Slight change of location since last week. Hello from the reading lounge in the Soreda Hotel.
Where?! I may hear you question. Shall I detail my movements of the last week, since Paris?
I don’t know if I mentioned, towards the end of last Sunday’s entry, that I would be moving on to Malta during the Christmas and New Year period. This was aided by the fact that there was a direct flight – on Monday past (23 rd ) – available from Beauvais, sixty miles north of the centre of Paris – and an airport from where many of my French players flew to Scotland years ago. Although the budget airline “Ryanair” regularly flew from Beauvais to Prestwick (Scotland’s “third” airport – yet the only one with a rail link, until three years ago. As far as I know, Ryanair still operate from Prestwick, however the “old” direct Beauvais route seems no more.
Anyway (and it’s just not like me, is it?) I digress. To reach Beauvais, particularly with Paris currently in the grip of a series of varied forms of transportation strikes, I elected to take the main-line train last Sunday evening and billet myself at a small Beauvais Airport hotel.
The above plan made even more sense, with the Malta flight scheduled for a 10.00 am departure, on Monday morning past. This still required me to take the local airport bus, around to the main terminal at 07.45 am (for the princely sum of €1!) as the hotel and retail complex – for some strange reason – is located on the complete opposite far side of the airport.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit Malta, you will no doubt be aware of the efficiency of the local transportation system – in particular the buses. For only slightly more than I paid earlier on Monday morning (this time €1.50) I was able to take the “X1” bus direct from the airport, to the ferry terminal at Cirknawa, at the tip of the northern shore of the main island – en-route to the second largest island in Malta: the enchanting, historic and “laid-back” Gozo.
On a previous occasion (the only and only time I had visited Gozo) I stayed on the island’s main town of Victoria whereas, this time, I elected to head for Marsalforn, on the east coast.
I spent four, most-relaxing, days and nights at the Electra Guest House in Marsalforn (with a Christmas day included) before catching the ferry back onto the mainland, Friday past: which – harking back to the first line of this week’s Diary entry – is why you now find me, this not-as-warm-as-anticipated Sunday evening, penning this entry from the reading/TV room in the Hotel Soreda, in St Paul’s Bay. It took me a while to explain all of that away, did it not?!
I’ll now remain on the main island, with a change of hotel (one day I’ll tell you all about it) until next Friday, 3rd January – when I’ll be heading back to Edinburgh, and off to a game Saturday.
I can’t say I haven’t had time to think a few things through while I’ve been out here however (and I omitted to mention this previously) the first two days would have done my home town of Dunbar proud – with the amount of windy (and daytime cool) weather, and not a lot of sun.
May have to go further afield next time to “guarantee” temperatures above 20 degrees! In closing, with New Year imminent, I’m calling on B.B. King to once again, festively, play us out (of 2019).
You could (could) be thinking: it’s a while since he’s sloped off to Paris. Think no more.
Of course – as on (almost) the majority of past occasions, it is my football interests that have drawn me here. This particular visit (the travel arrangements for which have been in place for a good two weeks now) has however encountered something of an unforeseen, reasonably formidable, hurdle: one of the more severe transportation strikes the city has experienced.
Now sure – as my good neighbour was quick (and correct) to remind me: if I had been up on the international news front, I would have been aware that major disruption to the Paris Metro (underground) system was planned for the pre-Christmas period. I have an excuse ….
The above probably comes down to having my head buried in the “Little Mix” post-tour accounts, racing to have them completed – and mailed off the girls’ business management company, in their entirety – prior to the commencement of this trip (on Friday past, 20th).
Anyway, we’re here now (“we” refers to me being accompanied – although he made his way here independently, from Lokeren in Belgium, where he is based – by Jean Bosco Murego, our Chief European Scout) and we have just had to make the best of these current disruptions.
The metropolis of Paris risks grinding to an agonising halt without the far-reaching (suburban wise) tentacles of its comprehensive Metro system: the only practical way for the majority of the city’s “outlying” commuters to find their way, daily, into the centre of this vast city.
Having said that, one young player, so affected by the cancellation of “Metro Line 4”, forwarded us a WhatsApp text, a couple of hours ahead of our intended meeting in the immediate Gare du Nord vicinity (our hotel was – thankfully – only 12 minutes’ walk from the main entrance to the station: more by good luck than good judgement) to inform us – and I quote – “I have no Metro – and it would take me an hour to walk to where you are”. Folks, might I remind you that this is a talented young defender - albeit one without a club at present, and since August, I might add! – who does not have the motivation to take a one- hour walk into the centre of Paris, for the opportunity to get his career back on track. Next player, please!
Advancing age and patience (generally) do not make for comfortable bedfellows. Although I do not wish to “invite” the situation, it will not surprise me to have that particular young player on the phone at some point in January, wondering why I have ceased communicating with him.
As I said to Jean, while reflecting on this particular episode of “player-nonchalance”, this situation – until we can find such players a small contract somewhere – actually dictates that they are representing us, not us representing them. In other words, it is my reputation – and certainly not theirs, otherwise they would not require my services – that is finding a pathway for them to a club trial: subsequently, if they are not up to the mark, it’s me that “suffers”.
Off the back of this week’s witterings - rather than try to pinpoint a related tune - let’s just go with another track from BB King’s (God rest his soul) speciality Christmas album of several years ago. Today I’m going with “Christmas Celebration”. Merry Xmas to all, when it comes! X
Decisions, decisions: undeniably the cornerstone of both my business – and personal – life.
However, one of the main differences is that I am in my comfort zone with business decisions – particularly on the concert touring side of things (especially dealing with money that’s not mine!) whereas when it comes to “personal” decisions – and I guess I am probably referring to my football involvement here – it’s me that’s writing the cheques, so caution is to be advised.Having said the above, I am no longer in the “zone” when I was splurging considerable amounts of cash on player flights and accommodation – without first having thoroughly checked out each player’s CV, background, mentality and their eligibility to adapt to the Scottish football.
Somewhat in my defence, I could add that when I first started becoming involved in the murky world of football the internet was nowhere near as sophisticated and resolute, in respect of having the tools at hand to comprehensively examine and cross-check a player’s background. Countless unscrupulous foreign agents knowingly played that to their advantage.
I can clearly recall that in those days (early to mid 90’s) there existed no means to transfer large video files, as e-mail attachments. We therefore had to rely on the player compiling – and then mailing – a VHS tape of their highlights, which invariably was a full 90-minute game.
To confound matters even more, you then had to rely on the Manager or Coach – to whom you handed over a copy of the video – to actually take/find the time to sit down and watch it. Nowadays, one just takes along one’s laptop, hooks up onto the club’s Wi-fi and subsequently sits down alongside a member of the coaching staff – or the club’s Chief Scout – and pores over the footage in their company. Simpler still, is to just forward a “link” to where the footage can be located on the internet, however – of course – with this option you can never be sure the link is opened and the footage scrutinised, to view what the player is all about.
