing” in the garden this morning, if that counts?
So yes, I’m back up in Dunbar this pleasant Sunday afternoon (although – honesty being the best policy, as my grandma taught me – I’m actually heading south on Tuesday afternoon, 18th, en-route to Scunthorpe, but I’ll expand upon my “world” travelling, later in this entry).
“What of the past week?” I hear you enquire, perched upon the end of your seat for news.
Well, long-suffering readers, let the tale of the past week’s travels unfold. I believe I left off with you last Sunday evening, having arrived back into the UK off the back of my short Prague trip, but remaining down at Alice’s place, as I was travelling back out to Paris on Tuesday (11th) – and in between times I had to travel to London on Monday for a meeting.
It was indeed a short trip to Paris, arriving into Charles de Gaulle at 4.00 pm on Tuesday afternoon and flying back into London on the last flight the following evening – and, yes, you’ve probably guessed it by now, the trip was football related (but quite inexpensive!).
How I would love it, if I was able to fund such little “scouting” trips on a more regular basis, as it was a very enjoyable outing – not only to be in such a vibrant city as Paris (ensconced in a charming little hotel in the Bois-Colombus, area that I have utilised on several past occasions) but to also meet a small selection of young footballers, of many originating nationalities - but all linked by the common possession of a French passport - who are still chasing the dream. Maybe, one day not too far away, our dreams can be realised in tandem.
Upon my return from Paris, on the afore-mentioned last flight on Wednesday night, Alice was reliably waiting at our usual rendezvous point on Terminal 5’s departures level, in the “Ka-Mobile”, with the engine running. Off I was whisked homeward, with much to relay.
Being the romantic old fool that I am, I elected to hang back in England for a couple of days, to enable me to treat young Alice to Valentine’s dinner at a local Woking hostelry. Can’t understand why she had a problem with me splitting out the bill evenly, when it arrived after the meal: sorry ….. but my eloquent, informative, company comes at a premium price!
On Saturday morning I was on my way back north, with much to do at the house – and the imminent arrival of my sister, who is visiting for a few weeks, from Canada. By the way, I omitted to mention that on Thursday past (13th), I made a further day trip into London to meet up with a few business people, and with Alice in tow – as she was enjoying the day off work. In “commemoration” of several rail journeys this past week I leave you with the iconic Doobie Brother’s track, “Long Train Running” – from a man who has made many a train trip!!
A warm welcome from the departure lounge at Prague International Airport, homeward bound to London Heathrow – and thence onward to Edinburgh on this evening’s last flight.
I arrived out here early Friday morning past (7th), having departed Heathrow at the entirely unsociable time of 07.20 am, to undertake a “double-header” event with Paul Potts: on Friday evening we attended the Czech Premiere of the film of Paul’s life “One Chance” and then the following night (last night) Paul was a special guest – singing three songs – at the annual, prestigious, “Prague Ball”. So it has, indeed, been something of a whirlwind weekend.
It’s now almost a month, to the day, since I returned from holiday to make a serious start to the organization of my new-found house in Dunbar: and I’m very satisfied with what has been achieved during that time, albeit with the trusty assistance of both Alice and Jade. Sure, there are several small jobs to complete and the typical, ongoing, household maintenance to be prepared for, however – domestically - I’m at the stage where I am all set up (mainly office wise) to be able to efficiently work on any touring project that may now transpire. The next household challenge is the lighting fixtures. Lighting is everything.
On the subject of work, I should be in a position, next week, to divulge what is next for me. My personal nerve and discipline have been tested these last few weeks, in respect of not actively seeking work – and thereby utilising my “free” time to guide myself towards a level of business organisation that I have been yearning for, over the last couple of years. I’m not out of the water yet, where that aim is concerned - but the shoreline is clearly in sight!
Let’s be honest here: any personal financial pressure is bound to lessen, when one reaches mortgage-free status. Like most of us, there’s a financial goal that I have in my mind, that I wish to attain, at which point I will definitely take my foot of the gas. However, to reach that point will take 15 – 17 months of solid work, so it could be accomplished in a frantic eighteen month period or it could be reached within three years, working only half the time.
Unfortunately (if that’s the right word here) I’m not in a commanding enough position - right now anyway - to dictate which of the two scenarios I pursue: how the work comes at me, will be the arbiter of that. Ideally, if I had the choice? One would have to say that – based upon the fact that I’m not getting any younger, there’s a strong argument for going at it “hell for leather” (where did that phrase come from?) subsequently still being active enough to enjoy the free time I’ve earned myself, from then onwards. I don’t think I will ever want to walk away from work, however it would (then) be good to pick and choose.
