Today, indeed, is an occasion for serious and somber reflection - being 100 years since the cessation of the First World War. Coincidentally enough, today also finds me on the island of Malta which - although the subject of serious wartime bombardment (far more so in the Second World, than in the First) – yesterday remembered, and paid, its respects accordingly.
You could be forgiven for wondering why the ceremony did not take place today, Sunday, however there actually was a ceremony taking place today – specifically, the annual commemoration of Remembrance Day. As a result of this particular year coinciding with the year, 100 years ago, when the Armistice was occasioned at the end of the First World War, the local authorities decided to hold the (differing) commemorations on consecutive days.
It was only by coincidence that Alice and I – having made the short ferry ride over to Valletta, from the suburb of Gzira, to go check out the Palace grounds, amongst other areas of interest, that we luckily happened upon the “100 years” ceremony, with only two of the eight canon having been fired, before we arrived! There were several older gentlemen attending that particular ceremony who were very heavily “decorated”, from RAF and naval backgrounds.
To know what many of those war veterans know (and must have witnessed) is a cause for sobering reflection alone. On making our way back down towards the ferry terminal, maybe 30 – 40 minutes after the event, Alice and I “crossed paths” with a very smart older gentleman, adorned with an impressive collection of ribbons and medals, gingerly making his way down the hill towards the center of Valletta town, shouldering his own, distant, thoughts.
Of course, ex-servicemen such as the gentleman mentioned were veterans of the second world war only, however they must have a better idea than most as to what their First World War “colleagues” had to contend with – albeit the latter dealing with serious “trench-warfare”. It absolutely beggars belief that over half a million soldiers lost their lives in the First World War, fighting only to protect their country and their families but – by doing so – were never able to spend any further time with their loved ones. The sense of tragedy is overwhelming.
I find it a little sad that the children of my generation know so little of the events of both World Wars, when the human sacrifice was immense - and the suffering so unimaginable: and yet, following the First World War, the British pubic somehow got themselves back on track.
On thinking about it, there must have been many occurrences whereby a young family lost their father to the First World War, only to then have to endure the further loss of one or more sons, from the same family, during the 1939 – 1945 war. Again, impossible to fathom.
On a brighter note, I have thoroughly enjoyed this last week spent in Malta: so much history and so much of interest to see, on this relatively small island. I will certainly be back again.
Tomorrow I head over to Cyprus to spend ten days in the “care of Alice”, prior to us heading off on holiday, in late November, to a fairly distant land. Cyprus has become something of my second home, over the past two years and (with that in mind) this week’s accompanying comes in the form of Slade’s “Take Me Bak ‘Ome”. Check out the video of this song on YouTube! XX
Sunday 4th November 2018
I’m sat here (in Malta – but more about that later) reeling at the fact my daughter has her 29th birthday today! Not even sure if I can find the way to articulate how I feel right now. Of course, I am eternally grateful that Jade is healthy and happy: however, on a personal note, I’ve probably spent more time away from her – than I have in her company, obviously as a direct result of the extensive travel that goes hand-in-hand with my life’s “chosen” vocation.
The above is not helped by the fact that Jade is now living & working in Vietnam – with Bradley located in the furthest point east in Australia! What was wrong with York and Newcastle? Am I indirectly responsible for both of their sets of itchy feet? Have I “double snookered” myself, so to speak? Well, I’m in no position to go back and reverse the situation now, damn.
Save me descending into the lower reaches of melancholy, I shall quickly return to the subject of Malta, where I arrived yesterday (from Paris). Not to sound boastful by any means – as my regular readers will know is not the case (right?!) – but there’s not too many “civilized” countries where I have not managed to set foot, over the course of the last forty-five years.
I may not yet be able to impart any conclusive first impressions of Malta for you, having only been on the island for just under 24 hours. This inability to crystalize any initial views of the place has not been aided by having – for the time being – put my music business interests on the back-burner and my football interests somewhere between the front and back-burners.
The above I know – in my heart of hearts – to be an advantageous situation, personally, in that I can sit back off any physical involvement in them both (for the time being, keeping in mind that I’m aware I have a definite involvement with Olly Murs and Little Mix, next year) as – if this term correctly sums it up – I have created a geographical distance from both projects. Both lines of work are enjoyable, however both lines of work come with their frustrations – and that is probably a “generalism”, that 75% of the country’s workforce could lay claim to.
The last two days in Paris didn’t quite work out as I had planned, being that three (from seven) of our intended meetings were called off at short notice, for a variety of (debatable) reasons. The football business encompasses an inescapable smattering of unreliability: much as that definitely “goes against the grain”, professionally with me, I’ve had to succumb to its presence over the many – and painstaking – years that I have been involved with young footballers. It is less those lads themselves – and more the people that surround them – that are at fault.
More so than ever, the character and mentality (allied to impressive ability, of course) of prospective young players – being pitched headlong into the cauldron of Scottish football – is key to their progression: if their heads can’t “handle it”, then they’re not going to make it. Having come away from the recent two days of Paris meetings – relating solely to the football side of things – I now realise the importance of meeting the players personally, even if that means before seeing them take part in any Paris trial games. It’s as “much head as it is feet”.
I hope to share further insight with you next week, having enjoyed a relaxing week out here in Malta – until Alice arrives here next Friday, and all hell breaks loose. With that in mind, I leave you with an appropriately titled track – John Fogerty’s “Almost Saturday Night”! XX
Sunday 28th October 2018
This Sunday afternoon ranks as a “first”, in terms of locations where I’ve penned my Diary.
Before you shift forward in your seat, beside yourself with salivary anticipation - imagining me in some bleak global outpost (Scunthorpe?!) - let me immediately assist you in reigning in your boundless imagination: it’s only Berwick-upon-Tweed, a mile over the Scottish border.
And why and wherefore? The answer will unfold as nothing more elaborate than the fact that I have brought a young (French, of course) central defender to play in a trial game for the Scottish League Two side, Berwick Rangers – who, as we now know are actually located in England. If you partake in the occasional football quiz then, from time to time, that question is bound to raise it’s head. On the subject of Berwick-upon-Tweed (and purely by co-incidence lately) I did take part in a “general knowledge” quiz recently, where one of the questions was:
“which English town was at war with Berwick-upon-Tweed for 169 years, a “conflict’ that only ended in 1966?”. Russia was the answer! However that definitely needs a Google follow-up!
Going back to such trial games as today, where the player (Souleymane “Souley” Diakite) is doing his best to win a short-term deal through until January of next year – due to his current Amateur status – young lads such as Souley are given very little “time” to show their quality.
Fast forward four hours – and it has been a tough test for a central defender on trial, when your team loses the game 0-5. I’m just awaiting Souley coming out for the changing rooms, with the game having finished five minutes ago. When I recently hired a car for the past seven days, I was fortunate enough to receive an upgrade to a Volkswagen Teagan SUV – meaning I have the availability to push the seat back far enough to allow space for my laptop!
I am convinced this lad has untapped potential - however he has to adapt to the “rough & tumble” of Scottish football, certainly down at the level of Scottish Leagues One & Two. Of course, the small clubs (such as the afore-mentioned) cannot – literally – afford to give players time to adapt to the Scottish game, added to which football coaches have understandable concerns about any lack of communication in the team’s defence having “fatal” consequences.
I’m heading out of town for around ten days, next week, to somewhere I’ve fancied visiting for a while: the island of Malta. This comes at a most opportune time, as – within the next three days – I will most certainly draw a line under my footballing activity for the remainder of this year. There will be a few post-breakfast mornings spent on my wee hotel balcony out in St Julian’s Bay, taking stock of my activities of the last two months – and my bank balance!
It is most fitting that I’m due to leave these shores for a while, on November 1st: this should represent something of a “template” for the years to come, in terms of periods when I would be planning to out of the country, for a month or two – depending upon whether I want to be back home for Christmas or not. In an ideal world, I would return to the UK in mid-December in preparation for the festive period - then head back out the country again on 1st February.
Let the (long-term) planning begin: it’s been a long time coming. As far as an appropriate song is concerned this week, I wonder if I can get away with Bonnie Raitt’s “Dimming of the Day”?
Sunday 21st October 2018
You’re possibly thinking (anticipating) that my opening gambit will be something along the lines of “you find me this fine Dunbar evening, sat in our local Garden Centre Café, intent on composing some riveting, contentious, content – as I have been (occasionally) known to do”.
Well, the more observant of my legions of besotted followers (all of you, of course!) may already have noted that – as common as the location of the local Garden Centre has been to several of my past entries – I generally do not “compose” from said location, in the evening.
Quite correct! Specifically, as dusk descends outside (at only 6.45 pm – boo!) I am but 300 meters form the afore -mentioned, horticultural, location - just the other side of our local “ASDA” supermarket – now surrounded by hyper children. Yes, I am holed up in McDonalds!
This evening I am happy (nay, “relieved”) to inform all and sundry that – having completed my accounts for 2018, as far as I can go - this only being mid-October) – I am more personally organized than I have been for as long as I can remember. Naturally, there’s a very tenuous connection between this development and the fact that A) my next touring project is a good few months off (and finally the “clear-up” process on Little Mix is complete) and B) any activity relating to the football side of my business will go no further than 31st October – and next year I’ve deduced that the “termination” of my football involvement will be September!
On the subject of football, my years of over-spending on such a (back then) wayward passion, are definitely behind me. These last few weeks I have pinned my hopes – and much less than I was prone to spend before – on a young nineteen year old French defender, who goes by the name of Souleymane “Souley” Diakite. In fact, his twentieth birthday falls next month and - while he is a fair way off “the finished article” – I’m convinced this lad can progress fairly quickly: he only needs time, and I only need time to find a club that will give him that time.
Should “Souley” prove me right- even if it takes a couple of years to reach that point - then (looking ahead on the commercial side of things – because it be a welcome outcome if I were able to “turn a few quid” on a future deal) I stand to hold on to the majority of what commission would be paid, as his “sole” representative. This, because Souley came to me via another player whom I’ve helped in the past - rather than the usual recommendation from a continental football agent. Had the latter been the case, then I would have – of course – been obliged to split any total earnings, relating to a future “move” by the player, on a 50/50 basis.
However, as I have been known to proclaim on several past occasions - when the subject of discussion has been those very 50/50 deals: “50% of something adds up to way more than 100% of nothing”. It’s a while since I have made any real money out of my football involvement and I sincerely hope that does not incur within me, any great measure of retrospective grief.
The football is nevertheless an interest I “infinitely” continue with, as my “over-qualification” in the music business points to a steady decline in the amount of work I will be offered, going forward. On the flip side of that coin, I now enjoy significant tranches of “me time” – and on that closing thought I will now tunnel through my musical memories to unearth this week’s accompanying track. Resultingly (good word, eh?), step forward Bob Dylan with “It’s All Good”!
Sunday 14th October 2018
You find me today in the rare position of having no real current/ongoing outstanding music or football business projects on the go. A rare sensation indeed: it’s been a long way coming.
To be a little more precise, it would appear that my next music business project is the Olly Murs UK arena tour in spring of next year. Sure, there’s a couple of “interesting” possibilities prior to that, but nothing that I’m going to be chasing. When I’m in touring mode (evidenced by many a Diary entry from the annals) I have precious little “me” time. My personal life is put on hold: however that’s – literally – compensated by my bank balance heading upwards.
What am I saying here? I’m saying that – apart from a very privileged few – it’s rare that you can have it “both ways” in this life (particularly, in the example of the line of work that I am in, if you want to be in the upper income bracket). Thankfully, having applied my “nose to the grindstone” over the last four decades – nevertheless, while along the way “blowing” substantial tranches of that hard-earned income – I am finally in a position to take my foot of the gas; to freewheel down the hill and see just how long I can coast. Doing alright so far.
Comes back to the same old thing though, does it not? How long am I going to be here (probably only those of 60+ years can empathise with that outlook) – and, subsequently, can I enjoy a reasonable standard of living during that time? Where’s the person with that answer?
Over the last few weeks (and, again, this harks back to the age group that I am in) I’ve made encouraging – for me anyway – progress in the quest to “convert” my house to a home. You’d be surprised – or maybe you wouldn’t be - as to the different re-colouring two “feature” walls can make to one’s domestic environment: one in the lounge and one in the breakfasting kitchen. Next up – and I’m in the right place to accomplish this task, as I’m once again penning my Diary entry from the local Garden Centre in Dunbar – will be a couple of evergreen, artificial, plants (is that a contradiction in terms?) especially to highlight the “melon sorbet” in the kitchen.
After that, the domestic thought processes will turn to the possible need of a carpet, rather than the present faux wood flooring, in the main lounge (I don’t know why I said “main” – as there’s only one lounge folks, trust me) with the intention of warming up that room a little. Once that task is accomplished, I’m convinced it’s just down to the placement of lighting. One of my tasks this coming week – now that I am in a position to concentrate more on the domestic side of my life – is to arm myself with a few handfuls of various “wattages” of domestic light bulbs and undertake some experimentation with mood and ambience in the downstairs rooms.
I also have to deal with the situation whereby I have many prints and framed awards still gathering dust in the garage, when they should at least be on view somewhere in the house.
Finally, to confess that - in believing my TV signal was connected to a roof-space aerial - I had the rusty old satellite dish removed from the side of the house and – guess what? – (you know what’s coming here) it was actually the dish that was “connected” to the main TV system! Resigned now to watching DVD’s until I rectify that situation, I happened to select the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Jamie Lee Curtis movie “True Lies” and – of course - who cannot recollect the scene in that movie that spawns this week’s accompanying track by John Hiatt ……. XX
Sunday 7th October 2018
Tonight I’m in the kitchen, doing what I do best (definitely not cooking) – “Kitchen Up”.
I only returned to the house early this evening, having taken in a dreadful “friendly” football game this afternoon: “dreadful” refers only to the weather, specifically “sheeting”/driving rain, throughout the ninety minutes – which represented a real stern test (and an introduction to the vagaries of the Scottish weather!) for my two players who featured in the game today.
Even after driving back ninety minutes from where the game was staged (in Falkirk, approximately half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow) my jeans were still sodden – my raincoat is hanging over the bath, “dripping away”. The only item of clothing that escaped the rain was my underwear, as my shirt and t-shirt both exhibited damp stains when removed.
I’m not really sure how many more of these “weather-beaten” games I can attend. Having said that, if my players are willing to endure such energy-sapping conditions, then I am (almost) duty-bound to show solidarity - if only to gauge how they deal with such atrocious weather.
Even after the afore-mentioned driving time had elapsed, I still found myself digging out a hot water bottle and sitting with it on my knee once I had changed my clothes at home, subsequently sat at the kitchen table, tucking into a bowl of Heinz’s finest chicken broth.
That’s me back to normal now (“chance would be a fine thing” I can hear Alice mutter) as a very beneficial week draws to a close: the coming seven days will spent noticeably less in “office” mode – and measurably more in “household” mode, as I attempt to turn my attention to a plethora of minor cosmetic jobs that having been crying out for completion, for months.
As only one pertinent example, the purple “feature” kitchen wall that I am currently facing will become “Melon Sorbet” (a “Dulux” light-green shade) by this time next week, if all goes to plan. Much as I like – and have apparently been comfortable with, for nigh on the last five years – such a vibrant colour, it has slowly dawned upon me that the kitchen needs brightened.
Next up on the painting front will be the living room’s feature wall: while currently boasting a warm chocolate colour, it now requires to be lightened several shades to compensate for the lack of light reaching the lounge (the bamboo plants directly outside the front lounge window – swaying nonchalantly, believing they are permanent fixtures – may not be long for this world).