On the subject of football player’s “highlights” the main criticism (coming from Coaches and Managers) in respect of the production of the footage is that – of course – it only shows the things the player does well and – for example – you have no idea how he is when “off the ball”.
Such criticisms are born from the belief (a belief that I now cannot really fault, off the back of 25+ years of experience in the football business) that every player has a “back- story” the more questionable parts of which he is hardly going to offer an interested football club.
What am I – generally – trying to say here? I’m trying to say it is far from easy to convince a full-time Scottish football club to take a look at an “unknown” player, a result of which is that I am constantly streamlining processes to pave the way for said unknown players to carve themselves into the initial curiosity of the majority of football clubs, and I continue to do so.
Next week, en-route to Malta for some chill time over the Xmas and New Year period, I’ll probably stop off in Paris for a couple of days, to meet the “next batch of hopefuls” the cream of which (you’re talking four or five players, max, here) I’ll bring over to Scotland at the beginning of January, which allows me to dovetail into the perfect accompanying track!! X
Not for the first time, you find me in Dunbar’s local Garden Centre café, one egg roll already dispatched: bathed in some fabulous east coast light, and reflecting – as I have before on past occasions – that I may never have cause to leave here (“here” being Dunbar, rather than this Garden Centre!). The day will come when most of my entries are penned from this spot.
It is a fabulous locality and – as I have, again, oft laid claim to in the past – I am up for dealing with the occasional severe bouts of windy weather (struggling to cycle into the face of it, as I was yesterday) in exchange for such beautiful, natural, light – and the none too infrequent vivid sunsets. Sure, it doesn’t happen every day like this – but when it does, it’s truly inspiring.
Not to throw a minor dampener on the proceedings, however the only minor reservation I have about residing here in Dunbar – in my advancing golden years - is based around medical facilities. Already, with the upsurge of new housing development in the surrounding area of Dunbar, our dedicated medical centre is becoming stretched to the point of unsustainability.
The nearest A&E facility is twenty minutes away from here – and, even then, only functional for certain hours of the day. Otherwise it’s the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, perched close to the south of the city’s ring road, that would be one’s first port of refuge if accident or serious illness struck at extremely short notice. Something that’s never too far from my thoughts.
Switching subjects, the last week has been consumed with the “clean-up” period, in the wake of the Little Mix tour. Almost twelve weeks out on the road leaves many loose ends to be squared away and – to lob a further spanner into the works – many of these loose ends bear some tenuous relation to each other. “This” can’t be finished until I find out about “that” – and “that” depends upon someone else forwarding me the associated pieces of information.
I would struggle to detail how all those various strands of the afore-mentioned clear-up process almost “conspire” to manifest themselves into almost two weeks work, but they do. Having said all of the above, I can now report the last touring file was dropped off at the Post Office on Friday night, just before closing: then rewarded by a glass of decent Barolo!
As of today, I find myself in a rarely unique position: I am completely finished with my last touring project – and I’m at least six weeks away from having to dip my toe anywhere near the water of the next touring project (which is, as I’m sure you’ll understand, a touch too early to make mention of yet – but you know I’ll divulge that info just as soon as I am able to).
So – “freedom”, of sorts, for the best part of two months – and a very real opportunity (albeit over a period which straddles the Christmas and New Year holidays) to – literally – put my own house in order. I know, within myself, that I therefore need to utilise this downtime (away from my music business interests) to investigate alternative, commercial, possibilities. I’ve certainly been fostering a few ideas over the last few years, that could take me off the road for longer periods – but also provide a source of income. Time to flesh out those ideas.
Oops, almost out of time and space! In keeping with this week’s opening paragraph, and the fabulous Dunbar natural light, I’m handing over to Daniel Boone to tell it like it is. Big love. X
As I sit here at the dining room at home, I’m gazing over at my first Music Business award!
I don’t believe I mentioned this to you, prior to now. I’ve known about it for three months now however, initially, there was a question over whether I would actually be able to attend – as there was talk, in Little Mix management circles, that I may be needed in Australia. With the girls having to postpone those dates down under, as a result of pressing recording commitments back over this side of the world, I was finally able to confirm that I would be in Scotland for the awards ceremony in Glasgow, at the Old Fruitmarket Gallery, last night.
Something of a glittering event, which included several brief live appearances, most notably Simple Minds – who closed the evening’s live performances with rousing versions of a few of their more notable tunes. However, by the time they took to the stage, it was past midnight!
I opted not to remain for the after-show party, being well-versed in how – following dinner and drinks, spread over almost six hours (throw in the afore-mentioned live appearances, a protracted auction and a “bingo” session, etc) – proceedings can quickly degenerate into something of a mild and innocuous “stramash”. You may have to check the origin of that word!
Without doubt, it’s something of a buzz to receive such an award, in recognition of 46 years’ service in the business: even just looking at the number 46 generates something of a sober moment for me. It speaks volumes that one human body (mine) can go through what I have subjected mine to – and yet be able to sit here and lucidly commit my experiences to paper.
Next week – and I’ve already made a start to this, earlier today – I’m tasked with the “clean-up” process, off the back of the recent Little Mix tour: I will attack this with formidable gusto as – come this time next week – it is my intention to report to you good folk that all is done and dusted and the dining room table at which I currently sit, can be recognised as such.
Once I’ve cleared that hurdle, I will be – metaphorically speaking – pushing on to the finishing line of my own personal situation: meaning that I want to see my house ship-shape again, and certain “annual” domestic tasks squared away, before the new year of 2020 comes knocking at the door. Just quietly repeating those words “2020” ushers in (as well as the New Year) more than a tremor of trepidation, wondering what those upcoming months may hold for me.
I am convinced – even if I am somewhat struggling, at this time, to order and/or articulate the feelings I am gently experiencing of late – that next year will represent my most transitional twelve-month period, for as long as I can remember, professional-career wise. Gently pulsating in the back of my head is a muted neon sign, displaying the key word “balance” – and that, in itself, presents a major challenge, as I work my way towards where I want to be in my life, and where I would be comfortable to find myself, at this same time next year.
Time to rescue myself – before I career (“dangerously”?) way too far left field – especially with only one paragraph of this week’s entry remaining. So – in terms of an appropriately titled accompanying track, let’s put that aside for this week (if you will) and allow me to leave you with a wee tune that particularly inspires me. Take it away, none other than Rod Stewart…
In the immortal words of Roy Orbison, “It’s Over”. Namely, Little Mix’s 2019 European Tour.
Since travelling to production rehearsals in London, for the tour, on 6 th September (that seems like a long time ago, now) my overall involvement encompassed almost twelve weeks, taking in Europe, Ireland and the UK: a total of forty-one shows and – I figure – ten countries.