So, there you go, loyal readers of the weekly diary: I continue, in this year of 2014, to map something of a transitional course, but thankfully not too far (I believe) from plotting the correct direction of travel. Over the next week I need to rid myself of a couple of niggling little health issues (minor tendonitis complaint and an aggravated sciatic nerve in my left leg) for which I have sensibly procured medication: then it’s all systems “Go” again on a forward trajectory - towards planet Jake before it has a chance to alter it’s orbit! BFN. XX
Well, if the truth be known, Tuesday the 4th February, 6.15 pm on a London-bound train.
You would have to admit (would you not?) – that I was doing OK there for a while, having penned, probably, the last four weekly entries in a timely fashion. Why the delay this week?
Well, I can tell what took up a fair part of Sunday – and it was indeed a painful experience.
Now, if you don’t have even a passing interest in football in the UK (or any interest at all) what I’m about to relate to you may not come across as terribly cohesive, but – as we have shared the good times together – you must lend me your sympathetic ears at this bad time!
So: the football team I have supported since I was a boy (a man is more likely to change his wife before his football team), namely Heart of Midlothian, affectionately known as “Hearts”, have been struggling exceptionally this current football season - hampered by a fifteen point deduction, as a result of severe financial wrong-doings and subsequent bankruptcy, in April of last year. They weren’t the first – and certainly won’t be the last.
So, with the above albatross weighing heavily around their neck – hardly helped by most of the senior professional players being paid off at the end of last season, off the back of the afore-mentioned bankruptcy – it’s a wonder we reached the semi-final of a cup competition.
But we did: Sunday lunchtime found me attending the Scottish League Cup semi-final, Hearts versus Inverness Caledonian Thistle, at the “neutral” stadium of Easter Road, the usual home of Hearts city rivals, Hibernian (“Hibs”). Could we pull off a shock result? Well, a fairly lackluster first half (45 minutes), where Hearts had their goalkeeper Jamie McDonald to thank for keeping the score at 0 – 0, gave no indication of what was to develop in the second half, namely that Hearts came at the game with renewed vigour and – even though Inverness were first to score - Hearts were not long in equalizing. Hearts then went one better and took the lead at 2- 1, late in the second half, prior to which Inverness had a player “red-carded” (sent off for the rest of the game). Eleven against ten, in our favour!
However, wouldn’t you believe it, Inverness pull back a goal in the 3rd minute of “injury” time, as there had previously been a five minute delay while Heart’s Sam Nicholson was stretchered from the field, with a rib injury. In cup games such as this, when both teams are level at the end of the game, another fifteen minutes, “each way” are additionally played, followed by five penalty kicks each, if the game is still “drawn” after that. Now, in spite of Inverness having another player sent off (now eleven against nine!) Hearts were unable to capitalise on that serious advantage – and then lost 4 – 2 in the “penalty shootout”!
It’s Heart’s core fans that I feel particular sympathy for, as the majority of them banded together earlier in the season and coughed up the money to keep the club alive. Anyway, I’ve just realised that I’ve used up the whole of this week’s entry, to share my pain with you! In more ways than one, I want to (hopefully) assure you that this will never happen again (!!). X
Let the record show that I made a start to this week’s entry at 10.35 pm tonight (Sunday).
This last week I’ve continued to organise the new house, while spending a little time wandering around Dunbar, to further familiarise myself with my new surroundings, in this old fishing town. I intend to put a complete day aside to totally explore the harbour and it’s neighbouring old castle and outbuildings in conjunction with reading up on the town’ history.
Now that Alice has re-worked her company rotas, at her place of work, down old Guildford way, she’s managed to find two consecutive days off, each week. Hence, after her work on Wednesday past (22nd) she caught a late evening flight up to Edinburgh, arriving 10.35 pm. This meant that she could spend both Thursday and Friday up here, giving me some invaluable help to make a start to the required furniture shopping and other myriad chores.
Clutching our “required furniture” list – with all relevant measurements – we headed on into Edinburgh at midday Thursday, to do the rounds of the various applicable stores, first stop Ikea (where I had a small fresh lunchtime salad, in their café, for the princely sum of £1.50!). Overall, Ikea is one slick, together, operation, that fully deserves its success.
We managed to source a fair amount of the items we were after, not just in Ikea, but also in a couple of the city’s (Edinburgh’s) other notable furniture stores. In another development on the furniture front, we managed to source a cracking old pine bed – for the spare room, courtesy of “Gumtree”. The Gumtree success story was repeated when I managed to locate an office desk, at half it’s normal retail price, from a seller in Edinburgh.