I’ve learned over the years that house improvement is a gently continuous exercise: however one’s home is probably one’s most valuable asset - therefore it makes perfect sense to maintain that asset as one day (maybe not in my own time) that value will be monetized. The additional spin-off - in making your place of residence more comfortable and “liveable” - is that you can enjoy those beneficial improvements on a day-to-day basis, as the home owner.
Being that this week’s Diary has certainly demonstrated a very domestic flavour throughout, I must therefore make a sterling effort (because it’s not every week that I do!) to choose an appropriate track to accompany this week’s entry. I’ve just thought of something, that also reflects the joy of returning to a warm house today: Slade’s “Take Me Bak ‘Ome”! Much love.
Sunday 30th September 2018
Hard to believe (and I suspect such utterances increasingly occur, as one ages) but – in less than twenty-four hours - we can truly say that there’s only three months of the year left.
It’s just flashed across my mind that 2020 will be a significant year: not only because of the way that it reads – like the title of some futuristic sci-fi movie - but purely as some form of nominal milestone of my ever-shortening life (that’s not meant as morbid – just realistic fact).
I’m sure that – many moons ago now, in one of these very Diary entries – I mentioned (it must have been somewhere around the early nineties) that I then wondered where I would be at the turn of the Millennium, and here I am only fifteen months distant of the year 2020.
I am most pleased to announce that I have now completely tied up the Little Mix accounting (I referred to it on a business e-mail, earlier this week, as “finally having put the four girls to bed” to which one of my accounting associates – whom I’ve known for a long time – couldn’t resist replying, with no one else obviously on copy, “then you’ll surely need a good rest now”).
In all seriousness - having not tread the boards of the “stadium circuit” for several years – I underestimated the “clean-up” time required for such comprehensive outdoor shows. The trouble is, being as anal as I am in the workplace, I only know one way to undertake the detailed processes of tour accounting, be it club, theatre, arena or – as recently – stadiums. My sigh of (professional) relief may have been heard downstairs in my kitchen - if anyone had been there – as I cut and applied the last piece of brown parcel tape to the outgoing package.
On the football front, I experienced one of my most memorable Saturdays, when I have gone to watch one of my own players featuring in a Scottish League game. Yesterday, I made the trip down to Berwick-upon-Tweed (down the east coast of Scotland – technically over the border in England, by only a few miles, and not too far from where I live) to take in the Berwick Rangers v Clyde game, a Scottish League Two fixture. My player who is with Clyde, Abdel Karim Belmokhtar, of dual Algerian/French nationality, has been registered with the club for just over a month now – and is coming along very nicely, albeit he is not 100% fit.
He started yesterday on the bench, as he has in his other two first team games so far: however, with Clyde trailing 0-2 by half time, the Manager decided to bring Karim on right from the start of the second half yesterday – and what a “visionary” move that proved to be!
Within five minutes of the restart of the game, Clyde had pulled one goal back – through their prolific striker David Goodwillie – and in the 57th minute Karim managed to add his name to the scoresheet, to bring things level, with a very cleverly taken goal. Now we had a “game on”!
As the minutes ticked away, Clyde continued to pile on the pressure and with only two minutes of the game left Karim – after a second prodded attempt – managed to score the winning goal!
So you can’t complain about that, can you? Therefore, it’s only fair that this week’s accompanying track celebrates Karim’s achievement. Take it away, “Hot Chocolate” …… XX
Sunday 23rd September 2018
You may argue that I’ve had “some life” – but I’m not sure it’s a life I could bestow on anyone.
There again, there are possibly those out there that would have been willing to deal with the (mostly unforeseen) lows, to have been able to bathe in the spotlight of many of the “highs”. Thing is, when I was walking – stumbling – through the valleys of dearth, the highs seemed a long, long, way away from that time. I can assure you (as with this mood – a good one – you find me in this evening) it’s way more easy to be unaffected by the recollection of the lows - than it is being down and discovering the recollection of the highs just “won’t pull you out.”
As alluded to on at least one or two previous occasions, the human body is indeed a remarkable piece of work. However such complexity deems that minor changes in the chemical composure of the brain can occur in an instant, as a result – and mix – of unfathomable circumstances. What I’m saying here is that – in my experience – in the majority of instances, you cannot “track” those instantaneous mood changers. Sure, if you suddenly lose your job or you experience the passing of a loved one or your relationship with your partner takes a serious downturn then these circumstances would surely usher in near-despair to almost anyone.
It is not those particular occurrences, as above, that I refer to in respect of my own personal situation. I am able to recognise that such “lessor” occurrences as (for example) the central heating boiler packing in; rogue usage of one’s personal credit card; political machinations in the workplace or, simply, missing an important train can summon feelings of real uneasiness.
I can relate to all the above. However, your author can suddenly sense a dip (or, indeed, an upward surge) in mood, for no conscientiously discernable reason. To my completely untrained medical mind, I can only suspect some form of the most infinitesimal chemical “shift” deep in the recesses of my brain. When that happens I look to music, or people or work – for rescue.
Like a very wise person (bi-polar sufferer?) once intoned “It will pass”: referring to the onset of a low state of mind. Looking down, from the “top end of the curve” – where I currently am poised, as I compose this week’s entry – it is not difficult to empathise with this view. However, as those countless, unfortunate, folks - who are afflicted with this condition to a far greater degree than I may ever be – who experience serious depressive periods, it is of little solace to them when they are desperately trying to claw themselves back up, just even to the “mid-point”. It’s for another time to expand upon, but my highs – as enjoyable, and almost euphoric as they have been on occasions – have proved to be severely costly, purely in monetary terms. However, if that had all been “down-time” instead, I might not even be here!
Therefore, being eternally grateful that I am, indeed, still here there is an onus upon me to use my time – and the remainder of my life – to accomplish staying in the positive zones. To this end, I mainly need light, warmth (of the sunlit type – as well as the personal type) and just a reasonable amount of money. Let’s not kid ourselves as to the importance of the latter.
In closing this week, I greatly appreciate you hanging in with me through this somewhat maudlin Diary entry. This patience shall be rewarded by attaching the track that had me mimicking air-guitar while re-organising my garage today. Enter Mick & the lads. Let it rip. X
Sunday 16th September 2018
For a third week running (not meaning to be boastful, only factual) you find me preparing my weekly Diary entry from the tranquility of Cyprus. Increasingly, I’m of the mind that were it “merely” a two and a half hour – rather than a five and a half hour – flight from Edinburgh, I would be giving serious thought to spending a good portion of the British winter out here.
As the end of this year gradually beckons, I realise I have to figure out what I’m going to do with myself during the months of October and November (December having been “taken care of”, as a planned trip to see both my son and my daughter, albeit on different continents). There are a couple of music business projects that may require my “consultancy” during October, however by the time the end of that particular month beckons, I will be looking to stay clear of the UK during November and December – probably somewhere else than Cyprus.
I’m due back into the UK this coming Wednesday the main reason being (wait for it) dental appointments! Four over the space of three weeks. However - being “painfully” aware that I have never looked after my teeth properly - it’s a subject I would prefer not to elaborate on.
This weekend finds us in the small town (village?) of Peyia, just north of the southern-coast resort of Coral Bay. I say “small” - however we learned from the couple next to us at dinner last night that the population of Peyia includes eight thousand “ex-pats”. Having wandered around the village over the last couple of days (both within the village’s boundaries, but also en-route - downhill all the way thankfully - to Coral Bay itself) I can certainly see the attraction of re-locating out to this particular part of the island. It has much going for it.
It occurs to me – at times like these (and in places like these) that the decision as to where I spend my – increasing – periods of “downtime” is one that will have to be dealt with over the coming eighteen months. Although I’m unable to reveal the extent of the work I am already earmarked for, during the same period, suffice to say it will see me committed to at least four months on the road (therefore a total of six months involvement, including “prep” & “clean-up” periods) in the UK next year. The services of Pythagoras need not be called upon to work out that I then have twelve months of “unemployed downtime” remaining during that period . Those calculations, within themselves, do not leave me ill at ease, in a financial sense (possibly they should!) - more so in an “activity sense”. What will I find to do during that time?
On that last note – and in the vein of experimentation – I am going to pick up on two or three subjects, upon which I’ve read fairly extensively over the past couple of years (The World War 2 “Great Escape”; The Voyage of the “Bounty” – including the subsequent mutiny – back in the mid 1700’s; The History and Contribution of the Spitfire; etc.) and see what more I can learn, discover and unearth. What if one of those subjects escalated to a “passion”? Such interests are inexpensive to (initially) follow, so much has been written on those subjects. Of course, one could decide to venture further afield to relate even closer to one of those subjects by, for example, making “geographical visits” or joining a dedicated online group.
While I ponder on taking up such a direction (and the associated cost in doing so) please allow me to leave you with an appropriate track that bears some tenuous relationship to this week’s literary ramblings. With that in mind, the Four Tops are offering me some good advice. X
Sunday 9th September 2018
As I sit here, gazing at the Mediterranean, I sincerely thank the Lord (of the road?) that I still have the health and (very minor) wealth to enable me to sit gazing at said Mediterranean.
Dusk is falling fast as, at the moment, I observe only the North star, holding court above a diffused peach and powder-blue sky. Of course, the temperature still hovers around 28C.
It’s been a funny old week, the majority of the machinations of which can only be revealed many, many, years from now, when I am no longer reliant upon the music industry for work!
Does the above come across as somewhat cryptic? Then please accept my apologies for that. The events of the last week will be slipped into the same (burgeoning) file that stores similar material, the one with the printed file header saying “Possibly to go to the grave with me”.
Suffice to say, for a guy that can usually manage to reduce the inbox of his e-mail to around 25-30 items daily, I found myself faced with an e-mail queue numbering over 300, earlier this evening – but managed to reduce them to a far more manageable amount by dinner time. We probably all have certain “benchmarks” that we personally attempt to adhere to, as a clear sign to ourselves that we are “on top of things”. The management of my e-mails, is my guide.
Now, still sat out here on the deck of the “Chris Blue” restaurant down on Curium Beach, I am quickly becoming enveloped in a shroud of pitch darkness – and all this within the last thirty minutes. You have previously heard me bemoan the lack of evening light in Cyprus, especially around this time of year although – in fairness – the sun’s up just after six in the morning. High on my “Google agenda” is the need to research the parts of the world that can match light evenings with long, warm, days. The answer is “within” this very laptop on which I write.
In the meantime, I have no intention of playing down this enchanting “little” island (especially as we returned today, from a 2-day break, from Pomos - one of our favoured areas, on the north west coast). The place is the personification of peace and tranquility, and I love it.
I cannot lie that I have been knocked off my stride as a result of the events of the last week (repeated apologies if I have only, further, piqued your curiosity - but said events have to stay under wraps for a long time yet) hence you may perceive a somewhat stilted style to this week’s entry. “What’s your excuse for all the other times then?” I could be fairly quizzed.
Music; football; the good people of this world – they all thankfully play some part, from time to time, in the process of lifting my flagging spirits – when the need arises. Don’t confuse Music with the Music Business, in this respect! That can sometimes have the opposite effect.
Now, I have another ten days left out here in Cyprus and, with the high season on the wane (and, similarly, the temperatures) the environment becomes more comfortable by the day. I remain determinedly focused on creating more quality “me” time, however - on the evidence of my staggered progress to date – I know I still have to discipline my apportionment of time.
Oops, prattled on too long, again: here comes (from a good way back) Ms. Polly Brown. XXX
Sunday 2nd September 2018
The delay’s because I’ve been away, but just where - I’m afraid - I can’t say! (did it rhyme?).
To explain – but not really to explain – I endured a frantic weekend, encompassing thirteen hours flying time in three days, in respect of possible investment in my football business. I had long “given up the ghost” of attracting outside investment (based upon several, failed, snazzy proposals down the years) so when I received a call out of the blue, on Friday past, from a confirmed serious enquirer – I jumped on a plane and flew into London to investigate.
Had I been back home in Scotland when this situation (suddenly) revealed itself, then a one-hour flight to London – or the early train to Kings Cross – would have landed me in the prospective investor’s locality. However, as I possibly mentioned last week, I’m now in Cyprus.
There I was, replete in Alice’s lap, receiving a hundred brush strokes (of my hair), when the reverie was shattered by the phone call that triggered the events of the last three days. I’m now back in Cyprus (at 0230 am on Tuesday morning!) as – hands up – it’s currently Wednesday afternoon, 6th September – and that fact alone has suddenly ushered a thought to the fore.
What flashed into my mind there, just as I penned that last paragraph – and what I was on the brink of “publishing”, especially highlighting the fact we are now into September, was the oft-uttered proclamation of “Goodness me, hasn’t the year flown by?”. It would interest me to know if such a phrase finds itself increasingly in use, as we head towards our twilight years.
Back to the present! The best place to live. As I am temporarily “living” in Cyprus – and not to hasten the onset of the time that I have left on this mortal coil – I am pleased to see us now into September, signaling a decrease in mean monthly temperatures here, which must have been in the 35[Symbol] - 40[Symbol] C range, on average, throughout the month of August. Too hot, folks!
With Alice’s Cyprus property having been built long in advance of (consumer-affordable) domestic air-conditioning, there are times in the early evening – with the daytime temperatures receding, but the fabric of the house having been “baking” throughout the day – that I find myself stepping out onto the front porch, with the hope of cooling off a little!
Nonetheless – as I have alluded to in the past - it’s a very “relaxing” island and has much going for it in the way of natural beauty, historic significance, plentiful restaurant helpings etc.. My time spent here has created an appetite to go investigate one or two other “historic” Mediterranean islands – the top of that list being Malta, which always comes recommended.
Can one develop a thirst/passion for knowledge and learning? I am sure that’s perfectly feasible, providing the subject is one that holds great intrigue. That thought pattern has gently seeped into my thinking processes of the past few years – no doubt hastened by the irrefutable realization that I cannot (and/or maybe don’t want to) continue to work for “ever”.
I’m going to continue to foster the above thought patterns as the months roll forward. This should really “dovetail” into this week’s song choice, therefore - racking my brains furiously – I’m leaving you with the appropriately titled (instrumental!) “Grab This Thing”. Love ya All!
Sunday 26th August 2018
Welcome to my bank-holiday weekend in Cyprus (as Alice is contracted to a UK company!).
Back up to the north-eastern corner of the island we have come (the area of Latchi and Polis to be specific) being that – while it is undoubtedly busy at this time of the year – it’s rarely as populated, tourist wise, as the likes of Paphos and Larnaca, on the south coast of the island.
The reason for the above is quite fundamental: both of the above cities mentioned are graced by international airports, although I’m told that (with the distance being no more than twenty-five miles) it’s not too expensive to take a taxi-ride up from Paphos airport to here. There is also reputed to be an air-conditioned bus service makes the run as well, but not too frequently.
Anyway, here we are – staying in a local Latchi hotel (rather than our normal apartment choice) where Alice managed to secure an attractive B&B rate - considering we’re in the high season.
For the next few weeks, I’m in the fortunate position of not being in “prep mode” for any touring work, for the next few months, and can therefore concentrate on bringing my health “up to spec” – while … occasionally pondering what it is I intend to do for the rest of my life!
Having said the above, there is the inevitable few loose ends to tidy up, in relation to the recent Little Mix tour: however that should all be put to bed by the time I apply “pen to paper” for next week’s Diary entry. I would have probably reached that point before now, however several of the key people, required to enable me to do so, had understandably planned their annual/family holidays to commence within days of the completion of the Little Mix tour.