The show itself has “wowed” over 350,000 avid Little Mix fans, over the total period of the tour – and it will certainly rank as one of the top five attended arena tours, on the UK mainland, during 2019. To be able to have sold out twenty-five arena shows, in such a competitive concert-touring market is something the girls can be very proud of: a momentous achievement.
Yesterday (with Friday past being the last show of the tour) I elected to fly back to God’s country, via London City Airport – the main reason being that London’s O2 is on “that side of town” and, in fact, a twenty-minute cab ride – once the show was down - saw me check-in to the London City Airport hotel: a vibrant little hostelry which I would certainly frequent again.
Sure, the rooms were (shall we say) a touch on the compact side, however – nowadays – for £88.00, to include breakfast - and when the hotel is a 7/8-minute walk over to the departure terminal - is a sure-fire result, in my book. It’s one of those type of hotels where the bar area is immediately annexed to the hotel’s reception area: ideal for me, to indulge in a rare glass of beer, after midnight, then to toast the end of a most enjoyable and rewarding tour.
The flight up yesterday was a mere 80 minutes and – being that the departure time was 0930 – I was in my rental car (procured from Enterprise at Edinburgh Airport) a few minutes before noon, and making a bee-line, north-east, for the town of “Kirkcaldy” & the “Raith Rovers” game!
Come 4.40 pm, I was heading back to the car park near Raith Rover’s small stadium – just ahead of the main egress of the home fans – and turning south towards my home town of Dunbar, a journey which was accomplished in just under ninety minutes, albeit in driving rain.
Back in the house, after almost ten weeks away, I have become conditioned over the years to a diametrically opposite change of pace. My analogy for such a process is that I have been plugged into the mains electrical supply (not literally, you understand), “buzzing” constantly for the afore-mentioned period of time – and then someone has just sharply pulled the plug.
Such an action just doesn’t “switch you off” there and then: there is a “slowing” period, akin to what happens when you cut the power to an overhead fan in an Asian hotel room. The momentum that has built up, off the back of a constant high-speed operation over an extended period of time, requires some form of deceleration period. Is this making some sort of sense?
As I sit here, late morning today (Sunday) I’m consciously aware of a gentle “humming” throughout my body, as if there was a branch of the London Underground directly below my house. By this time tomorrow, no such sensation will remain, leading me to wonder – as always – if such a realisation is possibly more in the mind, than the body? What an ideal time to segue way into an appropriately titled track: the iconic Sam & Dave with “You Got Me Hummin’”! XX
Sat in the “Park Inn by Radisson” this Sunday morning, awaiting the arrival of the tour-bus, to spirit us the short distance to Leeds. Want to hazard a guess at the Manchester weather?!
Last night saw us finish a three-show run at the Manchester Arena (and three sold-out shows, I might add) – a mere stone’s throw from the afore-mentioned hotel. As far as the past week goes, those three shows were proceeded, Monday & Tuesday last, by two Nottingham shows.
That has generally been the rhythm of the tour to date, averaging five shows each week, and invariably – as today – with the Sunday being an off day. I’ve endured a lot less enjoyable touring schedules in my time. Not since my days of Tour Management (getting on – with the exception of the Ant ‘n Dec “Takeaway” tour, three years ago – for seven years now) have I gone a whole tour having not having to climb into a tour bus bunk, on one or two occasions.
Fast forward to my Leeds hotel, with the current time sitting at 6.36 pm – with no (real) pressure to have this week’s entry completed by the stroke of midnight. We are now down to our last few shows of the tour and typically (as is always the case, on any reasonably long tour) our first show back in Madrid seems – now – like a long, long, way back. I know it was “only” the 16th of September, however a large volume of water has flown under the bridge since then. I planned to do so much for myself (hotel gyms; books I wanted to finish reading; people I wanted to visit, along the way) and typically – once again – never got around to it.
I need to apply a concise week of clean-up to the tour, once the final show is completed on 22nd of this month therefore, if all goes to plan, I should be done and dusted by the end of this month. Following that, the sensible line of thinking decrees that I commit some time to a (small, nevertheless) mounting list of domestic – yet cosmetic – tasks, all requiring attention.
If planned well – and efficiently – that should incur (in the “initial” phase, anyway) no more than three weeks: I would have to call a halt to it anyway at that point as – being that I will generally enlist the assistance of certain local, inexpensive, tradesmen to accomplish the afore-mentioned tasks – everyone is breaking up for the Xmas/New Year period, especially as (and I just had to take a peek at the December catalogue, to be sure of this) Christmas lands on a midweek day this year. If certain companies – and self-employed individuals – can swing it, they’re going to attempt to make Friday 20th December their last workday before Christmas, giving them the whole next week off: I fear that’s the way things are going folks.
Additionally, there’s little to be gained by banging on about how early – commercially – the arrival of Christmas is heralded now in the UK: in our local Garden Centre in Dunbar (and I know the recall of my timing is accurate, as I arrived in Little Mix rehearsals on September 6th ) there was evidence of preparation for the Christmas period, just after the end of August!
Having not eaten since breakfast time, I’ll have to make a move reasonably soon to catch the hotel restaurant, being that it’s a Sunday evening. I do recall, from a past occasion, that there’s a Fish ‘n Chip shop within walking distance, however I have at least an hour’s accounting work to undertake before the morning, therefore I’m going to elect not to venture out. This week I leave you with a great little Eagles tune, bearing little relation to anything at all. XX
Boy, am I feeling somewhat whacked out, off the back of that “whistle-stop” visit to Vietnam at the beginning of this week. When you bear in mind that I stepped off the plane in Ho Chi Minh city at 7.30 pm last Sunday, and then was boarding the return flight at 11.55 pm on Wednesday night (arriving into Birmingham the very next morning, “next door” to the Resorts World Arena – on the NEC complex – and going straight into a thirteen-hour shift) you’ll understand that my body’s time clock was completely thrown off in those seventy-two hours.
Arriving back into my Birmingham hotel on Thursday night (01.30 on Thursday morning!) I lay back on my bed for a few moments of respite and the next thing I knew was waking up at 04.30 am in the morning, fully clothed, understandably jet-lagged – and mildly disorientated.
The moral of the story folks, is this: avoid taking a weekend break, halfway around the world!
However, this was indeed a special occasion, as it’s not every day that one’s daughter turns thirty years old. Additionally, had my son made it in from Byron Bay in Australia (which didn’t transpire, through his pressure of work) - and with the children’s Mum, Stella, flying in from Scotland there appeared to be all the makings of a rare occasion of a genuine family reunion.
With Bradley not making it into Vietnam on this occasion, that now represents a formidable challenge to replicate that proposed arrangement, at some future date. Ah, parenthood, eh?