In fact, the first part of today was spent assembled said desk, along with an accompanying office chair (from “Staples”), in addition to making a start to loading up all the office shelving system with a load of books, files, magazines – and various other reference items. The “office” is now so close to being a comfortable working environment that I’ve moved my laptop out of the kitchen – at long last – along with the various papers and files that were strewn all over the kitchen table. I definitely now start to believe I’m getting somewhere.
This upcoming week is my long-lost opportunity to undertake a serious “edit”, on all things office orientated; it’s long overdue and the reasonably tight space constraints in this new house deem it a necessity. So I’m geared up and ready to go at it from tomorrow morning.
On the work front, I continue to take a brave stance towards not proactively sourcing any new jobs until my move-in has been all but completed. It’s at the stage now that if I don’t finish all that stuff within the next couple of weeks, then it may never get done.
However, as I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I’m acclimatising surprisingly very easily to this new chapter of my life, with all sorts of thought processes buzzing around in my head. In recognition of that, this week’s (appropriate?) track is an Al Green song called “So Good to be Here”. The “Reverend” Al Green has recorded some great songs in his time! BFN.
Well, there goes my first full week in the new house – and all is going exceedingly well.
Now, I’ll admit: I’m not as technically close to the water here (the Firth of Forth estuary, to be precise) as I was in Seaford - with the expanse of the English Channel literally over the road. However, in driving into the centre of town today, I could clearly observe the waves of the estuary crashing onto the Dunbar sands. I would say that I am probably – in a straight line – only about 1200 yards (1000 metres) from dipping my toe in that water, the main comparison with Seaford being that I can’t see said water from my Dunbar property.
There’s a lot to take in, with this new chapter in my life and – amongst the myriad of tasks generated by a “cross-border” housemove – I’m having to exercise a fair whack of discipline to try and alleviate the domestic stuff: to hopefully clear some creative space in my head, My daughter Jade came down last night (Saturday) and – although she was gone again early this morning, we managed to plough through a fair bit of house/garage re-organisation. Her presence here poignantly reminded me of one of the main reasons for wanting to re-locate back North of the Border: to at least have her “within reach” during any downtime periods.
Yesterday I attended the Dunfermline v Airdrie first division football game, with a young Norwegian player that I have based in Edinburgh at the moment. It’s interesting to note that – while on the one hand I am chasing a particular player to settle an accommodation account that he left unpaid at Motherwell Football Club – Sven (the Norwegian lad) has “paid his way” entirely, which has included a four week stay - and two sets of return flights, during his time here. If ambition were football, this lad would be playing for Glasgow Celtic.
On the work front, I have a short trip to Prague to undertake, at the beginning of February with Paul Potts, but, that apart, I have (very bravely?) not gone in search of any other work. There is a measure of method in my madness, as I realise I’ve never had a better opportunity to put my life back in complete order: I also firmly believe that if I can get to that point, then – with the majority of the clutter dispensed with – I can start to think with a clear head. Conversely, if the road comes calling, all of the above comes to a severe halt!
So you can grasp an idea of my dilemma, yes? Much as though I am mortgage free now – I am far from the point where I need not pay attention to employment opportunities: however, with my monthly overhead now drastically reduced, I can certainly afford to concentrate on (literally) putting my own house in order – which has been a long time coming.
In summary, my head continues to find itself in an attractively relaxed place, as I warm to my new surroundings – and the onset of this has served to keep my moods on the up-and-up. Having said that, I’m still about 8 – 10 items of furniture short, but I’m determined not to emulate my past approaches to such situations (i.e. just running out to a bunch of shops and feverishly buying up what I need). To that end, Alice will make a visit from the South of England this coming week to apply a steadying hand to the tiller – and offer a trusted second opinion as to any anticipated purchase. To that end, how about this for a track …….
Let’s commence this week’s diary entry with a confession – let the truth be known ….
Over the ten day period, 30th December through 10th January (Friday past), Alice and I actually managed to find a rather attractive last-minute holiday deal – albeit to Phuket in Thailand, and albeit with 8-hour layover connections either way, in Abu Dhabi! Hence the reason such a good deal was on offer. We only booked it at twenty-four hours notice.