I may have mentioned this over the previous weeks, however – due to his notable TV commitments – Olly Murs has not been out on the touring circuit this year and although it’s very “hush hush” at the moment, I am hoping that his busy career schedule allows him to find time to return to arena touring at some point next year – and hopefully I may be involved. Coming from the era when there was only “live” music and only live bands, I find Olly’s touring projects a joy to be involved with, being that – including backing singers – there are (or there was, on the last tour anyway) eleven “musos” up on that stage and the sound is very live indeed!
However, that is something to look forward to next year, if it happens. For the remainder of this year, I have to try to visit my children once before the end of the year (a fair bit of planning involved there, as they are separately in Australia and Vietnam) while spiriting Alice down to New Zealand towards the end of the year, where she has long yearned to visit. When you throw all those travel arrangements into the pot, it does not leave me a whole lot of time in between when, additionally, I need to spend a little time overseeing some (cosmetic) maintenance work on my house. It’s important for me to enhance the “comfort level” of my home, as its inevitable that I will be spending longer periods there, over the coming years.
In scratching my head a little to choose this week’s accompanying track, I’m going to return to the reference of my good fortune in the 4th paragraph of this week’s entry. Now although John Fogerty has recorded a stomping version of this song with the “Foofighters”, I’m going to attach the original, for old times sake, and leave you with CCR’s “Fortunate Son”! Love ya’.
Sunday 19th August 2018
This evening – as I have done on several past occasions now (but possibly have not made mention of prior to this – but how would I remember?!) I have cycled over to the nearby McDonalds, for a cup of coffee; the opportunity to get out of the house for an hour or so – and an alternative location for me to compose the weekly diary entry. Being that I’m trying to stay off potatoes this week (I’ve lost 4 pounds in two weeks) I work out that to obtain three “chicken strips” and the ubiquitous coffee it’s still cheaper for me to order it in “meal” format.
However, being a guy that doesn’t like to see things going to waste unnecessarily, I inform the girl at the order counter not to bother including the french fries. “You’ve got to have them, to qualify for the meal deal” she tells me. “Really?” is my surprised retort. “OK, just bring them and I’ll dump them in the bin”. At which point she eyes me like I’ve lost the plot.
It’s a funny old world, is it not? I’ve learned that if you can’t change it, then don’t fight it. Can I also just say (and I’m going to jump on “Dunbar Online” at some point over the next few days to see if anyone else has “clocked” this) the constant – and varied – “bleeping” from within the preparation area in this here McDonalds, is continually distracting to your author!
Having said that, it must drive the people that work here frantic: I can only think that they just zone out of the constant (and I mean constant) bleeping. I am surmising – in these over-the-top “health and safety” times – that it relates to cooking times and/or “readiness indications”. I’ll report back next week if any of my “neighbours” pick up on my observations.
My other grouse this week (might as well continue in this same vein, while I’m on a roll) is the “cloying” attention paid over to the sad death of one of the great remaining female soul singers, Aretha Franklin. Undoubtedly a major talent in modern music – but no Goddess. Let’s be frank here, she could hardly be held up as a role model for young, aspiring females (check out her “behavior” during her early years). With so much over-the-top publicizing of her passing, I suspect a film of her life story is already in the planning stages, in a cinematic boardroom somewhere: viewed as a lucrative project. With a careful choice of leading lady.
For myself, this past week, I have continued with the “clear-up” process involved with the Little Mix stadium tour accounts which – save the last two shows of the tour in Falkirk and Aberdeen – are virtually complete. I’m zipping out to visit Alice for a couple of weeks (during which time my sister has decided to re-locate down at my house, here in Dunbar – and maybe even attempting, in my absence, to do something about the current state of my garden).
Yesterday, I took a train trip to the Scottish town of Montrose, to watch one of my lads playing for the club “Brechin City” in something of a “local derby” game, being that both towns are only around twelve miles apart. I find it cathartic to experience the true community of football, at lower divisions. The tradition of football as it really should be is still in evidence.
My normal summer involvement with football (when I have previously staged trial games, with a squad of French players) has had to take a back seat this summer, but I can’t turn down work in my chosen profession – and I need to retain this “discipline”. With that in mind, I’ve appropriately chosen the Bachman Turner Overdrive track “Takin’ Care of Business”. XXX
Sunday 12th August 2018
Just back from a rather enjoyable day with my sister, visiting the highland village of Pitlochry.
Once famed for its “salmon leaps” in the centre of the town, near the reservoir (maybe it still is: however I believe this is the wrong time of the year to observe said salmon making their way back upstream), Pitlochry – with only the one main street, has an undeniable charm to it.
We boarded the train in Edinburgh, made a brief change of trains in Stirling and arrived in Pitlochry just after midday. It’s worth pausing here, just to mention that – with the Edinburgh International Festival in full swing for most of August – the centre of the city is teeming with a plethora of multi-national tourists, with the city’s main station a hive of activity.
This past week I have been assiduously working away at completing all aspects of the Little Mix accounting, on the recent UK stadium tour, however there are still a wide and diverse variety of “loose ends” to square away. Having said that, I managed to make it down to the local Post Office – just prior to closing time – and mail away the first three “settlement” files.
That’s three of twelve, with another three due to leave here on Tuesday – and then that’s me half-way through the afore-mentioned “clearing up” process: once complete I can “reclaim” my dining room which – because it affords greater working space than my office desk (due to being able to extend the “leafs” of the dining room table, gives me a six-foot working width).
The process is a detailed, comprehensive, cross-referencing procedure that calls for painstaking application: I wish it was as easy to execute the process as it has been to describe it in the last two lines. Sure, there is a temptation – when ankle-deep in paperwork at times – to consider one or two “legitimate” shortcuts. However, life-long professionalism cuts across that approach and it comes down to (as George would say): “if you’re gonna do it, do it right”.
Being that on 22nd of this month I’m hoping to be heading out to Cyprus for a couple of weeks of R&R, I therefore have a “deadline” of sorts by which time this project needs to be put to bed. Already, in my head, I am squaring away certain days – between now and then – for certain tasks and (provided I have a good run at things tomorrow, when I can anchor myself to the house) I should be all done and dusted by the time a week on Tuesday, 22nd, rolls into view.
Since returning from the tour, today has been the first day where it has rained almost throughout, see-sawing between a light drizzle and (brief) heavy showers: by the time I realized how inclement the weather actually was – as I was retrieving my pushbike from the garage – by which time it was too late to call upon any other mode of transport, especially as a quick glance up the street indicated that Sue’s car was then not currently in her driveway!
Nothing for it then, eh? Jump onto the bike and make for the station car park although – as a result of the Edinburgh trains from Dunbar operating on a Sunday-service timetable – I was actually taking a bus into town to hook up with Jane, in the train station just after 10.00 am.
As you’re obviously loving the fact that the plan eventually worked out, I’m going to leave you with Bobby Womack’s “Midnight Mover” – as that’s right now very close to where I’m at! XX
Sunday 5th August 2018
Whoa! Definitely a funny old day today (and “the day ain’t over yet” to quote Jack Palance, in the movie “City Slickers”). I just haven’t felt myself – however, we all have days like that.
I am cognizant (very much so, today) that there’s an undisputed, inversely-proportional relationship (I’ve got a maths O-level, I’ll have you know!) between age and recovery rate: be that because one has maybe had a little too much red wine the previous evening or one didn’t get to bed until the wee hours of the morning. The former is rarely the case with me (nowadays) but the latter continues to dog me, especially during the times I am out on tour.
I will re-iterate here - if only to have the additional benefit of seeing it in front of my face as I type - that I need to create and develop a solid framework of a disciplined schedule for the times I am based at home. This never comes into question when away touring as my schedule is strictly controlled (by the very nature of what I am involved in) with the opportunities to even occasionally deviate along the way, few and far between. Not so at home.
Here I am, not for the first time, “talking a great” show however this needs to be dealt with, sooner rather than (much) later. Even when I am out visiting Alice in Cyprus, I can divide up my day into various activities, especially when Alice’s work involves split shifts. Just thinking about it now – as I can feel my mood lifting with the continuance of this entry – what actually happens is that Alice’s routine defines my routine. It’s maybe time to come up with some daily “activity blocks” when I’m operating out of Dunbar. Quick pause: I think my chicken pie’s burning! When I say “burning”, it was more of a “well-cooked” aroma escaping from the kitchen!
This last week, having returned from the final “Little Mix” show on Monday past, I’ve been fairly absorbed in cleaning up various aspects of the tour accounting – a process that will continue until the end of the upcoming (working) week. Whereas arena shows have routinely and regularly identifiable “cost-centres” - the only real difference between one tour and another being the cost of those line-items, based upon the “demands” of the Artists’ production – an outdoor show (especially if it originates as a “green field” site) attracts a proliferation of additional costs, mainly based upon the show related “activity” encompassing a seven/eight day period. From the time that the first “steel” truck arrives on site (of which there will be anything from four to five such trucks depending upon the complexity and design of the outdoor stage, roof and ancillary structures) the whole “occupancy” period will generally span a week. Remember: the site management crew have to be there the first day, for the delivery of Portakabins, field coverings, boundary fencing, etc – all before the first touring truck’s doors can be opened. Then there’s two full days to build the outdoor stage.
Day four sees the outdoor production (sound, lights & video screens) loaded onto the flat outdoor stage, followed – the next day – by the Artists’ “production”, which is essentially their own on-stage sound and instrumentation and the “set”: the latter being as simple as a few “risers” or as complicated as multiple walkways. All has to be ready for a 4.00pm soundcheck. Then, two days to completely clear the site – hence the overall 7/8 days occupancy period.
Oops, I’ve run out of time: save to leave you with an uplifting track (for me, anyway) that I heard on the radio while I was penning this entry - and which I’d like to share with you…… XX
Sunday 29th July 2018
I’ve endured something that I did not think I was capable of today (no, not listening to a Smiths album, from start to finish): I’m sat on the train from London to Dunbar, this Friday evening, facing backwards to the direction of the travel of the train – a revelation, indeed.
Maybe there’s a deeper meaning to it all? Something about challenging yourself to “go against the grain”, to attempt to reverse your normal approach – and come at things from an angle that might (might) allow you explore the “other side” of your character. There again, maybe I shouldn’t have had a few ciders on the train, having treated myself to life in the First Class carriage. If this backward-travel travel theory goes wrong, at least there’s a toilet close by!
I’ve just noticed they have these purple low-voltage lights in the ceiling of the First Class carriages. Oddly enough (you may think – you would be right), it reminds me of the Newcastle Metro Arena house lighting – purple again – that just seems to give off a welcoming warmth, once the doors are open on a concert night, and before the first (only?) opening act takes to the stage. I know this may come across as a little random, but if you’ve been in that venue in the last few years, you will at least be able to relate what I’m on about here. Way aye, man!!
In keeping with the penning of my Diary entries of the last month or so, I am once again days late publishing this entry. Truth be told, it’s now Friday, 3rd August, and my northbound train has just departed Darlington a few minutes after 8.00 pm, due to arrive into my home town of Dunbar at 9.37 pm. Being that I caught the 06.10 out of Dunbar this morning – heading to an extensive Little Mix post-tour accounting meeting, near Regents Park in London, I’m something of a shadow of my normally-dependable articulate self. You figured that out, yes?!
However, The Diary must go on! I have a responsibility to my legions of readers: I must think of them before myself but – as Alice will (not) be the first to tell you, I am a selfless man: my allegiance is to my fellow human beings, without a thought for my own welfare. As Alice would additionally contend: there’s truly very few like me. Some days she has to pinch herself.
Can I confide that I was almost tempted to consider jumping off the train in Newcastle (not quite the same connotations as “jumping off at Haymarket”, but you would probably have had to have been born and bred in Edinburgh to fully understand the meaning of that!). If I had my toiletries with me, I might just have considered spending the evening in Newcastle – one of the liveliest towns in the UK, on a Friday or Saturday night. However, it’s too late now (and probably just as well) as the train is just leaving Newcastle station as I write. Woe is me!
It would have been nothing too raucous you understand, had I “tarried in The Toon”: just a couple of glasses of decent red, positioned outside a rather classy bistro that I have frequented on the odd occasion, during past visits to Newcastle, watching the world going by.
Not quite sure if the opportunity exists to emulate such an evening in “Sunny Dunny”, so I may be destined for an encounter with whatever “Movies for Men” has to offer me later tonight!
As the train approaches the border to God’s country I will, this evening, leave you with a lovely little “reflective” tune from the iconic Eagles, called “Last Good Time in Town”. Home for me!
Sunday 22nd July 2018
OK, let’s see if I can make this less complicated, rather than more: so I’m sat outside The Royal Hotel in Whitley Bay, it’s 10.30 on Wednesday morning, 25th July, and I’m hoping to have the diary entries up to date within the next couple of hours (specifically with this entry meant for the above date). However, with a “back-to-back” run of four shows commencing tomorrow in Gateshead, just outside Newcastle – and just under ten miles from my current location – there’s a busy “prep” day ahead for me, meaning I’ll have to “dip in and out” of this entry.
Well, as mentioned above, I did indeed “dip out” around 10.45 yesterday morning – and here I am – only dipping back in again – at 08.00 on Thursday morning. I’m well aware I have a tough four-day run ahead of me (the last weekend of these Little Mix outdoor shows) therefore if I don’t complete this diary entry – admittedly it will be in “fits and starts” – during the course of this day then, once again, I’m facing the prospect of being two entries behind this Sunday.
Currently I’m sat in my hotel room in the same Royal Hotel in Whitley Bay - perched on the side of my bed – pre shower – but having worked away quite late into the wee hours last night, to ensure that I’m pretty much geared up to go at short notice, to head over to the Stadium.
“The Stadium” in question, for this evening’s show is only around 11 miles distant from where I am now: in fact, knowing that time is against me (isn’t it always?) I actually spent four hours over there yesterday afternoon – in the comparative quiet of a set-up day – tidying up several of the shows played to date, with the promoter’s accountant, who arrived in town yesterday.
Spin forward two hours – and here I am in my somewhat temporary Tour Accountant’s office under the main stand of Gateshead Stadium, my “home for the next twelve hours”, although -in fairness – I’m hoping to gbe one from here by ten this evening, winging my way towards a hotel I have booked in Falkirk, the scene of tomorrow’s next Little Mix show, in God’s country!
That last paragraph was written over three hours ago proving, once again, that as soon as the Artists have arrived in the building for soundcheck, the general level of activity is ramped up – in conjunction with a palpable increase in the “time seepage”: suddenly early afternoon has morphed into late afternoon, and you’ve little handle on where the bit in the middle has gone.
I’m off back upstairs to the office of the promoter (SJM) of this show, to trawl through the final expenses associated with the Hull, Bolton & Huddersfield shows, that are also the province of this same promoter. At times the expenditure – and consequently the associated accounting processes – can seem endless, in the pursuit of “closing out” each show, as the tour progresses: hence the personal and professional levels of discipline required to stay on top of the situation – and not to be dissuaded from eking out whatever monies are due to your Artist.
Now, we are “rolling on seriously”: to the point that you find me sat in the Hotel Cladhan in Falkirk, having driven up here directly, after the Gateshead show, within five minutes of my front door at one point - but I decided to just keep driving. I’ll be back there on the 31st.
These last few lines are being penned from within the bowels of Falkirk Stadium, where I will leave you with a song with no particular relevance to this week – just a great wee tune ….. XX
Sunday 15th July 2018
Boy, I’ve been “behind” – but not like this before, a line stolen from this week’s song choice.