The next thought process, which has to be eased into gear - once this current Little Mix tour has drawn to a close, and the associated “clean-up” period completed – is how to spend my time over the Christmas and New Year period: this may finally be the year (with no touring commitments in December or January) when I make the decision, especially with my children so far away, that it’s the last time I endure the cold and the dark, in the country of my birth!
Generally speaking, the Christmas and New year period does not present one with cheap travel options. Having said that, if I’m ready to go at the drop of a hat (provided such an instant travel decision promises a welcoming climate) there may be one or two enticing possibilities.
In seeking a combination of some sunshine – yet not having to succumb to twelve hours flying, to find it – I’m figuring The Canaries to be a considered option. But you know what? That’s one of the positive advantages of the internet: whatever you’re thinking of doing - or wherever you may be considering travelling to – someone, somewhere (having found themselves in the same predicament) has found the answer and, bless them, have been more than willing to share their experiences, and the outcome of painstaking research, with everyone else.
As with any tour of this magnitude – contrary to how much you may delude yourself otherwise, in the early stages – there is little, true, free time to undertake tasks of a personal nature: you are either in the gig, in your bed – or asleep on a bus, between the two. You tell yourself, particularly off the back of extensive experience, that you will finally make time for yourself.
Then the touring juggernaut gathers pace and your personal time flies out the window, once again. This week’s accompanying track bears some relation to that particular line of thought!
Technically speaking, it’s 03.00 am UK time – where I’m now sat in Dubai International Airport.
I may have already mentioned that I was zipping down to Vietnam this weekend - on the occasion of my daughter’s 30th birthday – taking extreme advantage of a fortuitous 4-day break in the middle of the current Little Mix UK tour. However, it will be a quick turnaround!
Last night, Saturday 2nd , saw us play the last of our first set of three London O2 dates, with shows four and five being staged on the last two nights of the tour, Nov 21st and 22nd . We (specifically, the girls!) have managed to jam over 45,000 fans into these last three nights, which is quite an accomplishment, especially – as far as the total of the five shows will be concerned – when that figure will surpass 75,000 “Londoners” by the night of 22nd November.
London show wise, I still retain an affinity for Wembley Arena – a far “cosier” venue than the vacuous O2: however, the reality of the matter is that the O2 can boast almost twice the capacity of Wembley Arena therefore, consequently, for most Artists it’s simply a no-brainer.
If my memory serves me well (and that’s not often the case, nowadays) my first show at Wembley was back in 1976 when the band I then worked with, “Jethro Tull”, sub-hired certain items of audio that they owned, to the infamous “Deep Purple”. The Big Rock Show, indeed.
Oddly enough, I’m hoping to have an involvement with The Who’s UK dates next year (March/April) featuring a show at Wembley Arena – definitely worth looking forward to. Several years ago now (probably around fifteen, now that I think about it) Wembley Arena “flipped” the stage to the opposite end of the venue, meaning there can’t be that many people around who can lay claim to having played shows at both ends of the facility. In fact, being one of the folks who has accomplished this, I find it noticeably disconcerting to, nowadays, find myself in the production office backstage – located diagonally from where it used to be!
The above paragraph has given me the idea for a “I’m so old in this business, that I can remember (for example) playing Wembley when the stage was at the East end of the venue” presentation type of talk. If I put my mind to it, there are probably several other instances I could lay claim to, in the same vein as the above. Could I make commercial advantage of this?
I’m becoming aware – more recurring of late – that I need to keep an eye out for some form of alternative line of work in the years ahead. Certainly not any type of “regular” employment, more something that I can dip in and out of when the mood takes me: something – being in the fortunate position of being mortgage-free – that will tide me over financially throughout the year, but still leave me time to travel, keeping in mind the differing locations of my children.
Last night, as I mentioned earlier, was the first group of O2 dates for Little Mix. Added to those three shows – to bring their O2 appearances up to five in total – will be the final dates of this ten-week tour, on Thursday 21st & Friday 22nd of this month: an achievement not to be sniffed at. How many current touring acts/artists would give their eye teeth to be able to play five O2 shows during one UK tour? This fact, then, must give me the opportunity to segue way into this week’s accompanying track, by the iconic Prince (27 shows!) with ”Peach”. XX
Let the record show the current “live” time is 10.52 (a.m.!) on Sunday 27th Oct. Good start!
I’m perched at one of the breakfast booths in the Sandman Signature Hotel in Newcastle on a breezy – but bright – Sunday morning, with the “hallowed ground” of St James’s Park (the stadium home of Newcastle United FC) a mere 150 metres from here: it’s quite a structure.
In fact, there is actually a game being played there today, 2.00 pm kick-off: Newcastle FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers (“Wolves”) FC. I was, initially, tempted to stay back here in Newcastle (today is only a “travel day” to Sheffield, with shows there tomorrow and Tuesday), however it would have meant I would not arrive in Sheffield until around 8.00 pm this evening – and I just don’t have the luxury of “losing” a day at this point in the tour, when – to date – I have required to use 2/3 hours on each of my non-show days, to stay on top of the accounts.
Once out of Sheffield, I’m confident of being in a situation where I don’t have to open my laptop – for business reasons, anyway – on non-show days. Although, that leaves me with the dilemma of what to do with that free time! Admittedly, touring is a tiring occupation: however, I don’t want to put myself in the situation where I’m tempted to just “nap away” any free time I have in the hotel. Here’s the thing: my “business” days are driven – and have been for countless years – by work lists, compiled in the early part of the day and then – ideally – slowly cleared, throughout the day. Therefore, there’s no reason not to employ the same method with my personal time. I’ll bet if I started a “To-Do” list right now of personal items/tasks that I either have been trying to accomplish for months - or domestic-related tasks that require imminent attention – I could easily empty my head onto three, fully-lined, A4 pages.
I’m just going to take a minor break now, as we are due to depart the Newcastle hotel here, at 11.30 am, and it’s currently 11.14 am. So, hang in there and I’ll “see you” in Sheffield later.
Here I am, back again, a little later than planned (it’s currently 18.29 at my Sheffield hotel – but it’s still Sunday 27th ). Odd as it seems, I’ve become convinced there’s a link between completing my diary entry on time and the upcoming week being more organised and efficient.
This past week we have played five shows - two in Liverpool (Monday and Tuesday past) and the recent three in Newcastle: Thursday, Friday and Saturday – finishing up there last night.
One thing has become noticeably evident over the last forty-eight hours: it’s getting colder!
Unavoidable really as we head into the winter months, currently only four days away from the start of November. The clocks also went back one-hour last night therefore (if I’m not wrong) darkness is falling one hour sooner – which certainly seems the case looking out of the window.
I didn’t actually note the time the light went (buried in a pile of petty cash receipts, as I was): however one minute it was daylight out there and then, very quickly, darkness just fell.
I’m well pleased with myself now, being that this is the first Sunday for at least a month that I’ve completed the Diary on time. I leave it to McFadden & Whitehead to summarise my mood!