You may recall that I have a certain fondness for Thailand. In this particular case, with such frenetic goings-on in the last year – including trying to land a property to buy – I just needed to be guaranteed some warm weather and the opportunity to completely chill.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t own up to my whereabouts, dear readers. As you know, in this viral/social media world which we now inhabit, one cannot be too careful when one is not at home for an extended period. This situation will not be so prevalent in the future as A) a fairly comprehensive alarm system will be fitted to the new house next week and B) my daughter will now be spending a good few nights here in Dunbar (a good part of the reason that I decided to move back this way) both when I am here and when I am away. This now allows the property a level of security that I wasn’t able to provide, those past two weeks.
As always, when I visit Thailand, I am struck by the resilience and fortitude of the majority of the country’s people – who endure a standard of living that most of us Westerners would run a mile from: and, for the most part, the Thai people accept it all with impressive grace.
What was immediately apparent, in the three years since we were last in Thailand, is the considerable influx of Russian tourists into the area. Quite apart from their “recently” acquired nouveau-riche status, it would also appear that the entry-visa processes to allow Russian citizens to enter Thailand have now been significantly relaxed. Sadly – and this has been our experience in Vietnam as well – the Russian people appear not to be the most courteous nation on the planet. I intend to conduct a little research into the subject!
This Sunday evening sees me spending my second night back at the new house where, yesterday, I allocated a couple of hours of the day to drawing up a schedule of tasks, grouped under three prioritized headings of “Health”, “House” and “Work”, as predicted in last week’s diary entry. I seriously reckon it will take me a month to wade through all that needs to be done to “clear the decks” in my personal and domestic life. However, there is no more ideal time to make a start to what needs to be done: I owe it myself to get sorted out.
On first viewing, there is much work to wade through, but I just feel that - as I proceed to clear my feet - I will also in turn be clearing my head. For the sake of a few weeks (the quietest time of the touring year, anyway), I have a clear opportunity to return my personal life to a level of order that it has not experienced for many years. In recognition of the afore-mentioned, my track to accompany this week’s entry is the Simply Red song “Holding Back The Years” as I feel myself, currently, at a very pivotal stage in my life. Love y’all!
Can’t start this week’s entry without wishing all of my readers a prosperous 2014!
2014: the first year in the previous sixty-one (going on sixty-two) that I have entered, mortgage free. Now, I know I’ve been inclined to bang on about this a few times over the last couple of years: however, to a guy that didn’t have the train fare into town, and was “maxed out” on three credit cards, “only” fifteen years ago, it’s indeed a major milestone.
The year ahead, therefore, must become one of consolidation – and some careful planning. The way I feel right now, I could go on forever, work-wise. I am however very aware that I am in something of a “young” business and time, to some degree, is counting against me.
These past few days, being part of the quietest period in the annual concert-touring calendar, have allowed me to gather my thoughts in a more relaxed fashion, than in many previous years: in the somewhat advantageous position that I now find myself – as noted above – 2014 has to become the year of the smart decision. Towards that end I’m working.
To be honest, I’m not over-concerned (now) in regards to my earning capabilities over the coming few years – it’s the years beyond that. My father managed to live until his 78th year and – I’m sure he would be the first to agree with this! – didn’t look after himself particularly well: so, figuring that surely I can make it to around that point, on this mortal coil, how am I going to keep myself gainfully involved with some occupation, until then?
The balancing act here is to keep myself busy with my core business of concert touring, but not to such an intensity that there is no breathing space available to look – and plan – ahead. As I’ve mentioned, on many previous occasions (a habit of mine – I’m working on that as well!), frantic, sixteen-hour, days on the road leave little clear thinking space other than that required for the “fire-fighting” processes that one is involved with, on a daily basis. Hence the reason that the next few weeks – during which time I’m easing myself into my new domestic situation – are crucial to initiate the framework for said forward planning.
Essentially, I’ve ordered what has to be done under three main headings (in prioritised order): Health then Work then Home. Naturally, each of those three headings has to be carefully sub-divided – and accordingly prioritised - but I’ve made a start to that already. As always, the science is to stick with the plan. However, now that I’m settled in – domestic wise – I’m in a better position that I have been in, for many years, to take the successful organization of my private life to the next level: and then onwards from there.
In (almost) closing, I have a confession to make next Sunday, at the time of that day’s diary entry: I know you’ll understand the reasons for it, particularly as regular readers of this now-gargantuan volume of literary accomplishment. One day, I look forward to sharing with you all my true thoughts and concerns: however, as several of those might have a detrimental influence upon my earning power in this business, they will – I’m afraid – have to wait. Everything else I will always share with you, as it happens. Are you still with me?! BFN.
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