So let’s start with the confession that – although I should have been sat down in Skegness (where I holed up, during the second, three-day, midweek “break” on the tour) on Monday morning, 16th July – writing up this very entry – it transpires that here I am in Whitley Bay, on the third midweek break on the tour, desperately trying to catch two “old” diary entries.
If you are a regular reader of these diary entries, then A) you may not be too surprised with what you have just learned and B) your experience of past entries will undoubtedly assist you in unravelling the previous paragraph. That being established, shall we continue – as if I was actually sat in the front lounge of The Sunningdale Guest House in Skegness, eight days ago?
I chose Skegness (for the break between the show in Huddersfield “today” – and the next show in Derby on Thursday 19th) because I wanted to be “beside the seaside”: so Huddersfield to “Skeggy” and back to Derby represented less than a two and a half hour journey both ways.
As Alice would be the first to admit (complicit as she is most of the time, anyway, when we are on holiday) I love a good old seaside “B&B” almost as much as I like Motels/Roadhouses. The Sunningdale in Skegness was just about 150 yards from the actual seafront, on one of the main access roads into the town: I will definitely be affording Linda and Keith (the proprietors) a few complimentary paragraphs on “Trip Advisor” as they were unduly accommodating to me, in more ways than the obvious one – going as far as to clear a round table in the bay window of their breakfast room, to allow me to “set up office: there all day!
As far as the past week has gone, we enjoyed the “standard” four-day run from Thursday to Sunday, with shows – in chronological order – at Northampton, Hull, Bolton and Huddersfield, the latter two being “stuffed to the gunwales” with a total aggregate attendance of 57,000+.
We have two other guest acts on the bill with us: opening up the show are the charming “Germein Sisters” a three-piece live act (bass, drums, guitar) who are, indeed, sisters. Prior to Little Mix taking the stage, and following the Germein Sisters 30 minute set, the act “Rak Su” – emanating from the same management stable as Little Mix – are also on for thirty minutes. It therefore makes for a very entertaining event for those hordes of fans - 80/85% female I reckon, from what little time I’ve had to wander out front once the show has started.
This evening (Sunday 15th in Skegness!) it is my planned intention to wander along the esplanade and seek out one of the (TripAdvisor to the rescue again) recommend fish & chips shops, of which there are several – along with what seems like a disproportionate amount of amusement arcades, for what is – at best – a medium sized, coastal, holiday resort. Come on: you can’t come to Skeggy and not have fish & chips on at least one of the night you are here!
Only once I’d booked (and pre-paid for) the Skegness B&B, did I realise – while checking my journey on Googlemaps – that Cleethorpes, where I was involved with gigs a few times in the early days, was only a few miles up the coast! In closing this week’s entry, I’m going with the song from which today’s opening line was “poached”. Take it away, the iconic “Little Feat”. XX
Sunday 8th July 2018
Well, that’s the first three Little Mix shows under our belts: Hove County Cricket Ground in Brighton (so to speak); The Liberty Stadium in Swansea – and, only having loaded out of there a few hours ago – The Community Stadium in Colchester (the “home” of Colchester United).
With a long “technical day” in Hove on Thursday, prior to the show there on Friday past – and keeping in mind that I was “self-driving” after both the Hove and Swansea shows (the latter, a 262-mile slog) - I can now attest to a state of being somewhere close to “completely fried”.
There is a countless minutiae of expense, large and small, that raises its head on these outdoor shows and it all has to be checked, verified and carefully accounted for: a painstaking, detailed, procedure that requires continual hours of intense concentration, punctuated by stealth raids into catering to ensure you can take advantage of one meal service, before the tour caterers have cleared it away – in preparation for the next meal service. My speciality!
If the truth be known, I inadvertently allowed a few loose ends, on my football project, to become trapped in the machine of my touring project, hence the reason I have spent long days on site, on those first three afore-mentioned show-dates. Thankfully, in a weird sort of sense, the football this season is about to start seriously next Saturday, 14th, with the initial games in the early stages of the “Betfred” cup (said sponsor being a clear indication of one of the main areas of fan-expenditure nowadays). This, in turn – keeping in mind that the actual league campaign commences the following Wednesday – means that the smaller clubs no longer have the time (or size of squads) to play any friendly games in between times, at least for the remaining weeks in July. The SFA (Scottish Football Association) regulations do not allow un-signed players to compete as “Trialists” in official games: therefore the opportunity to have free-agent players brought to the attention of clubs in friendly games is now seriously limited.
However, all is not lost - as the official Reserve League campaign does not officially start for a few weeks yet (it was known as the U-20 Development League last season, but the powers-that-be have deemed, in conjunction with the voted blessing of all the professional clubs, that the “re-introduced” Reserve League – in conjunction with an additional new format in the shape of an Under-18 League format - will be more beneficial for the long term future of Scottish football). I’m a little dubious of that reasoning and therefore intend to familiarise myself with the historical thinking behind that decision – then report back to my loyal readers!
Tomorrow (Monday 9th) I’m undergoing a “flying trip” (but on the train) up to Glasgow, to go and take in Tuesday night’s Bonnie Raitt concert at the Glasgow SECC, where she is appearing with the (also) iconic James Taylor. Wholly worth making a five-hundred mile, three day, round trip for! There’s three or four Bonnie Raitt tracks I would be happy to recommend you listen to, that will hopefully go a long way to aiding your understanding of my need to be there. All will be revealed in next week’s Diary entry, at which point I doubt I will be any less tired.
You’re possibly thinking: “he’s going to be tempted to choose a Bonnie Raitt track to accompany this week’s Diary entry” – however you will have to hang on until next week for that! For the time being – and with no particular relation to this week’s entry – here is an insight to a song, by Johnny Cash, of which – one day – I fully intend to learn to learn the lyrics. Wish me well!
Sunday 1st July 2018
There could not be a worse day to try to find the time to pen a diary entry: namely, the technical load-in day of a major Artists’ UK Outdoor Stadium tour (Little Mix in this instance).
So, how does one get around such a situation (when standing in the middle of Waterloo station would probably be less frantic) than trying to “tip” seven 45-foot trailers onto a huge sound-stage floor? One doesn’t: that’s why one is sat on the train, on Monday 9th (two entries behind at this very moment – oh no!!), having just completed the first three shows, “back-to-back”.
More about said first three shows in “next week’s” entry. Prior to picking up a rental car (Friday 29th June) and heading down to Production Rehearsals in the Manchester area (Saturday 30th) I was desperately trying to draw a line under the majority of my footballing activity – well aware that I would have very little spare time, once on the road, to deal with a clutch of young, hopeful, players – eager for the opportunity to “get their foot in the door”.
In spite of a very comprehensively detailed document (“Only The Strong Survive”) that is forwarded, via e-mail, to every prospective player – before he makes any flight reservation – the majority of those lads (frankly) arrive in Scotland, significantly “under informed” and nearly always “under-funded”. You will not be surprised to learn that a few pounds here for a little food; the occasional hotel night when their own cash flow grinds to a halt; fuel in my rental car to go and observe their training sessions and/or pre-season friendly games – and very quickly I can find I’ve expended close to a four-figure some in a matter of several days.
Ach, it’s not the “expensive hobby” it once was: nowadays, I’m more aware of the crucial loss of time, rather than of money. My heart goes out to many of those young players, who have the basic skills and the necessary drive, but are given precious little time to show themselves.
Come the end of this month, with the last Little mix show on the 29th in Inverness - and once I have spent a few days in London and Manchester finalising all aspects of the tour - I hope to find three days where I can slip away to some far corner of Scotland, untroubled by any footballing (or domestic) distractions – to “re-draft” a new business model that I must then discipline myself to adhere to. This is purely the football side of things I’m referring to here.
Alice has long reasoned that an honest, expedient, revision of the football side of things is somewhat overdue. There requires to be a more time-efficient approach: I – literally – can’t afford to expend such time and energy, especially during the summer months. My reward need only be judged in terms of “success”, that in turn being defined, in the player’s early stages as just having the lads put pen to paper: a small contract can always lead to a bigger contract.
The above thought pattern is invariably countered with a future concern (when the body no longer accepts a “physical pounding”, sixteen hours a day): pondering how one fills one’s time. “Balance” is a whole lot harder to achieve than just attempting to poise, deftly, on one foot.
Well, whadya know? I’m almost caught up with the overdue Diary entries, although yesterday’s version may require to await today’s “reverse” train journey back to Northampton on Wednesday. It now just remains for me to leave you, appropriately, with Rod the Mod. XXXX
Sunday 24th June 2018
To the garden, James (Jake?): you’re not going to get too many days like this is Scotland.
Possibly inexcusably, it’s just dawned upon me that the end of June is nigh: in my book, that tells me we have two months of Summer remaining - at a push. Next month is “all booked out” for me, with the Little Mix outdoor shows in the UK. Having attended a very comprehensive production meeting in London on Friday past (one of my “down and up” specials, from Dunbar, on the train - in the one day) relating to all aspects of the upcoming shows, I can now see that it will be the first week in August – with the last show on 29th July – before I wrap things up.
Within the month of July, we undertake fifteen shows in total, mainly grouped around each weekend of the month, in a 3-4-4-4 format, and all “back-to-backs” within each weekend period. Being that the first twenty-four days are spent down south, my original intention was just to hang out in the “midweeks”, particularly as I’m self-driving on the tour - therefore I’d rather not be adding any additional miles to the 3000+ that I’m aware I’m already clocking up.
However, I must mention that – contrary to the above – I will nevertheless be finding my way from Scotland, the day after the Colchester show on Sunday 8th July, to take in the SSE Hydro concert of one of my long-time “faves”, the inimitable Ms. Bonnie Raitt. The fact that Bonnie is (sort of) co-headlining the show with James Taylor is the veritable icing on the cake.
Sure, I have to be back down in Northampton for the morning of 12th July, for our show that day at the County Cricket ground, but that presents no logistical challenge to a guy like me – save even more driving (although I’m currently hatching a “drop the car – take the train” plan).
This past week, with a few of my young, aspiring, football players coming and going in Scotland, I’ve had to wise up to the fact that I have to temporarily wind down and/or “park” my footballing activities over the upcoming week, prior to my departure, six days from now, to make a start to the afore-mentioned Little mix tour: which, as always, requires intense focus.
Confession: I just took a three-hour break there (the longest in my existence?!) to go and have lunch with my daughter Jade at the local Garden Centre, the location for the composition of many a Diary entry – but not today’s, as I have now re-located to my own garden again.
Sadly, Jade is “upping sticks” and is off to Vietnam for a two-year work project, as of late July when (regrettably) I’ll be doing a show in Maidstone, and therefore unable to see her off. In a lifetime when I have spent less time around my children than most parents, it is not always easy – now that I can appreciate the value of time so dearly – to now have both my children so physically distant from me. Thanks be to the God of Touring (it’s probably all the one God) that I am at least in a position to be able to visit my children at regular intervals).
One of my current goals is to be in the same place as both of them for even a short period of time – and it may not be too far in the distance until I reach the point that I don’t think twice about selling my rental property if that’s what it takes to achieve the above. Being that I am finishing on a very upbeat note here, then – surely - that should be reflected in a very upbeat choice of accompanying track this week. Step forward the Fab Four with “Slow Down”. Never!
Sunday 17th June 2018
Back on familiar territory this week – possibly to the one “non-household” location where I may (now) have penned more Diary entries, than any other: Dunbar Garden Centre. Would you believe that this coming December will see me having lived in Dunbar for five years now?
Funnily enough, just walking around the house over the past few days, since I returned from Cyprus (on Wednesday evening), I’m starting to think that a (cosmetic) “five-year” makeover may be on the cards for the interior of the property. I would have to – almost ashamedly - admit that, even with the ever-increasing reliability of my memory, I can recall observing certain aspects of the interior of the property, soon after I had moved there in December 2013, and thinking they may require some minor, cosmetic, maintenance. Five years ago now!
Not that I’ll be rectifying said state of affairs within – at least – the next six weeks. I’m currently in “prep” mode for the upcoming Little Mix outdoor summer dates throughout July – for which I have to depart Scotland on 30th June – leaving me only twelve days to get geared up for said tour, during which time I have a few French football players arriving for trials.
Alice will attest to the fact (I perceive a rolling of the – her – eyes here) that, at some point around a couple of weeks ago, I have pruned my “hit-list” to ten players whom I was eager to find clubs for in Scotland, for this upcoming season. However, as a result of mistakenly leaving two lads – who I have a particularly soft spot for – off said list, and then one of my more trusted French-counterpart agents alerting me to the availability of three particularly talented (and – just as important – “grounded”) young players, my list has swelled to fifteen!
Having said the above – and for no particular reason or set of circumstances that I can put my finger on – there has been a minor flurry of interest around certain of those fifteen lads, to the point where I can see six or seven of them coming to trial over the next two or three weeks: the key, as always, is hoping the clubs who fancy a look at the lads, can give me enough notice, whereby the incoming flight costs (the players’ personal expense) are not prohibitive.In fact, once I have completed this very Diary entry my next (football-related) task is to compile a “who goes where, when” spreadsheet of those afore-mentioned fifteen players, to enable me to keep close track of player movements: this is not a method that I would normally have to revert to, but it is based upon the facts that A) I rarely oversee this amount of players during any transfer window and B) I have a busy touring month heading towards me – at speed. I cannot (as I have adhered to in the past) allow my hobby to “impact” my vocation.
Undoubtedly, there is no harm in staying busy: however, not that busy that one risks minor slip-ups or oversights (this is the “vocation”, and not the hobby, I’m specifically referring to!).
The Little Mix summer tour is geared very much towards 3/4 “consecutive-nightly weekend runs” (are you getting that?!) therefore there are, two-day, midweek breaks during each of the four weeks, that will enable me to keep a wee eye on the football – albeit it from “afar”.Well, whadya’ know? Almost finished this week’s entry by 12.30 pm! In recognition of that, this week’s accompanying track comes from a fabulously talented Artist, Ms. Bonnie Raitt …..
Sunday 10th June 2018
Some like it hot, Mum. However, at 34C out here today, even Mum would surely be wilting!
I’m currently sat on a bar stool, in Alice and I’s “local” in the nearby small town/village of Episkopi. I’m sure you will have heard me express my reservations, in one or two past editions of the Diary, regarding how it becomes almost intolerably hot out here in August, with the mercury hovering not far from 40[Symbol]C for many days in that particular month: however, based upon the temperatures we have been experiencing over this weekend, it feels like June “is in training” for August. Without shade or air-conditioning it’s really no fun being out in the open.
The best plan – and this is not rocket science in such circumstances – is to “go with the flow” and head for the beach. Two good reasons, of course: the breeze coming off the water – and the cool temperature of the water itself. On the majority of beaches in Cyprus, the daily charge for two loungers in the shade of a “parasol” is €7.00. Just bring towels, drinks & books.
Even in the five weeks since I last was out here to visit Alice (anything to stop the begging, scented, letters) the “population level” on the public beaches has easily doubled, as the Cypriot tourist season gears up for another summer of record numbers of vacationers. In the two years (plus) since I have been travelling out to Cyprus, I have certainly noted – in keeping with certain other European/Asian countries – the “gentle influx” of Russian holiday-makers. Otherwise, the majority of holiday visitors would appear to be from the UK, with a smattering of Dutch, German and Scandinavian, adding something of a cosmopolitan feel to the island.
On my side of things, I’m heading back into Scotland on Wednesday, from which point onwards I will be gearing up for my “Little Mix” involvement, throughout July in the UK, with fifteen outdoor shows on the cards. I have a few meetings to attend – in Manchester and London – prior to making my way to production rehearsals down south, towards the end of this month.