I’m attempting not only to catch up on my Diary entries (because, yes, I’ve slipped behind a bit) but also to make a start to this entry on the tour-bus, on the run down to Liverpool.
Now, I say “tour-bus” however, because we have no “back-to-back” shows left on the tour, between different cities, we are no longer using sleeper-buses on the tour. Now we are down to what are affectionately – but not always – referred to as “sit up and beg” buses: they are, by no means, of sub-standard quality – they are just not so lavishly appointed as the sleeper buses, which feature bunks (of course), several tables, TV/DVD, a toilet and a galley area.
Hence, this entry is proceeding slowly as I precariously attempt to position the laptop on the vacant seat next to mine. If I can at least make a start to this entry, I can finish it later when we reach “The Hilton by Hampton” hotel in Liverpool – another two hours away, as yet.
Fast forward to room 304 in the afore-mentioned hotel, conveniently located only a ten-minute walk from the “M&S Bank Arena”, located in the old Liverpool docks area, as you may know. We arrived here at around 3.00 pm this afternoon, to find 90% of the rooms ready (you have to sympathise with the hotel housekeeping staff, as last night’s guests – and we’ve all been there – are in no particular hurry to check out of their rooms on a Sunday morning).
As is generally the way (as a result of the degree of detail that I am known to produce with my work) there is always the opportunity – on non-show days – for a few hours ofm undisturbed “catch-up” in my room. If it’s the likes of petty cash entry, I can accomplish it in half the time, if I am left in peace: that’s not something that happens when you are in the venue. It’s just the nature of the “professionally frenetic” atmosphere that prevails during a show day.
Some of the crew (mainly the audio and video guys) have asked if I want to join them for a curry this evening, at an Indian restaurant very close to the M&S Bank Arena itself, therefore only a few minutes’ walk from here. This is not something I regularly become involved with, on my days off keeping mind that the average age on the tour is probably about 20 years less than mine. Of course, I’m familiar with – and professionally get along with – everyone on the tour: but mostly on a “passing in the corridor/saying hello to on the bus” basis. There are maybe no more than five or six of the crew that I would go out to dinner with on a (say) one-to-one basis. That’s why, honestly, I am probably more “at ease” on the likes of a “Who” tour.
If things continue to go well on this tour (i.e. the girls are selling out everywhere) then I will also do well from it. I’m nothing without a little incentive: from trying to beat the house record in certain of those arenas, to achieving targeted attendances throughout the tour – and, ultimately, a 100% sold-out tour. I can report we are steadily on our way to the latter.
Now - right now - I’ve let things drift into next (this) week. However, determined to get back on track, to enable me to compose this week’s entry “live” (a situation - as I’ve professed before - that makes the Diary entry far easier and far more enjoyable to write), this coming Sunday I’m happy to report that, within two lines I will finally have accomplished that. Phew!
Leaving you this week with Harold Melvin’s version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. Sublime.
This evening finds us back in Belfast for our second visit, once again playing two consecutive shows, tonight having been the first of the second run of two shows (still with me, here?).
All in all, that’s seven shows on the Emerald Isle (four in Belfast, three in Dublin) over the last ten days. Over the years – particularly off the back of my association with Westlife – I have played countless shows in both cities, so have come to know them extensively. Thinking about it for a minute, Dublin probably tips the balance in terms of the favourite of the two.
The remainder of the tour, from my own touring experience anyway, is something of a unique situation in that we have no back-to-back overnight runs (in other words, directly from one city we have played, into another city, the next day), consequently we have no sleeper buses - and hotels every night. Being a veteran of probably 2500+ nights on a sleeper bus, I’ve no complaints regarding their absence on this particular tour. That’s not to say I’ve not enjoyed my time on them over the years – in particular the American Silver Eagle buses from the seventies, whose crown has been stolen by the Prevost bus company, manufactured in Canada, as of the last thirty years. I was truly saddened to see the “Eagles” disappear off the scene.
When you combine my affinity to that type of vehicles – alongside my love of motorhome vacations (and of course many of those Silver Eagle buses I’ve just glanced at a few minutes ago, have been converted into motorhome-style vehicles) then I need to keep myself in check!
Undeniably, I have maybe eight years left to be able to consider such a vacation before any self-respecting motorhome rental company is going to consider letting me anywhere near their vehicle(s). Once that option disappears, the only recourse is to buy a vehicle of one’s own, and hope that the rules and regulations, within the country you intend to vacation, allow you to do so, when you’re in your seventies. That thought has just generated countless other thoughts!
Here I am, 70% of the way through this week’s entry and – quite honestly – my mind has just “wandered right off the subject”. I feel as though I could start – right now - to verbalise the bunch of random feelings that have suddenly pervaded my mind. However, a better plan is to save that train of thought for next week’s entry, rather than attempt to start verbalising the myriad of thoughts suddenly clambering for attention in my head right now. I could quite easily find myself on a roll, with nowhere near the space required to see me through the piece.
Back on track: Tuesday coming (15th ) sees us depart the Emerald Isle and head back to the UK mainland to commence a 25-date arena tour, taking in all the major cities, for which we are already 99% sold. My expertise involves drawing out the remaining 1% of attainable sales.
This week I leave you with an “appropriate” track from Alicia Bridges called “Break Away”. X
Back on the road again and – on this particular evening – sat in the Belfast SSE Arena, formerly known (and still known, as such, to the majority of the indigenous Belfast population) as “The Odyssey”: a building in which I must have done upwards of fifty shows in “my time”.
The lion’s share of those occasions has of course been while on the road with “Westlife” –and always multiple shows: several including afternoon Matinee appearances when the main show was on a Saturday or Sunday. However, sadly, I sense my Westlife days are now behind me.
Of all the Promoters I’ve worked with around the world (and there have been many) my closest relationship is probably with Peter Aiken of Aiken Promotions, here in Ireland -which stretches back a good twenty years. Very much a “family” operation, Jim has many staff who have been with him longer than I’ve known him. Loyalty, as you already, is a big thing with me.
Just re-visiting the Westlife subject for a few moments (I won’t keep you long): by far the most ardent, excitable, fans that the band ever experienced hailed from the Belfast area.Many of them would be camped out there from the moment the load-in started at 7.00 am(a good eight hours before the guys showed up for soundcheck!) until after the show - as the majority of them did not have the means to purchase tickets, to be able to attend the show.
Many a time, if some of the lads’ guest tickets were not required at the last minute, I would pop out to the back gate, maybe 10/15 minutes after Westlife had actually taken to the stage, and distribute tickets to the half dozen or so bedraggled souls, clinging to the back gate. It’s an incredible buzz (for me certainly) to allow the unthinkable/unbelievable experience to suddenly come to life for those handful of fans who could never normally afford the tickets.