While I love being out with the girls, I have to admit to having a hankering for a live band, however said hankering will hopefully be sated by my involvement with Olly Murs next year. As yet, no official dates have been announced however – knowing full well of Olly’s desire to be back on the stage doing something that he does very well and very professionally – I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Basically, I’m an (very) old rock ‘n roll Tour Manager – and I need my music (ideally) to be live and to be loud. Word has it God intended it to be no other way.
This past couple of days, Alice has - once again - unwittingly (although, I suspect, wittingly) been press-ganged into being my “sounding board” on the football side of things – and with a very positive outcome. It has been a gradual (age?) thing, however I am more focused of late, than I have ever been, of the need to streamline my involvement on the football side of things, both in respect of the periods of the year that I devote to it – and the amount of players I am trying to assist at any given time. By August, there will be a realistic update forthcoming!
As the sun begins to set on another gloriously pleasant Cyprus day (dusk approximately 8.40 pm) I really have much to thankful for, but that may require another Diary entry to elaborate upon. For the time being, I have selected the following accompanying track, which may go some ways towards encapsulating my mood. Take it away, Johnny Nicolas. Tell it like it is!! XX
Sunday 3rd June 2018
Most traveling is (generally) accomplished from “A to B”: in my case, this past week, it has been “B to C”, specifically Byron Bay to Cyprus – with fifteen hours in Scotland, along the way.
There we were, sat on the Brisbane runway, having taxied to the holding point, just prior to take-off, when the captain made an announcement that – as a result of a passenger taking ill within the (then) last ten minutes –. he was going to have to return to the departure gate.
One doesn’t have to be a seasoned traveler to know that escorting the passenger from the plane, forms only part of the process of rectifying the situation: quite apart from the courtesy of allowing said passenger (and, no doubt, their fellow traveler) to be re-united with their “hold” baggage, no airline nowadays will take to the air with “unaccompanied” luggage.
However – especially when you are dealing with an airliner the size of an Airbus 380 (capacity 500+ when it has a full complement) – such an “operation” leaves you little change out of three hours. With me personally facing a two-hour connection in Dubai, en-route back to Glasgow, that was “my goose thoroughly cooked” – resulting in me boarding a 2.15 pm flight out of Dubai, rather than the originally scheduled 07.50 am departure. I must say, I have no complaints whatsoever of Emirates handing of the re-schedulement (if the numbers on the Copthorne Hotel transfer bus were anything to go by) of between 20 – 30 passengers heading in a good handful of westerly directions who, like myself, could not make their original connections.
All in all, instead of me arriving back into Scotland at 12.35 pm on Tuesday past, it ended up being closer to 7.35 pm when the Dubai flight pulled onto the jetway in Glasgow. Being that I was booked on a 10.05 am flight out here to Cyprus on Wednesday morning, suffice to say I slept fitfully for most of the way to Paphos, on Jet2.com – with no benefit of reclining seats!
Anyway, here I am out here in 25C+ warmth – back up on the north-western coast of the island, in the small fishing village of Pomos, an area of Cyprus I have had the pleasure to frequent on one past occasion, at which time I recall I was gushing in my praise of the place.
As I write, at this very moment, just after 7.30 pm in the evening, I can perceive that orange glow that bathes the land, in and around the Mediterranean, at this juncture of the day: if only one could stop the world for a couple of hours and just “float” on such serene ambiance.
In the last few minutes, Alice and I just took a break to wander down to water’s edge – to which our accommodation is almost adjacent – to witness the sun dipping below the horizon. Having just returned upstairs – while in the throes of dusk – the sky has taken on a universal cobalt-blue sheen to the east, while the westerly horizon line is now a wild “orange-pinkish”.
I find myself pondering, at this point, just how long it would take until such blissful days and nights no longer held their mystique and their wonderment. It’s a challenge to conjure up a vision of an environment anymore relaxing, that what we have experienced these last 48 hours.
Having discovered yet another great blues voice, in the shape of Ms. Koko Taylor, I’m going to play out this week’s Diary entry with her version of “Let The Good Times Roll”. Yeah!! XX
Sunday 27th May 2018
Sadly, my time spent out here in Byron Bay, visiting my son, has almost drawn to a close.
Tomorrow evening, I’ll be climbing back onto Emirates finest (the Airbus 380-800, “double decker”) - which can accommodate upwards of six hundred passengers, in a “3-class” format, on a single flight. I understand the basic concept of aerodynamics: nevertheless good old-fashioned logic decrees that something that size - and weight - shouldn’t get off the ground.
But it does and - it’s a well proven fact – once it climbs to its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, there is no safer place in the world to be. Providing gravity holds out, that is: however its done fine over the past few hundred thousand years (long before the invention of flight) although – in some ways – it beggars belief that, since Wilbur and Orville Wright first took to the air, albeit initially only for three hundred meters, it has only taken a time period of 115 years to reach the modern-aviation stage whereby a 1500 ton tube of sophisticated technology can make its way up to the afore-mentioned 38,000 feet in altitude. Mind-blowing.
This past week the weather out here in Byron Bay has not lived up to the balmy temperatures of last week – although it would do us well to remember that we are approaching the “height” of winter, in this part of the world, come July, therefore temperatures around 20 degrees C are not to sniffed at. Not in a hundred years are we likely to experience that in a Scottish winter!
The main drawback, having traversed over 60% of the globe to catch up with Bradley, who we have only “fleetingly” seen in the last eight years, is that he is currently working in Byron Bay – and therefore apart from his normal days off, we were somewhat at the mercy of his schedule. Nevertheless, we saw him at least once every day – if only for late morning coffee – and for most of the days (which were not his bona-fide days off) we were able to grab an hour or two of his time, late afternoon or early evening. We just had to maximise our time.
It won’t go down as one of the most inexpensive holidays I’ve ever enjoyed (far from it!) however “you can’t take it with you when you go” and some experiences – particularly those where family are involved – should not be budget-constrained, and this definitely wasn’t!
I’m sincerely hoping that - when he is able to grab a couple of weeks off next year – Bradley will consider coming back to the UK, for that period of time. Having said that, it now looks like Jade may take up a new position down in South-east Asia for a two-year stint, commencing early August this year, meaning that I may yet be able to arrange for both my children to be in the same place, at the same time – by working on a “halfway-house” foreign travel plan.
Until then, what can you do when your children (one of them definitely, for the moment) have chosen to ply their careers halfway around the world? Including a very civilized connection time in Dubai of just over two hours, it still took the best part of a day’s flying to reach Brisbane, from Glasgow – the second “leg” of said journey encompassing a 12 hour+ flight.
It was still worth such a long haul, particularly in my own case whereby I missed a substantial chunk of the children’s “growing-up” time. So where does that sentiment leave us, for this week’s choice of accompanying track? I’m going to defer to the capable hands of The Eagles.
Sunday 20th May 2018
Well folks, as I commence to pen this week’s edition of the Diary, having now spent one full week in the locale of Byron Bay, I am certainly not any better off financially, since the last time we were in communication! In fairness, I don’t believe this particular area of Australia is to “blame” – it would just appear that Australia enjoys a higher standard of living than that of the UK, with (generally) indigenous wages and salaries also higher than that of the UK.
Yesterday, for example, having ordered two small latte coffees, with a $10.00 Australian note in my hand in readiness (current exchange rate: £1.00 = AUS $1.75), I was still $2.00 short. That makes the price of a latte (in that particular establishment) upwards of £4.00. Not the end of the world, I would agree, but evidence of the cost of living being around 20% higher.
Having now, over the past week, driven around the town of Byron Bay itself – while also visiting some of the local “attractions” (as recommended by my son Bradley, with him in tow, on most of those local trips) – there is no denying the charm and (if you are in the 18 – 25 age group) the “lure” of the place. I mean, this is their Winter – yet we are enjoying average daily temperatures of 21C. I can easily see this place being very hot and very busy, during their “high” Summer period: I believe that period to be the months of November through January.
Currently, I am on the cusp of a decision to extend my stay here beyond my planned return date of this coming Tuesday, 22nd. There is no immediate necessity for me to return to the UK, business wise (my involvement with Little Mix is for the total month of July, with a requirement for me to be in the UK, two weeks prior to that). Having said that, I had planned to leave the UK, one week today, to head out to Cyprus to visit Alice. However - having checked - the cost of switching my outward flight to 30th May, rather than the 27th, is (surprisingly!) negligible. I’ve come a long way to visit my son and therefore if I can extend that visit – and I am in the fortunate position that I have the financial resources to do so – I should be taking any opportunity of spending some precious time in his company. I think the decision’s made!
I do wonder how “close” we are to our children at this stage of life – or vice versa? I find it difficult (not emotionally, necessarily – more to do with an ageing memory!) to recall how the situation was, in respect of keeping in touch with my own parents, a “generation ago”. I am sure I could be partly vindicated, for the very reason that I was tearing around the globe in my thirties – an era when worldwide communications were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are nowadays. International calling was an expensive business, back then – and no e-mail.
Do our children (in the main) see us as we saw our parents? Will we ever really know? How does one make any sort of comparison over a generation of time? I would have to say that there is lingering regret on my behalf that I did not make a greater effort to stay in regular touch with my parents – in spite of the fact that the majority of their “later” years were spent living in North America, first in Canada with my sister, then within the Las Vegas area.
If you are willing to indulge me (but, what have you been doing for nigh on the last twenty years?!) I may find myself expanding upon the thoughts of the last two paragraphs, in a future edition of the Diary. For now – and to be sure I can lift myself out of impending melancholy (only temporary!), I will leave you with this thunderous rocker from Thunder. And it does! XX
Sunday 13th May 2018
This week’s entry should really have been penned from a height of around 38,000 feet.
Technically speaking, that’s approximately where I was for the best part of Sunday, en-route to the east coast of Australia (Byron Bay, to be exact) to visit my son, having not seen him for the best part of five years. Yes, I should have taken that opportunity to get stuck into my diary then: after all, I spent eighteen hours in the air – more than enough time to do it..
Still (and this is something of a throwaway line): that was then and this is now – and now I’m doing it, currently sat on the balcony of our Air B ‘n B establishment in Byron Bay’s suburbs.
Naturally, it’s most heartening to hook up with my son again – all the more poignant, since I spent far too much time, out on the road on countless tours, away from my children in their formative years. However - says Jake, somewhat selfishly - it would have been good had he elected to take up “temporary” residence in the likes of the Canary Islands, rather than halfway across the globe. “The Canaries” is a three-hour flight, in contrast with the twenty-three hours (with connecting Emirates flights through Dubai) that it took to reach Byron Bay!
However, we are here now – and it is very much the idyllic environment that I expected it to be: too many people, from various walks of life, had attested to the attraction and setting of the place, for it to be otherwise. There are definite comparisons to be drawn between the “vibe” here – and that of Queenstown, an enchanting town on the south island of New Zealand.
We are housed, for our entire stay while we are here, in an “Air B ‘n B” location on the edge of town, which took us just over two hours to reach, from the time we drove out of Brisbane International airport, in the hire car: a three-lane motorway for the majority of the journey.
While it is undisputedly a cool area, it is also undisputedly an expensive area. Case in point: two frappe iced mochas and one orange juice at “The Dip” café (maybe they named it after their patrons, for paying such prices!) this morning came to the sum total of $25.50, which currently computes to £14.20. However, in fairness to that comparison, the standard of living in Australia is known to be higher than the UK – and the same is generally true of their wages.
The laid-back (dare I say “hippy”) air of the place is borne out by more tattoos “per capita” than I’ve seen for a fair while in any given town or city however (and call me old-fashioned if you will) strolling down town-centre sidewalks barefoot makes no sense to me, for several reasons: maybe the “wearers” actually believe that their feet are not touching the ground!
Naturally, I’m more than willing to attempt to “go with the flow” but I stop short at not wearing some form of (“protective”) footwear on the sidewalk: save it for the beach, dude.
On the football front, the three lads that I represent have returned home to France, awaiting developments (which will be very much down to me!) as to how they progress their careers next season: hopefully, in each case, with a “step up the ladder”, football-league wise. With that in mind , I have chosen – for this week’s accompanying track – a great little tune from one of the “eighties” most prolific bands, “M People”, with “Search For The Hero”. Lovin’ Ya!
Sunday 6th May 2018
Let me just say that if every day – weather wise – was as pleasant as it is today, here in Dunbar, I would certainly not have to be planning on spending winter out of the country as the years go on. Therefore, I’m going to take it while it’s going: however, I’m under no illusions.
This past week has been fairly frantic on the football front, as we have reached that point in the season where the league “play-offs” are in full swing and – fairly unusually – my three players are all with clubs who had some involvement with the play-offs in their respective leagues. I use the word “had” as only yesterday afternoon, come 4.45 pm, unfortunately that was down to two players: my player Willis Furtado, who plays for the League One side “Raith Rovers” (who hail from the east coast town of Kirkcaldy) found themselves the losing side to “Alloa”, over the two-legged playoff semi-final, which now sees them out of the competition.
Not a great result (even over the length of the season, in terms of their final League position) considering that Raith Rovers are a full-time club and Alloa Athletic – (to bestow them with their full name) – operate on a “semi-pro” basis, essentially meaning that they only train on Tuesday and Thursday nights: so their fitness should be considerably “down” on Raith Rovers!
Subsequently, the Raith Rovers Chairman resigned his position within hours of the game finishing and, typically, now a sizeable contingent of the fan base are calling for the Manager’s head: this is partly a knee-jerk reaction, out of their frustration of not seeing Raith Rovers ascend to the “Championship” league, for next season’s campaign. To be perfectly honest, I can certainly share their frustration in relation to yesterday’s “below-par” performance.
This is the absolute flip-side of the lucrative nature of the Premier League in England, where the top twenty clubs enjoy an embarrassment of riches while – up here in Scotland (with the exception of the four or five top clubs) – “every penny is a prisoner”. Several of the Raith Rovers playing squad will undoubtedly be fearful of their future involvement with the club, as I’ve little doubt that most of the players’ contracts do not extend past the end of this season.
As is always the case around this time of year, every club will release between five or six players, giving an approximate total, over the 42 Senior clubs, of around two hundred ‘’jobless” players. I would estimate that probably 30% of them will be taken up by other clubs, albeit very likely at one division lower than the club they were released from - meaning that at least 50% of those released are unlikely to find another club where they can play next season, many of them for reasons of their age and their recent injury history: niggling “knocks” are harder to recover from, as the body gains in years. Sadly, it’s the way (more or less) that it happens every year – which is tough for the lads who have spent fifteen to twenty years in and around the senior leagues. They must now “graft” themselves into the mainstream of working life.
If all I have accomplished over the last twenty-two years of my involvement in football has been to serve as a conduit to assist some of those young, hopeful, players to realise their dream to play professional football, then I believe that surely I can hold my head high, no?
In thinking about some of those seasoned players who will be unable to stay in the game next season, I’m going with an iconic “Soul 11 Soul” track: “Back to Life”. May it go smoothly, lads.
Sunday 29th April 2018
Alice already knows the answer to this “riddle”: what’s the difference between a day with clear skies in Cyprus – and a day with clear skies in Dunbar? Answer: about 15 Centigrade!
Well, that’s how it is for this Sunday anyway – although my neighbor Sue did pointedly remind me that it’s still only April, when I put that question to her (hell, May’s just around the corner).
However (and I’m not setting any great store by this hopeful assumption) if we can enjoy such crisp days at this time of the year, might this auger well for August? Ah, we can but dream.
Dreaming: I’ve done a bit of that in my time. It’s a gene that certainly runs through the male side of the Duncan family, and history will show that has been one costly gene, at times. Still, at least it has been recognized and identified before (in my case anyway – although Alice may differ) it wreaked too much havoc in the pendulum of my existence. But, it still caught me.
I have (as a result of “hiding away” in Cyprus for those recent three weeks) unquestionably moved towards “re-jigging” my overall involvement with my football project. Too much of my time to date has been willingly given on a “heart ruling the head basis” – and time, nowadays, increasingly takes on a more poignant meaning. It is indeed a most precious commodity. The crux of the situation revolves around now instituting a more efficient business model, on the football front of things: yes, the time has now come to place quality firmly in front of quantity.
Indeed, if I were to honestly say what is in my heart this week, such a shift in my involvement, time-wise is, arguably, long overdue. Even returning from Cyprus, this Wednesday past, I was starkly reminded of the responsibilities of a single home owner, in terms of the domestic duties involved in such a role. In support of that view, my garden is heading towards resembling a minor “jungle”. I should add that at least I made an initial inroad towards rectifying matters out the back - by varnishing the garden table (in the hope it can be saved).
As part of the life that I lead, I would probably have to admit – if even a quick examination of the time frames were laid bare – that I’ve probably left said garden table out, exposed to the variety of – mainly “wind-driven” – weather elements that Dunbar is known for. Somehow, two of the matching garden chairs managed to up-end themselves into the small bird pools – subsequently having turned a dirty grey, in contrast to the original brown of the other two.
I mentioned – in the body of last week’s Diary entry – that I discussed with Alice the idea of having seven or eight definite “football free” months in the year, rather than continually dabbling (generally ineffectually) during the “closed window” months. Typically, as a starting point, at least half of any given year should now be earmarked accordingly; therefore – right here, right now – into that category goes February, March, April, May, June, September, October and November. That’s eight in total, of course - but a credible starting point, yah?
A fairly busy week beckons, now that three of the four senior Scottish football leagues have finished their scheduled programme of games – and the “play-off” stages are due to commence. In that respect, what follows might therefore be an appropriate track this week. Check out the first lines of this Johnny Nicolas song, “Things I Used to Do”. Very topical! XX
Sunday 22nd April 2018
So relaxed was I, having spent two weeks in Cyprus, that I decided to stay on another week.
Therefore, as I sit here this afternoon, it is now my 19th consecutive day (or part thereof – to borrow a legal phrase) on the island and - to be honest – I, almost, just can’t get enough!.
Aside from having to move a pre-scheduled dental appointment (successfully achieved) there was no immediate need for me to be back in the UK last Wednesday. Part of me wrestled with the “should I really spend three consecutive weeks out here at this time of year?” notion: however the “WTF?” Notion – and this may take some of my regular readers by surprise – won the day! I am harbouring the sneaking suspicion that had I been pondering such a decision a year ago, at this time, I would have “intimidated myself” into believing I really should return..
There is possibly a subliminal theme here: how do you break out of your routine unless you challenge yourself with a “left field” change of direction? Following on from the decision to spend the extra week out here, I can – today – definitely recognise being in an even more relaxed state of mind than I was last week. I need to take time to reflect on that situation..
Slowly but surely (and the last three weeks have certainly enhanced this line of thinking) I’m coming around to the realisation that – having undertaken the vast majority of my working life at breakneck speed – it is not enough for me to take my foot of the gas; not even enough to then apply the brakes. What is apparently required is the need for me to cut the (my) engine and “coast to a complete stop”. If I could be allowed to take this analogy a few steps further – there might then be a case for a serious service and an exhaustive M.O.T. (“Ministry of Transport” vehicle reliability/legality check – lest I may have confused my non-UK readers).
I can’t attest to the imminent arrival of any (long-awaited?) epiphany, but I definitely sense the undercurrent of a gentle sea-change relating to my ongoing mindset. I want to be in a position to enjoy and appreciate my involvement with the football side of my business, but – as time goes on, I must continue to value quality over quantity. Additionally this objective must be pursued without my involvement becoming excessively or needlessly time-consuming..
You could (quite correctly) argue that such a standpoint has been a long time coming for (to?) me, however – keeping in mind how all-consuming my touring work invariably becomes – it’s simply taken three consecutive weeks of me “standing off” my work commitments, to see it.
There is, of course, more to it than that: with some other key, contributory, factors (increasing age not being the least of those!) also percolating to the surface of my - at times, very distracted – consciousness. In the body of last week’s Diary Entry, I recall making mention of a very thought-provoking book I am currently reading (in fact, I’m already on my second reading of the passages of the book which have particularly “struck home” to me). The book, called “The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting”, is by a French (I believe) author called Marie de Hennezel: one of nine books by Marie, about “the end of life”.
However, what we can’t have is a Diary entry ending on a morbid note, so here’s a John Fogerty & Foo Fighters collaboration that would wake the dead (but we’re not there yet, are we?!). X
Sunday 15th April 2018
Not to gloat in any way - but purely to share: I’ve just enjoyed the most enlightening weekend.
At fairly late notice - on Thursday evening past, to be precise – Alice and I decided to head up to the north-west coast of Cyprus to spend the remainder of Friday (you may recall Alice finishes work at 1.00 pm on a Friday) and Saturday nights there. We have driven up to that part of Cyprus – only ninety minutes’ drive from where Alice lives, between Pafos and Limassol – on several past occasions, staying mainly in one of the two neighbouring towns of Polis or Latchi. On this occasion, however, we plumped for venturing further along the north coast (not too far mind you, or you find yourself venturing into the northern – Turkish - area of the island) to a small harbour town called Pomos – and what a most relaxing “find” it proved to be!
Boasting only one restaurant that we could see (coincidentally owned – and run – by the same family that owned the holiday apartment block in which we stayed) and two small food stores, it nevertheless showed itself to be a charming and tranquil little village, where (I believe) I was able to take another couple of “baby-steps” in the direction of “finding myself”. In these situations, it can be very difficult to pinpoint just exactly what factors may have unwittingly colluded, to allow you briefly to view your personal situation from a, hitherto, new perspective.
Even as I try to encapsulate the “influences” of the past couple of days into some form of tangible understanding, I must confess to realising that it’s probably way too soon to attempt to do so. More sensibly, something tells me, I would probably be better served trying to allow these renewed thought processes to “gently stew” for a while longer, until I can order them into some articulately presentable realisation - that would make sense to both you and I. However, said thoughts may be in danger of making about as much sense as this paragraph!
I again, this past weekend, found myself assailing Alice with my “egg-timer” theory: this being the need to prevent myself gently “up ending” the said egg-timer, before it has completely drained its contents into the bottom half of the glass. The analogy here being that the total grains of sand represent the flow of my life: however, I want to halt the flow of those grains, once the top section of the timer is empty – furthermore disciplining myself not to just routinely flip the timer through one hundred and eighty degrees again, allowing a further cycle to commence - before initiating some serious thought as to removing some of the sand. While doing so, there would surely be no harm in purposely slowing the rate of flow – as well as the total amount of sand in the timer. Are you (kind of) getting what I’m on about here?!
In summary, that quaint little harbour village has somehow construed to focus my concentration a little more, in respect of the aspects of my life that I feel I need to exert (and influence) more control over. It’s then a matter of how brave I am to make that happen.
In tandem with those above (rambling, yes) thoughts, it just so happens I have started to read a very informative book which deals with the subject (taboo?) of growing older. More about that next week, once I have had the opportunity to digest the book’s subject matter!
Where now to go, with choosing an appropriate track for this week? Bearing only a tenuous relation to this week’s text, let’s go with The Beatles, “I’ll Follow The Sun”: as I may just! XX
Sunday 8th April 2018
A momentous occasion yesterday folks, which I’m happy to share: your writer has turned 66!
I’m just looking at that number, sixty-six – it actually looks better (and more palatable!) written in longhand, than just stated as two numerals. Let me share another fact with you: this coming Wednesday, 11th, my son turns 32! Now that’s funny (in one sense – bear with me here) because 32 written in numerals is certainly easier on the eye than 66 in the same form!
This thought also occurred to me late last night: my son, this coming Wednesday, will only be one year younger than the age I was when he was born. The signs of aging are not on the wane!
However, where do you find me this fine sunny afternoon (although, “fine sunny afternoon” is probably a giveaway here – being that I surely can’t be located in Scotland)? You find me sat on the balcony of our room, at the Flora Maria hotel in Ayia Napa, towards the eastern end of Cyprus, where Alice and I have ventured to, over the Cypriot Easter weekend. Maybe I hear you mutter “now he is starting to lose it – he’s a week behind himself” but, observant readers, the brain cells are still functioning reasonably well - being that, in this part of the world, the Easter weekend is indeed one week later than its UK counterpart. Mr Trivia, indeed.
Here we are – one week into April – and this is my third visit out to Cyprus, this year, already. But why wouldn’t you? If the time is there to do it; the flights are relatively inexpensive (when booked early) – and the weather is of the “sit outside” variety (at the same time as the infamous Dunbar wind can be found to be mercilessly howling down the High Street). Did I omit to mention any other contributory factor? Of course! What was I thinking about? How could I be so inconsiderate? (“Quite easily” I hear someone say). There’s the old girl who lets me stay at her place! Alice – she, the famed producer, throughout the district of Episkopi, of “Scottish Tablet”, treacle toffee, and now – deftly shaking her utensils – comes Egg Foo Yung!
Is it irresponsible for me to pay little heed to what is happening back home, during the periods when I am temporarily located out here? I have to admit that it comes terribly easily. In the age of Direct Debit, there need be no concern of domestic accounts resting on the vestibule floor (not unless you haven’t paid them of course): it can all be done from your laptop in Cyprus!
However, when one diligently factors in all aspects of one’s monthly living costs (council tax; gas & electricity; household insurances; basic travel; food shopping, etc.) there is certainly little change – for me, anyway - coming out of £1,000 each month. It’s a gentle, sobering, reminder of the need to see some occasional earned income finding its way into the equation.
My “pension” is in the form of a small flat in East Lothian which I currently have rented - and this augments the income from my State Pension. Being mortgage free (in the same position of most of my home-owning contemporaries will now find themselves) is, of course, a welcome state of affairs: however, it represents “money” that you are unable to lay your hands on. Sure I know of these “equity release” schemes but, like many (understandably) I am wary!
In closing this week’s entry - and looking to attach an associated track – I find myself ushered towards the mention, earlier, of this “sunny afternoon”: it can only therefore be The Kinks! X
Sunday 1st April 2018
Yes, Easter comes but once a year but - unlike Winter (usually) - there’s no snow to clear!
Do you realise - in case it mildly interests you - that the above line is probably the only time such an utterance has ever been published. It does make you think (but, most likely, it doesn’t!)
You find me this Sunday afternoon – as you have found me on many occasions before – “parked” at the Dunbar Garden Centre with the sun on my back (on even fewer occasions!) - also with the fairly unique late-afternoon light that bathes the geographical position of “Sunny Dunny”.
Already, today, I have been down to the Scottish Borders to briefly visit my daughter, but had no great hankering to return to the house mid-afternoon, on such a pleasant afternoon. Of course, whether I will complete today’s entry before they “shut up shop” here (5.30 pm) remains to be seen as – just prior to making a start to this – I was earlier distracted into viewing several images of the now-long-disused railway station in the town of Penicuik, Midlothian, where I spent the first three years of my life. Did the train ride bring that on?
Anyway – possibly not for too long, mind you – here I am back in the present and, wouldn’t you know it (as if by some ethereal – right word? - sign), the sun has disappeared behind the clouds again! There are periods of my life (not extensive periods though, I have to note) when my daydreaming and night-dreaming worlds are infinitely more attractive than the alternative.
That’s my Niall Horan commitment finished, as of Thursday past in Dublin – helping to bring to close a fairly hectic week for me, which consisted of flying to Paris, one week ago today (as you recall – don’t you?!), returning back late Tuesday afternoon; off to Dundee on Wednesday evening to take in the Development League game, featuring two of my young lads, for Dundee United, Idris and Logan; then flying to Dublin Thursday morning (with a quick turnaround back again, on the 0230 ferry on the crew bus, if you follow what I mean); back up to Dunbar on the train on Friday morning, from Holyhead and then – “finally” – up to the seaside town of Kirkcaldy yesterday to watch the “Raith Rovers” game, where I witnessed my lad, Willis Alves Furtado (albeit, as a second-half substitute) help the team gain a 2-0 victory.
Within reason would you agree (in particular for those fine folks within my own demographic) that – within reason – if you keep yourself busy, then you go a long way to keeping yourself alive? In contrast to that (and – right about now – Alice is rolling her eyes towards the ceiling as she senses an, imminent, complete digression to my conversation) it is surely something of a morbid observation that The Bee Gees penned the iconic song “Staying Alive”, but yet there’s only one of them currently left on the planet. There’s the weirdest music anomaly, no?
My closing thought this evening, as the clock in the Garden Centre café reads 5.36 pm (and as the staff are politely – pointedly? – gazing in my direction) is that …… I’ve forgotten what my closing thought was!! So I’ll pack up here and hope I can recall it, on the walk back home!
Back in the office (in the house) – having already given mention to The Bee Gees this week – I am nevertheless indebted to their contribution to my formative years and will therefore, this Sunday, leave you with another of their iconic compositions, “More Than a Woman”. XX
Sunday 25th March 2018
Leaving on a jet plane (to Paris) – but I do know when I’ll be back again (Tuesday, actually).
Yes, folks, another of my, not-too-infrequent, trips associated with my football project, specifically linked to the French market. You will most likely be aware that I’ve invested significant time in this little hobby of mine, over the last fifteen years and, understandably, I won’t be deliberating at length as to the amount of money I’ve invested over that same period. Suffice to say, if I was still in possession of said monies, then I would be sitting a lot farther forward in the cabin on my Paris flight today, than the story my boarding pass tells.
I can only re-iterate, once again, that “it is what it is” and – save for (on many occasions) a sadistic work rate and a few large, opportune, slices of luck – “it” could have been way worse.
This year – in contrast to the past two – my summer, in the main, will most likely be dominated with a (yet to be confirmed – apologies) UK outdoor summer tour, that will certainly swallow – whole - the month of July, with a few days of “prep” and “clean up” tacked on to either end.
That (while remunerating me admirably) will kill the prospect of the summer trial games that I’ve staged over the last two years, here in Scotland: therefore we have no choice but to switch locations (indeed, countries) – and temporarily, this year, “relocate” to Paris. Nevertheless, we are still unable to have the games during the month of July: however that may be something of a “blessing in disguise” as it requires that we substantially re-jig the normal schedule of how the games are played, in relation to the opportunities for the more impressive of the squad of players, to go directly to trial with clubs who require their services.
The new plan (which I will field to several French contacts over the next two days - during which time I will inevitably consume inexcusable amounts of coffee) is to stage the games, in Paris, as close to the culmination of the French football season – which finished the third week in May. This way the players will be in fine physical condition and (surely) the majority of them will not have disappeared on their annual holidays. There lies the basis of the plan.
Next week I will be in a position to report how said plan was received – and hopefully embellished – by the guys in Paris who I have to lean on, to make it happen. In reaching for the sky, I will try to convince them of the (eventual) benefit of playing two games over two consecutive days however – having the personal experience of marshalling a mere squad of sixteen players, while they were over here in Scotland, on the four occasions I staged trial games - I don’t envy their job! One of them will have to “stand up” and assume ultimate responsibility for overseeing the arrangements for “corralling” upwards of sixty football players (in one 48 hour period) and allocate them positions on the field in one of four teams.