It’s probably some of the best, subtle, P.R. that the Westlife guys ever undertook, in that neck of the woods – without ever knowing it was happening: a situation for which I feel no guilt whatsoever. The majority of Artists do not exhibit enough true care towards their fans.
For the majority of the past week, I have been back in Dunbar – having flown in from Paris, Monday evening past, at the culmination of the European sector of the tour. Within three days, having rented a car upon my arrival at Edinburgh airport, I managed to buzz around and accomplish several domestic tasks and still have enough time to visit some family members.
On Friday morning, I dropped the car back at the airport and caught a flight to Belfast International Airport: all of 35 minutes flight time. Saturday had been set aside for a full production rehearsal, in the same location as tonight’s show at the SSE Arena. We were indeed fortunate there was nothing on here on a Saturday night - a very rare occasion indeed.
We have one more show here tomorrow night (the second of four in Belfast) then it’s off down to Dublin for three shows, then back up the road for shows three and four in Belfast.
I’m not sure I would be finding this tour so relaxing, were we on sleeper buses continually, with a heavy back-to-back schedule: therefore I’m quite enjoying staying in hotels most nights which – conveniently – allows me to introduce an appropriate KC & The Sunshine Band track!!
This Sunday finds me staying back in Paris after the culmination of the European leg of the Little Mix tour - with the final Euro show in Paris last night at Le Dome, at Porte de Versailles.
It’s been something of a whirlwind two weeks since climbing aboard our Madrid-bound flight only fourteen days ago on the 15th of this month, for this whistle-stop tour of Europe. With appreciable distances between the major capital cities of continental Europe, a fair amount of time is endured on the sleeper buses, in conjunction with late arrivals at the crew hotels.
This past week has seen Little Mix play shows in Cologne (Monday); Amsterdam (Wednesday); Antwerp (Friday) and – of course – last night in Paris: therefore, as touring goes, not as tough a week as might have been. I’ve experienced way too many “tough touring weeks” in my time, to be over-complaining about the odd easier week: not at this stage of my career anyway.
As previously mentioned I’ve stayed in Paris, to take the opportunity to meet up with several of my football contacts, over the next 48 hours – and one or two players who we’ve had over in Scotland in the recent past: young lads who are still hoping they can make it in the game.
Painful (and costly) experience has pointed to the fact that – while there’s no doubt about the amount of raw, young, footballing talent throughout France – finding a young footballer with his head “firmly screwed on” is a redoubtable task, and not one that can be undertaken on a “part-time” basis. Therein lies the conundrum: to undertake the care and planning required to unearth a “diamond” of a player, is a full-time, dedicated occupation – and not one that generates any immediate income. Rather the opposite: it can hurriedly drain finances.
Conversely, attempting to treat it as a part-time involvement, while engaged in a full-time touring project (in my case) is a difficult situation to balance, as I have experienced on several occasions. Thankfully, in recent years, common sense has prevailed and – much as though I have a strong affection for my involvement with football – I have stuck rigidly to my day job.
That’s not to say it’s a “rigid” job – far from it. However, like the majority of jobs, there are certain routine aspects to it, that you must discipline yourself not to detract from:having said that, maintaining that discipline is what allows you the basis for exploring – and enjoying – the non-routine parts. Thankfully, in my role as a Tour Accountant, I have this “thing” about numbers: they have to balance, they have to equate – assisted by my innate OCD tendencies.
For me, it’s less the occasional drudgery of ceaseless number-crunching – and more the fact that I’m invariably “boxed in” by “breeze-block”, in a window-less office, while doing so. If I was being brutally honest, I can sense that its – at most – a maximum of three tours before that aspect of the job significantly “gets to me”. There are (because I have pondered this development, increasingly, of late) ways around this issue including spending less time in the venue; insisting on an office with some natural light or – let’s face it – seriously curtailing my touring work. Recognition of the problem, “they” say, is half the battle. Let battle commence!
Back to Dunbar for a few weeks, rather than lazing around in Belfast until the next leg of the tour starts: but when it does next week, how about this for an appropriate track? Love to all.
I am somewhat in my element tonight, Cologne bound (on the train from Stuttgart) as of 7.37 pm this evening, where Little Mix have had two consecutive shows, tonight and last night.
I've had worst Sundays: for starters, the football team I support in Edinburgh, Heart of Midlothian (“Hearts”) managed to beat their city rivals Hibernian (“Hibs”) 2 – 1. Known popularly as the “Edinburgh Derby”, it takes place four times during the football season, twice at our home stadium, on the west side of Edinburgh, called “Tynecastle”, and twice at Hibernian’s stadium (“strangely enough”, on the east side of the city, called “Easter Road”.
Things have not quite gone according to plan, touring wise, this week - with the unfortunate cancellation of our Vienna show, scheduled for Thursday past (19th) as the result of one of our key production trucks (of a total of thirteen) having a minor accident (no one hurt) on the overnight trip north from Milan. That was a tough enough overnighter with little “wiggle room” – as is the case, with most “back-to-back” rock ‘n roll shows utilising seven or more trucks.
The most frustrating aspect of the incident was that – even with that tough overnighter from Milan – the crew were making good time on the load-in and set-up. Admittedly, the girls may have had to forego a soundcheck, however they would have soldiered on and delivered a great show. The girls were devastated that the show was unable to ahead and, subsequently, took to social media to offer their heartfelt apologies to the 5,000+ fans, then heading to the show.
Our first European show, which I’m sure I made reference to towards the end of last week’s Diary entry, was last Monday (16th) in Madrid’s Widznik arena: then a travel day Tuesday to Milan (no way we could have played those two venues back-to-back), followed by the eight-hour, afore-mentioned, schlep overnight to Vienna – and, of course, the rest is now “history”.
Tomorrow sees the commencement of the final week of the European dates, with shows in Cologne, Amsterdam, Antwerp and, finally (as it often is, on European tours) gay Paree, with a show at the Dome de Paris. I will report back on those travels, come this time next week.
For the meantime, as pitch-black as it outside the train windows – and as always (the real reasons for which I fully intend to research, and report back on) I’m content to be on the move. Been the story of my life, really, when I think about it. Never been in any one place for too long. On the times I put down temporary roots – for whatever (mostly ill-judged) reasons – that’s when I lost my way. If I’d got myself “back on track” quicker than I did, on a couple of particularly “distracted” occasions, then I’d surely be penning this entry from Neckar Island. Somehow, only through the sheer determination to “survive” I guess, I dragged myself back into the mainstream. One day I may take the time to document that period of my life.
Would people be interested to hear all about it? Why should my story be any more interesting than the next persons? Well, of course, I sort of know the answer to that question – and the answer is the “glamour”. Yes, it has a glamorous side but, mostly, it’s just damned hard work!