I believe Yann Herrick, from MB Sports Management (who oversaw the arrangements for the game, back on November 5th last year) will once again volunteer to pull everything together. Experience has shown Yaan that if you need thirty players for the game, then you call forty!
Surely this week’s accompanying track must be dedicated to Yaan, so here goes The Kinks with “Till The End Of The Day” – because that’s how long (and more) he’s going to be at it!! X
Sunday 18th March 2018
This evening finds me in Scotland’s (self-titled) “City of Discovery”. Why - Dundee, of course!
As a result of a limited Sunday evening train service, between Dundee and Dunbar (and dinner with Idris having been planned for 7.30 pm, here in Dundee) I was unable to get home tonight, which is why you now find me penning this week’s Diary entry from The Atholbank “B & B” in Thompson Street in Dundee. I’ll be on my way back to Dunbar tomorrow on the 09.34 – the final destination of that train being Truro in England’s West country. I was almost tempted just to stay on the train - throw all responsibility out the window - and disappear for a while!
However, back to life – back to reality. The reason to pop up here to Dundee this evening was to have the opportunity to meet with Idris’s dad, who is over from Lyon for a few days to spend some time with his son. Being the father of an “estranged” son, I can relate to that.
On the way up here today, the plan had been to “call into” Kirkcaldy to take in Willis Furtado’s game for Raith Rovers versus the club East Fife. However, something of a freak snow shower overnight, last night, led to the game being called off. Having already booked – and paid for – the train tickets that would have allowed me said stop in Kirkcaldy, I took the opportunity to make that pre-planned stop anyway - to spend thirty minutes in Willis’s company at the small hotel which is adjacent to the railway station in Kirkcaldy, at 4.30 pm this afternoon. Willis is in good spirits and – typically – the basis of our conversations centered around what lies ahead for his future, the most crucial requirement being to hope that his last club in France (US Ivry) will demonstrate an ongoing willingness to come to the “negotiating table” with us.
Over the last two months, I have slowly formed the opinion (which has been coming for years) that it takes a particularly focused and determined young player to “walk the tough line” - initially with one of the small clubs in the lower leagues of Scotland – to gain notice for his ability, a process which (using Willis as an example) can take as long as eighteen months. However, Willis has shown it can be done - to the point where he is playing with the number two team in League Two, here in Scotland, who have a very good chance of winning the division.
On the back of those various realisations, garnered over the last two months, I am off to Paris this weekend, to meet my various contacts – in conjunction with my European partner, Jean Bosco Murego – and look to focus our attentions on tracking down these particular type of players, because they are in France – and in particular, in the suburbs of the city of Paris.
Yesterday I watched one of my players, Karim Belmokhtar, play only fifteen minutes at the end of the Montrose v Peterhead game, but I am nevertheless convinced that he has the ability to play at a much higher level – and hopefully he can aspire to that next season. Once again the difficulty comes – looking at future options for Karim – in circumnavigating the plethora of unfairly restrictive (a clear restraint of trade!) regulations relating to compensation payable for young players signing professional, up until the age of 23 years old.
So, until next week – coming to you from gay Paris (well, you never now!) – let’s hope I have turned the corner, to some degree, with regards to the football project. I leave you, this evening, with the iconic Temptations and “Shakey Ground” – which I may currently be on! XX
Sunday 11th March 2018
Well, whad’ya know? This week, the Diary from the Road is being written from …… the road!
You find me, this early Sunday evening, sat in the bar area of the Spencer Hotel in Dublin, on Excise Walk – only a ten minute a stroll from the location of tomorrow’s show which, of course, is the 3Arena in Dublin where I will be involved in the first of two shows there with Niall Horan – the second being on 29th of this same month. I’m a little late on-board, onto this tour, however I’m sure if I research the sales history of the two shows I’ll invariably discover that the first show (tomorrow) “flew out the door”, leading to the decision to put a second show on sale fairly quick. That was a correct overview of the situation, however availability (it’s a popular little – big! – venue, as you may know) did not exist to run the two shows consecutively.
In fact, when one notes that the “follow-up” show has been booked for 29th of this month it indeed gives you an idea of the venue’s afore-mentioned popularity. Of course, the mainland UK dates (running from 15th through 27th March) would have already been up on sale, being that all the tour dates – or the “first phase” of them, anyway – are generally simultaneously announced. Therefore, what I can further deduce, based upon my experience of many sales campaigns along the way, is that tonight was unavailable as well (I’ll be taking a wee walk along the quayside in the direction of the 3Arena, after finishing this entry, to see if I’m right).
Whatever, it is pretty impressive to be able to sell two 3Arena shows on your first solo tour, - and I’ll be in there in the morning assisting in shifting the typical 10/20 single seats, to ensure that Niall has a complete sell-out by show-time. Lookout - Doctor Jake is in the house!
On another tangent – but staying with the present tour – I am pleased as Punch (I suspect Punch was an Irish guy!) to be involved with an Artist, much along the lines of working with Olly Murs, who uses real, live, musicians on stage. The era I come from – all Artists had them.
Therefore, for the time being, I’m as happy as a pig in poo - aided to a significant degree by the fact that many of the technical crew are “well kent faces”, 80% of them who I would say I’ve worked with on previous tours. As often mentioned, I have my “extended” family out here.
Yesterday, Dublin was populated, both indigenously - and from afar, by hordes of passionate rugby fans, off the back of yesterday’s game here at The Aviva Stadium where the Irish triumphantly landed the “Six Nations” rugby trophy by (ouch!) putting Scotland to the sword.
The above coming of the back of my football team, Hearts, suffering a sound 2-0 beating, on Friday night, from our arch rivals across the city, Hibernian, who sadly were the better team. Now Hearts have a job on their hands to stake a place in the “top six” when The Scottish Premier League “splits” around the 1st April into a top and bottom six. If we want the financial benefits of facing the likes of Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen – that’s where we have to be.
Dusk is creeping in now, to this wildly, iconic, city – as the ambient noise in the downstairs bar inversely increases, and therefore the time approaches for me to select an accompanying track that bears some relation to last night’s game. Subsequently, I will leave you – this fine relaxed evening (for me, anyway!) - with a self-explanatory tune, in relation to where many may feel Scotland’s Six Nations campaign currently rests - from The Average White Band! X
Sunday 4th March 2018
Well, folks, over (at least) the ten years I’ve been penning these Diary entries, I would struggle to recall a Sunday where we had endured such severely intense weather in the previous seven days. However, before I delve into the consequences of this past week’s weather, I must confess that I missed the first two days of it, prior to boarding my homeward flight from Cyprus, on Wednesday past. From 27C to minus 7C in the space of just six hours!
In fact, I’ve since learned that my Easyjet flight was the last scheduled flight to touch down at Edinburgh Airport on Wednesday evening, yet surprisingly “only” thirty-five minutes late.
From that point onwards, however, the ongoing forty-eight hours found me literally “marooned” in Edinburgh – with no trains, buses or even taxis running from midnight on Wednesday night. When I arrived at Waverley Bridge in the centre of town, where the Airport Express bus regularly terminates, the scene was like something out of a futuristic, deserted “white out” city. So scarce was the incidence of any moving traffic (allayed to the most unusual sight of a barren taxi rank outside the city’s main station) I was able to walk in the middle of the road – much “safer” than the treacherous pavements - up towards Princes Street. I don’t think I observed any more than about twenty-five moving vehicles, throughout the, slightly perilous, twenty-five minute airport-bus journey in from the airport to the city.
Now (and I may have made mention of this, in a past entry of the Diary) my sister resides in an eastern suburb of Edinburgh, called Musselburgh – probably not much more than a £20 taxi ride: that is if you can find a taxi to take you there! Even the taxis had called it a night. In situations such as that, you are left with no choice but to go and find yourself a hotel room – and hope to God that the rates have not been racked up to take advantage of the situation.
Surprisingly, there was a phalanx of available rooms within the £50 price range, leading me to plump for the Travelodge in Edinburgh’s Waterloo Place – main reason being that (with me trying to stay positive) the Dunbar bus stops right outside the hotel’s door. Surely – I reasoned with myself – the buses would definitely be back in service the following morning, even if the trains were predicted to be running on a very limited service, until further notice.
Well, that little prediction soon went by-the-by when, upon waking early the next morning, Thursday, I was greeted with all news channels carrying the proclamation that the severe weather was due to continue for at least another twenty-four hours. What to do, with the Travelodge fully booked for Thursday evening, but to seek out hotel accommodation for a second, successive, night. Unbelievable that I was “cut off” from home for two days in a row!
Thankfully, help was at hand at Friday lunchtime, by way of young Kirstin - a very resolute neighbor of mine – who managed to locate, through “Dunbar Online”, a few Dunbar residents (who had managed to brave the dreadfully poor conditions to make it into work in Edinburgh) who had spare seats in their various cars for the return journey back down to Dunbar. Suffice to say that I managed to secure one of those seats to find myself at home by mid-afternoon!
So, what a week huh? Which surely limits the choice of any accompanying track. Unperturbed, I’m going with Johnny Nicholas’s “The Hustle is On” – and, this week, it definitely was!! XX
Sunday 25th February 2018
Well folks, by all accounts, Cyprus is definitely preferable to the UK, over the next week!
Word has it that, back home in “Blighty”, the temperature is likely to drop to an average of -8 degress Celsius, over the next seven days. Of course, there’s me saying that I’m better in Cyprus than the UK, forgetting, initially, that I’m actually flying back to Scotland on Wednesday…..
I always (literally) cover myself for such situations by wearing a decent outdoor jacket when I travel out to Cyprus, so that on the return leg, I’m well prepared for that initial blast of not-so-warm-as-Cyprus air that invariably greets me at the top of the airline steps (when you’re flying Easyjet there’s no such luxury as an automated, covered, “jet-way” to de-plane).
The average temperature, over the last couple of weeks out here, has been in the region of 20 degress Celsius, in comparison to back home (I’m reliably informed) - with an average of 8 degrees C.
However, these (by now) fairly frequent trips to Cyprus have got to be paid for somehow, therefore in March I have a couple of weeks work on some Niall Horan dates: hence the reason I’m heading back to the UK on Wednesday. Niall will represent another Artist I will be working with for the first time and it does no harm to have these “fresh” challenges (and fresh faces) thrust upon me at this stage of my career. I suspect Niall’s probably only a third of my age!
As every working person must face at some (later) point in their life, there comes a time when either you make the decision to stop working or – which will more than likely be the situation, in my case – the work just stops coming in. For me, I am more than happy to keep on working, for the next few years anyway, provided there are Artists/Entertainers who still want to hire my services. However I’m aware (have always been aware) it’s – mainly - a “young” business.
Again, on the work front, I would hope to have an involvement with Little Mix’s outdoor summer shows this year, and should be able to confirm said involvement, one week from now, in the subsequent Diary entry. That would just leave me looking to find 2/3 months’ work in the latter half of the year (being that I foresee a couple of decent tours heading my way, over the course of 2019) which would suit me just fine, over the course of this current year.
On the football front, I have been working on a plan for the future – while out here over the past ten days – where my concentration will be targeted on quality, significantly more than quantity. Not that I’ve ever dealt with excessive numbers of players, over any one period of my involvement but it has (slowly, for me typically) begun to sink in just how time consuming it has become, especially during the periods where I find myself being little more than a glorified taxi driver. I can certainly recognize a sea-change in respect of my financial outlay nowadays, as I look to keep a closer watch on my personal monies (that I grafted so hard for).
The afore-mentioned plan should be completed over the next couple of days and I honestly feel it has come along at a time on my life when I need to reel in more of my personal time. Those last few words have just flashed an idea across my wearying brain, for this week’s accompanying track: surely it’s got to be that iconic Steely Dan track, “Reeling in the Years”. Not sure it relates precisely, to my current state of mind - but what an excellent tune! XX
Sunday 18th February 2018
Tranquility is the order of the evening, as I once again find myself writing to you from Cyprus.
Sure, it is still “Winter” out here in the eastern Mediterranean but – really – how can winter be winter, when it’s 17/18 degrees Centigrade? I’ve braved the last five weeks based in Scotland – with the average temperature over that period – although I wasn’t keeping notes - surely around the 5/6 degrees C (just checked online and the actual average for January was 4 degrees C.!).
I’m not going to divert online again, as I share my next observation (although I’ll probably take a peek later this evening) but I’m convinced there is a definite link between aging and the perception of cold weather – or probably just the perception of the “cold”, generally.
For the next fourteen days that’s not anything I have to over-concern myself with, having re-located out here while A) certain interior works are being carried out on my house and B) my daughter has decided to base herself there (mostly corralled in the upstairs part of the house) as she has a week’s holiday due to her, that needs to be taken before the end of March.
Being that hotel/guest-house accommodation is very reasonable at this time of year in Cyprus, Alice and I have spent the last two days up at the Polis/Latchi area on the north-east corner of the island, where we managed to secure two nights at the Bayview Apartments (a favourite of ours, where we have stayed on a few previous occasions) – including breakfast – for a total of €68.00. The apartment is on two floors, with plenty of space to move around in – and only a matter of ten minutes’ walk from the beachfront, although said “beachfront” is currently only a shadow of its normal, bustling, self (the beachside café does not re-open until 1st March).
In fact, Alice and I have come to the mutual realization that Cyprus may actually be quieter in February than it was in January - when I was here five weeks ago. We’ve further deduced – in support of that realization – that this is probably down to the Xmas/New Year visitors having not returned to the UK (which is where the majority of Cyprus tourists originate from) until the end of the first week in January: you may recall that I was here until the 10th Jan.
Although – astonishingly – we both ended up almost soaked to the skin yesterday after being caught, out on a walk along Latchi promenade, in a fairly serious rainstorm for thirty minutes, the weather today was most pleasant for the drive back down to the south coast of the island. You will have previously heard me banging on about how much this island has to offer in terms of the web-like myriad of roads (many “un-tarmacked”) that crisscross its entire land mass. Even though this was probably our fifth/sixth visit to the Polis/Latchi area, in the time Alice has worked out here in Cyprus, we managed to experience further “uncharted territory” on the journey back today, with this particular route taking us past the vast Kykkos Monastery.
Over the next ten days or so, I have set myself the task of streamlining the football side of my business: I say “business”, however – considering it actually costs (rather than makes) me money - my interest is more that of a hobbyist but, as you know, hobbies can be expensive!
Therefore, in trying to make some renewed sense of it all, I’m going to leave you – cryptically - this evening with the excellently atmospheric Tina Arena track, aptly entitled “Chains”. XX
Sunday 11th February 2018
Is 0610 a.m. on Monday morning, 12th February still “allowable” to make a start to this entry?
As we speak, I’ve just boarded the very train of that departure time, out of a freezing cold Dunbar, bound for the big smoke: another of my infamous “down and up in a day” London trips.
In fact, with no small element of risk attached to it, I’m hoping to make a brief “stop” in Leeds, on the return journey later this afternoon, to collect a few items from my touring flight-case - which is currently stored at the premises of the production company there.
Presently, I’m gearing up for another couple of weeks in Cyprus, during which time I’m going to have some alterations carried out at the house, while a wood burning stove is fitted.
I’ve now drawn a line under my footballing activities, with the transfer window closed – as finding available, out-of-contract (fit!) players is now something of a long shot. It’s time to take stock of my efforts over the last month, in trying to place players with clubs during the January transfer window - which I’ve found to be way more of a challenge than in the summer.
For sure, it gave me something to do – albeit, however, not in the most comfortable climatic conditions. One of the “up-sides” of doing it at this time of year is that you are very quickly able to judge how any incoming trial players are going to be able to handle the inclement (cold!) Scottish weather, to which you can throw in the dark mornings and the noticeably short days.
The two lads I scouted (there’s no immediate need to “represent” them for a while yet, as they still hold Amateur status) - who have signed with Dundee United until the end of this season - seem to be taking the Scottish climate in their stride. Long may that outlook continue!
Of course, if my system proved an easy path for “breaking in” players for the British market then it naturally follows that everyone would be doing it – and very few are. The key is probably to retain one’s interest, along the lines of an inexpensive, “part-time” hobby – while continually appraising one’s progress and being disciplined and honest enough with oneself to admit what aspects of the project require amendment, and what aspects are just not working.
It follows that’s easier said than done: – there’s definitely some form of correlation with the (supposedly, safe) gambling ethos: only “gamble” what you can afford to lose then - once you’ve exhausted your “budget” - walk away. Trouble is, that many aspects/areas of football - from the supporters to the owners - uncannily adhere to the “heart rules the head” approach. Where there is passion – for a project of a business nature - there is also, invariably, cost. I am the living embodiment of that principle, within an industry bereft of admirable principles.
So – out to Cyprus again: where I can’t physically be sidetracked into any further involvement in the football project for the time being, other than to consider things from afar – and in appreciably warmer surroundings. In closing this week’s entry, as we pull out of Alnmouth station, allow me to leave you with a track that bears little relationship to this week’s disjointed ramblings. For whatever reason (that I cannot right now fathom) I feel compelled to leave you with Willie Nelson’s passionate take on Elvis’s “You Were Always On My Mind”. X
Sunday 4th February 2018
“Sunny Dunny” comes to the fore! Fabulous light today – making for (so far) a fabulous day!
I’m sat in Dunbar’s “Garden Centre” café, which is a hive of lunchtime activity: the place is going like a train, currently at 1.04 pm – as, with the best intentions, I am making an “early” start to this week’s Diary entry. However, I will certainly not manage this in one straight-shot today, as I’m due into North Berwick (another “neighbouring” coastal town, twenty-five minutes’ drive from here) where I have accepted the challenge from my sister, to meet her there and climb “Berwick Law” a prominent landmark, and a mere 613 feet above sea level. My sister (who - as I may have made mention of in the past – is as fit as a fiddle) assures me there is an accessible pathway all the way to the “summit”. What’s she trying to say to me?!
Well, spinning forward almost seven hours, you now find me back in the house at 7.44 pm, looking to complete this week’s entry while I “preside over” a quiet, darkened, cul-de-sac from my office window, on the second floor of my house. I seriously hanker for the lighter nights, especially with the proliferation of natural light that generously bathes this part of the country. We are probably gaining 5-6 minutes of light each day, but it can’t come quick enough to a lad with a personality such as yours truly – to whom darkness can turn to “down-ness”.
With the transfer window coming to a definitive close last Wednesday, 31st, at midnight there is not a whole lot more to be accomplished on the football front for the remainder of the season, therefore it’s time to take (more than) a step back and review the situation of the reality of convincing clubs to sign players during this transfer window – and the time involved in doing so. Hence, the very reason I’m headed out to Cyprus within the next couple of weeks.
On the one hand, it certainly kept me occupied during January (saving having me sat there in the house, brooding for the month). Not the most inexpensive method of preventing oneself brooding, I’ll admit, with several reasonably late-night drives involved - after midweek friendly games – prompting me to question whether there’s a better way to make things work.
Throw in my fluctuating states of mind (glass half empty, glass half full? I think it’s either totally empty - or overflowing - with me) and one has to careful of when one is on the verge of making any decision of any meaningful importance. This is, of course, nothing new to me.
One thing’s for sure: I have not – as on several past occasions – thrown money at my football project over this last month: at the risk of sounding complacent, £1,500 (approximately) is “cheap at the price” when compared to what I’ve managed to blitz my way through in the past, over a similar time period. If I dared to check back, I will probably find that – at the height of my misplaced love affair with African football - I blew close to £5,000 during the month of January 2006 - when I spent most of that time out at The African Nations Cup in Egypt.
Nevertheless, oh tolerant readers, I’m still here to tell the story – lucky to have eventually come out on top, after such past, (irresponsible?) wanton, expenditure. Let’s hope the two lads that I have signed to Dundee United will “bear fruit” at some point in the not-too-distant future. It had to happen that I am now much more protective of my money, and on that note let’s go with an appropriate little tune by The Temptations called “Don’t Look Back”. Indeed!!
Sunday 28th January 2018
Well, folks, what we have today here in Scotland (well in Dunbar anyway) is a “dreich” day.
Allow me to define that word “dreich”: it is both descriptive – in its own unique Scottish way - of the weather elements that we don’t have, rather than those that we do. Suffice to say we have no sunlight and no warmth (by any stretch of the imagination) – all we have is a depressing overcast sky and (what would appear to be, from the office window) a continuous – almost imperceptible – fine “drizzle” of rainfall. I’m tempted to go check “LastMinute.com”!
Let the record show that’s it’s just coming up to 10.00 am (yes, on Sunday 28th!) and the first paragraph of this week’s diary entry has already been scripted. Turning over a new leaf? Well, I would probably caution you not to hold your breath – as the day, with several impending distractions – is a long way from being over yet. However, I’m confident it will be done today.
I must admit right now to there being a three-hour gap between the last and this paragraph, on account of me sneaking up to the local “Garden Centre” for one of my favourite Sunday morning breakfasts, namely scrambled eggs & salmon. While there, I bumped into my neighbour Sue, in there with her daughter, son-in law and grandson. Between sitting and chatting with them over a fairly leisurely breakfast – and then chatting with Sue for a while, once her family had departed for a visit to their “other” grandparents – two hours flew by.
Do you know who’s just come on the radio (I’ve got it cranked up to “8” downstairs)? Barry White! The man’s a legend if you hail from my era. Unique Artist and style and no one has come along since, to step into “Big Bazzer’s” shoes. I can’t get enough of your love, Barry.
Anyway, it’s unlike me to digress (!!) – and this may not be the last time during this entry, as the station the radio is tuned to is Capital Gold (stumbled upon by accident). Now we have “Radio Gaga” playing and it takes me right back to George Michael’s appearance at Live Aid, an event I was privileged to attend with him. You know what happened there, as the memories of George Michael crossed my mind? I went looking at some photographs on the internet, of when I went to China with George - and got myself majorly sidetracked looking over a whole bunch of photo-agency shots that I had never seen before, from our time spent there in 1985.
I’m back with you now (7.00 pm)! Strains of Ray Charles sneaking up the stairs towards the office are reminding me of how fortunate I have been to witness such Artists in the flesh: in the case of Ray Charles - on a balmy summer’s evening on the beach in San Tropez (I s**t you not). Not that I went there specially to see the man in concert. I just happened to be in the neighbourhood during the time that George Michael was recovering from his throat surgery.
To change tack a little (towards football, of course) I was pleased to witness both of my new lads take the field (albeit, as substitutes) for Dundee United in the home game against Greenock Morton yesterday afternoon – although surely one to forget for Dundee United, who were comprehensively beaten 3 – 0. It’s a tough one now for them to win the Championship.
In closing, for this week’s accompanying track, it’s got to be the afore-mentioned Mr. Ray Charles with an almost haunting version of Lennon/McCartney’s “Yesterday”. Until tomorrow!
Sunday 21st January 2018
Well, folks, I’m here to tell you that I had the best eleven minutes yesterday, for a long time.
One of our French players (Idris Kadded) who we scouted, back at our game in Paris on November 5th, made his debut for Dundee United yesterday, coming on in the 79th minute and (don’t take my word for it – listen to the fans!) made an immediate, “dynamic”, impression. One fan commented on the Dundee United fanzone site that “he was only on 11 minutes, but he was almost our best player, in the whole game!”. Well, that can’t be a bad start now, can it?
Naturally, there’s a long way to go - but I certainly drove back down from Alloa (Dundee United’s opposition in the Scottish Cup) yesterday feeling as good as I have about my football project, probably since Eliphas Shivute scored a goal against Glasgow Rangers “way back” in 1997. In all honesty, there have been too few “highs” like that and too many (at times, expensive) disappointments/false-starts. I’ve only just realized, as I write at this very moment, that it’s far less likely that - as I may have wrongly observed in the past – there is this “dreamer” gene running through the male side of my family: it’s more likely to now be a minor bi-polar condition. I’m not looking for sympathy – just for a few knowledgeable answers.
I may have mentioned last week (I probably did!) that I have been unable, for as long as I can remember, to have had the time in any given December to be able to prepare for “a month of football”, hence trying to place players in this “January window” is something of a new venture.
Ironically, while in slightly uncharted waters, we may have happened upon the two most promising players we have been involved with, for a good few years. I refer to “we”, as it was Jean Bosco Murego, my Belgian-based European scout, who first laid eyes on Idris Kadded.
There is also something of a “silver lining” where Idriss and Logan are concerned: they are very respectful and grateful and ambitious – and talented! Folks, I tell you, that - right there - is a rare combination! You will certainly have heard me say in the past (on more than one occasion, over the past twenty years now) that the nicest guys rarely turn out to be the best football players. Well, in the case of Idris and Logan, we may just have “won a watch”.
Of course, as is the norm in most of those situations – provided the players settle in well to the club environment of Dundee United, and start to make measured progress (which I’m quietly confident of happening) – the lads may find themselves gently hounded by various factions of the media – not to mention a smattering of other agents who will find their way to them (mainly through asking their other players at the club to “put a word in for them”).
Upon reflection, however, if one finds oneself facing such occurrences, it is a sure indication of the fact that we have a couple of decent players on our hands: which makes the “grief” worthwhile. Football has a way of sometimes turning decent, down-to-earth, young footballers – over a period of time – into avaricious, egotistical individuals. Not so with Idris and Logan.
As we await “International Clearance” for Logan, in the hope that would give him some involvement in next week’s home game for Dundee United, I’m thinking that an appropriate accompanying track this week would be the wonderful Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time”. I hope!
Sunday 14th January 2018
Here comes an unpredictable week, I can certainly assure you. Why? Football. That’s Why!
I may have mentioned - in a previous edition of the last month’s Diary entries - that I generally don’t get too involved in the football side of my business at this time of year, as in the last 5/6 years my touring projects have always run close to Christmas, giving me no time to prepare a player portfolio for the various opportunities that can present thrmselves in January. Being that the Little Mix tour “wrapped” on 26th November (and – most relevantly – that I could squeeze in a whistle-stop/one-day trip to Paris in the middle of the LM tour) I was able to plan effectively to assist several young players scouted at the afore-mentioned game.
My two players at Dundee United (Idris Kadded and Logan Martin) are doing very well for themselves - and continue to impress the coaches in training. Dundee have a formidable job on their hands to regain “top spot” in the Scottish Championship – currently the preserve of the team based in Paisley, west of Glasgow, not far from the airport, called “St Mirren”. So it’s all exciting stuff and – naturally – in spite of the great strides St Mirren have made, under their “new” Manager, Jack Ross, since around this time last year. So …. the race is surely on!
Aside from Idris and Logan, there is typically a handful of players in my “temporary stable”, garnered from various sources and various scouting missions: every one of them hopeful of making some sort of breakthrough – but few (by the law of averages) – able to accomplish that feat. However, that shouldn’t deter me from trying to give them a “leg up” for the future.
Look, being here - based back in Dunbar this January (unlike previous years, where I have just slinked off to the sunshine to leave these dark, cold, Scottish winters to themselves) - I should be thankful that I have something to occupy myself – that costs me a damn site less than it used to! By the time I “tot up” the various areas of football-business related expense (and provided I don’t go “do-lally” on any one individual player) I should be no more than £1500 out of pocket at the end of this month, although it’s worth keeping in mind that “the end of the month” is still a good sixteen days away – therefore I need to avoid any frivolous expense.
Having said all that – and despite having blown sizeable tranches of money in my time – it is fair to say that “I’m doing OK” now. However it’s worth remembering “there are no pockets in a coffin” - and I’ll be damned if I let the government (not that I’ll be there to stop them!) take any more money off me, in the form of Inheritance Tax, so – really - how much money does one require, to be comfortable? That view must be countered, however, with the cold hard fact that we just never know how long we’re going to be here. It would indeed be pleasing to know that – in my case – I may still be bopping (hobbling?) around pushing 80, but I’ve no wish to be housebound, even at that stage, so the piggy bank still needs to be close at hand.
I can only push on through January on the football front, haranguing Managers and coaches alike, to take a look at my players (even better - include them in practice games while the professional leagues are on a small break) - and see what transpires. So much luck is involved.
With that sentiment in mind, I’m going for my old mucker Rod Stewart with this week’s accompanying track “Some Guys Have All The Luck”. Let’s hope I’m one of those guys. XX
Sunday 7th January 2018
Only fifty-one shopping weeks left until Christmas! How can I slow down this impending year?!
Having said that, I’ve enjoyed a fabulous couple of “days away” on the eastern side of Cyprus, arriving back late this afternoon, just as the sun was dipping into the western sky, amid a canvas of vivid orange and yellow hues. At times like these, it’s a wonderful thing to be alive!
It seems much longer than forty-eight hours that we have been away: however this impression is undoubtedly aided by Alice being able to finish up on a Friday at 12.00 noon. There is however a flip-side to this, in that she starts again on a Sunday, from 6.00 pm onwards. Having said that, it’s dark here just before six, so one doesn’t really feel like one is losing out on the latter part of the day. Added to which, the sun is up around 07.00 in the morning, currently.
Having completed the last 2017 edition of my Diary last week, well before the final chime of the clock ushered us into this new year, it was my intention to continue to display such timely entries. However, as a result of my laptop encountering the most annoying, intermittent, screen flickering – causing it to continually shut down with no warning (thankfully, it’s well within the Warranty) – here I am on Wednesday, trying to complete last Sunday’s late entry.
There is a beach front area that Alice and I frequently visit, called Curium Beach, which is only around thirty minutes from Limassol. Strung out along said beachfront – over a distance of approximately five hundred yards – there are three Café/Restaurant operations, each with their own inherent character, but all consisting of an indoor eating area and a “decked” outside patio, the latter, in all three cases, a matter of metres from the Mediterranean water’s edge.
Although there are good people – and good food – in all three establishments, I find myself drawn to the “middle” establishment – possibly the largest of all three, “covers” wise – known as “Chris Blue”. As a result of having frequented all three places over the time I have spent here, I find myself most drawn to “Chris Blue”. I would estimate their prices to be around 15% up on its flanking competitors, however – in my view – the additional cost is well merited.
We’ve all experienced this feeling of inexplicable “comfort”, be it when you spend leisure time in a facility such as this – or maybe when you are house-hunting and you are only two minutes over the door of a house for sale - and you immediately sense this is where you want to live.
That’s sort of how it is with me and “Chris Blue”: I just find myself completely at ease out on their deck right now, the waves gently stroking the shore, the temperature (even in Winter) pleasant enough to require only a T-shirt and shorts. I might think about pitching a tent here.
In spite of all of the above – and pending my lottery winner’s cheque landing on the mat – it will be back to reality for me, in a few days, when I fly back to Scotland for a couple of weeks of football business, with the closure of the “transfer window” just under three weeks away.
The last three weeks spent out here in Cyprus have been most beneficial to my well-being, increasing my long-held view that British Winters hold no lasting attraction for me! Keeping some relation to this week’s topic, I leave you with Don Henley’s “Down at the Sunset Grill”.
Caledonian Communications 2018