As this week’s entry draws to a close – all the while with Bob Seger in my head-sets – and being this has been accomplished on a train ride – then there’s only one track for this week …
A warm (although it’s -23C outside the airplane!) good afternoon from 33,000 feet. The captain has just announced it’s 18C in Madrid, where we are headed today, in readiness for our first Little Mix show, on the continental European leg (and at the start of) the 2019 tour.
I’m only making a start to this Sunday’s entry now as (apart from ensuring that it will be finished before the day is over!) we are about to begin our descent into Madrid. Having said that (with me sat with the laptop on my knee) we have run into some turbulence on the way down and the “fasten seat belts” sign has pinged on before I’ve had a chance to close the laptop and re-stow it, in my backpack, in the overhead locker. My guess, surely, is that they will now leave the seat belt sign illuminated for the rest of the descent – which means that I can’t stand up to pack the laptop away. When I re-start the entry, I’ll tell you what transpired!
For the moment, until asked to fold up the laptop (and the Captain has just announced 20 minutes to landing) I’ll continue with the entry. Aha! Here comes the stewardess towards me!
Fast forward to the bar at the Novotel in Madrid (only a twenty-minute ride from the airport – most impressive) where I’m sat with “my people”, the technical crew: the guys who make it happen, who graft constantly, to allow Artists to get up on stage - and reap the benefits.
This is my world: the world of work hard, play hard. There will come a time when I don’t inhabit this world any longer – and I will certainly miss it: I’m part of a team (in keeping with many, many, touring operations) that accomplishes an incredible amount of work in a given 24-hour period. I often wonder what percentage of the general, concert-going, public understand what goes into making a live performance happen. I’m sure they would be fascinated to know more.
Pardon me if I’m repeating myself (if only for using the phrase “Pardon me if I’m repeating myself”) but every Artist should be made to sit through a concert load-in, from the minute the doors of the rigging truck are opened - until soundcheck time. Now, yes, that’s probably a little extreme, being that such a time period could span upwards of ten hours, but you get my drift. A little appreciation, to crew guys who endure 16-hour days, goes a long, long, way.
Anyway, as proud as punch as I am to be completing this entry of my Diary on its intended “publication” date (did you spot the extensive delay with last week’s entry?!) it has still taken me until the end of the day today (currently 11.02 pm local time in Madrid) to reach this stage.
Such is the pressures of the road: however, on the flip side, you visit “places” that most people could not buy a ticket to; experience the adrenaline rush that comes with a killer show; travel the world, all at someone else’s expense – and, crucially, discover your “second family”.
None of the above comes without a gentle, unavoidable, drain on one’s energy reserves. You will often have heard me expound, in relation to how I’m reliant on my adrenaline to see me through touring days. Even with no drug habit whatsoever, I have physically hammered this body, over the last 46 years. I don’t bound out of bed on show days anymore, as I once did!
Cheesy accompanying track coming up – from here in Madrid, I just couldn’t resist it. Love Ya!
Back in the fast lane, currently two days in on the Little Mix 2019 tour production rehearsals.
You will have heard me lament, in the past, that the production rehearsal days can be longer – and consequently more tiring – than actual show days, while out on tour. Yesterday was our first day on site, commencing with the load-in at 07.00 am following which I only arrived back at the crew hotel at 10.30 pm last night. That signals the pattern for the upcoming five days.
Once we load-out of production rehearsals next Friday evening (13th) – and that could end up being a 2.30 am finish, with fifteen trucks to load – we have the following day to recover, ahead of flying to Madrid on Sunday, in preparation for the first show there, on Monday night.
I will actually (possibly!) be able to find time to pen next week’s Diary entry, once I am air side at Heathrow, on Sunday. Thinking it over, it must be a couple of years now since I have flown out of Heathrow – this being a further pointer to my conscious decision to cut back on European touring and my “move” over to Tour Accounting (also because the majority of Artists that I now work with have the lion’s share of their popularity rooted right here in the UK).
The first European section of the Little Mix tour comprises a fifteen-day period, with nine shows therein, taking us to Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. There are a couple of “back-to-backs” in the afore-mentioned run, the first of those (Milan overnight to Vienna) which will prove a serious challenge to the crew, so early on into the tour.
For the European sector, it therefore follows that the crew need to be on sleeper buses: A) to cover the longer distances between shows, that is invariably the case in Europe and B) because there’s no other way to accomplish the back-to-back moves. On Little Mix, we have three “jammed” 16-berth sleeper buses, to the extent there is no space for Yours Truly!
What to do? Well there’s only one thing for it (but that “one thing” is fine by me) which decrees that for the next fifteen days I will make my way around Europe essentially by train – with one flight on the Madrid to Milan sector. I’m very much looking forward to it, as always: a welcome sense of independence; a chance to luxuriate in a hotel bed every night, rather than a sleeper-bus bunk and – of course – my appreciation (love?) of international train travel.
In particular, will be the ride from Milan to Stuttgart (there is a show in Vienna, in between those two shows, however the structure of the deal in Vienna does not require my presence). There’s only one change on that rail journey: a very civilised 31-minute connection in Karlsruhe in southern Germany, putting me into Stuttgart early evening – meaning that the night is mine!
Depending, of course, on who the Artist/Act might be, I suspect I would “struggle” to return to Tour Management at this stage of my career – and have to relinquish my valued independence on the road. As the T.M., you go where your Artist goes, whether you like it or not; you spend lamentable chunks of time waiting around for – or on behalf of – said Artist and, in most cases - not all – the Artist rarely remembers the ninety-nine things you did right.
Just enough space to squeeze in a (travel-related) appropriate track. See what you think. XX
As it is already early Sunday morning, here in Bangkok Airport, let’s get this party started.
So, here I sit, homeward-bound after wandering around Australasia for the last six weeks: the point of the exercise - as you know – having been to catch up and spend some time with both of my children: that, and then rounding the trip off with ten days holiday in Thailand.
Back to work now! Within a matter of a week, I’m due into the start of Little Mix’s London production rehearsals, in preparation for, firstly, a European tour. Following that, we have ten days in Ireland, “yo-yo-ing” between Belfast and Dublin, before kicking off the UK mainland arena sector with three nights in Glasgow. There’s no better way (or place) to start a tour.
All told, from the commencement of production rehearsals (6th September) through to the final tour date in London (22nd November), I’ll be out on the road for a seventy-eight-day period. It is certainly going to be a strenuous commitment: however, because we are playing two or three consecutive nights in all major venues, there will be very few “back-to-back” shows which, in turn, means less nights on the crew sleeper-bus and more nights in hotel beds. As enjoyable as the crew-bus travel can be (yes, there’s been some riotous nights) – especially “driving into a day off” – at my tender age, I won’t be complaining about a few extra hotels.
Minor correction here: the “no back-to-backs” run that I was referring to above, relates specifically to the UK sector. Prior to that, we have two weeks in continental Europe – and that WILL feature several back-to-backs such are the distances between big European cities.
Can I just interject here to say that I’m calling a temporary halt (to be picked up again, during my two-hour layover in Dubai, seven hours from now) as they have just called my first flight.
I’m back, location Terminal B in Dubai Airport, gate 2, from where the Edinburgh flight will depart at 09.55 local time (it’s currently 08.20) therefore, without having to resort to charging through the remainder of this entry, it should be comfortably done and dusted before I board said flight. The first leg the journey up here (Bangkok to Dubai) – with an apparent tail wind hustling us along – “only” took an impressive six hours, four of those spent in “nod-land”, by yours truly. As I’ve noted before, there’s much to be said for night flying.
During the final week, last week, based in Lamai Beach on the island of Koh Samui, I decided to take the 25-minute catamaran crossing to the neighbouring island of Koh Phangang and spend Thursday and Friday nights there, at an-almost idyllic little place, smack bang on the beach, where Alice and I have stayed previously, called “The Milky Bay Resort”. In contrast to what I mentioned in the context of last week’s Diary entry (when I sensed that the “sheen was coming off the Thailand experience”) it had slipped my mind about the sheer serenity of the above location where the “Bungalows” are actually on the sand, metres from the water.
So “re-enchanted” was I by the place, that I found myself running some figures down in my head, to realistically estimate what it would cost to just “take root” there for a whole month.
For this week’s very appropriate track, we’re going way, way, back with the Springfields!!! XX
I have the oddest feeling that this could be my last time in Thailand. Allow me to explain.
Firstly, a brief recap. Last time “we spoke”, I was in the process of re-locating from Jomtein Beach in Thailand, last Sunday, to a much more sedate area (Bang Saray), approximately 12 miles south : however, for the three days I was there, I experienced an increasing feeling of “the willies”. Just in case that is a phrase unique to Scotland, allow me to offer a quick bit of explanation. “The Willies” – although Alice or Sue may proffer a more descriptive insight – is, shall we say, a “shivering uneasiness” that something is, generally inexplicably, just not right.
Having only seen a mere handful of other guests at the “Four Palms Resort” – and having not encountered another single soul, for three days, at breakfast – I decided to take the bull by the horns and catch a flight, Wednesday afternoon past, from the airport that serves the Pattaya/Rayong area: Utapao International Airport. There is a daily (5.15 pm) flight from there, direct to Koh Samui, of just over one hour’s duration, operated by Bangkok Airways.
Ideally, had the flight taken off on time, I would have been afforded an enchanting view of Koh Samui as we were on final approach. As it turned out, the flight (an ATR/72 turboprop) did not actually depart Utapao until 6.05 pm meaning, of course, that we landed in the dark!
Way back, in the earlier days of this “Diary of the Road” (my “road” as it turns out!), I would have made mention of Koh Samui, being the first area of Thailand I ever visited – which must have been around 2005/2006. As with every once-undiscovered tourist destination, the probing tentacles of commercialism eventually wrap themselves around the place. On the occasion of that first visit here, as afore-mentioned, I stayed in Chaweng Beach which – although certainly lively and entertaining – was nowhere near as “bright and brash” as it has become within almost the last fifteen years. No Burger King, McDonalds - or KFC - back then.
This time around – as on one previous occasion - I decided to billet myself at Lamai Beach, around ten kilometres further down the east coast of the island and a far more family-orientated region of the island (there are no nightclubs as such in Lamai Beach, the likes of which feature throughout the Chaweng Beach area, with some located directly on the beach).
I like to think that this particular area of Lamai Beach (I am staying at the Lamai 99 Bungalows Resort – but still only £37 for a double room - a stone’s throw away from the beachfront, and located on a small “ante-road”, accessible onto the main thoroughfare through Lamai Beach, from either end) is something of a find. Almost a small beachfront village within the town.
Not untypically, I’ve wondered away from the point of the opening paragraph, which was that my fifteen-year love affair with Thailand – particularly the pseudo-paradise of Koh Samui - may have now come to its “natural” end, with this current visit. I hope to expand upon this current notion of mine (as I actually have to think it through into a more articulate presentation) with respect to an area of the world where I have enjoyed some fabulous times.
I may be about to repeat myself here (possibly even from the last time I was in Koh Samui) but I’m going to leave you with the almost-untouchable Kinks and, of course, “I’m On An island”!
A more peaceful setting, from where I am currently starting to compose this week’s diary entry (actually on Sunday 18th, just coming up to 6.00 pm,), would very much be hard to imagine.
This fine, tranquil, evening sees me sat on a small patio outside my room, at the “Four Palms Resort” (the word “resort” could be stretching it slightly: I’ve always wondered what legitimately “tips’ a hotel’s description towards that of a resort. In the case of the Four Palms Resort here – boasting only a pool, a sauna (don’t know about that particular amenity – you just have to sit outside at high noon, to duplicate that effect!) and a small table tennis room – it seems to me like the hotel marketing department might have quaffed one Chang too many!
The reason you find me here? I needed to “escape” the Jontiem Beach area (down the eastern side of the Gulf of Thailand), only really because of the changing nature of the “touristed” landscape, since I last visited this locale, a few years back: suffice to say that - being a guy who’s initial introduction to Thailand, close on fifteen years ago, was the then-quaint, “non-high rise” island of Koh Samui – I’m uneasy with beachfront skyscraper hotels and ocean-view “condos” now jostling for attention, mere metres away from the, once-quiet, beachfront road.
Thailand’s people, in the main, continue to exhibit the characteristics of a stoic, humble and hard-working nation: if our Westerners’ existence was swapped with theirs for a month, I doubt we would even see out the first two weeks without craving a swift homeward return.
This morning, prior to vacating the “Grand Residence Jomtein Hotel” (I have a theory that the same individual who tacked “Resort” onto this hotel may also have annexed this morning’s hotel with “Grand”) – and with there being no breakfast included in the £29/night rate (!!) – I wandered the short distance past the adjacent market area to a restaurant that I frequented for dinner both nights of my stay in Jomtein Beach. Tucking into my eggs on toast – with unordered pineapple chunks on the side – at the table right at the front of the restaurant, I observed many of the stall holders busily de-rigging their makeshift stalls: but this was taking place at 10.30 am! I can’t imagine what time they arrived there this morning to set up, because - last night – for sure, the same area was operating as street-food market!
One closing (literally) observation to add from this morning’s “breakfast viewing platform” – and I’ll be curiously trying to get to the bottom of this, via my pal Mr Google – was nearly all of this morning’s stall holders (mainly in the business of clothing items) were loading their wares – and their “folding” stalls - into the backs of fairly-new utility (‘pick-up truck”) vehicles!
I must have visited Thailand, probably, on six or seven previous occasions (in the company of Alice, most of those times) and I still experience much here which I struggle to fathom. I owe it to this place, to research a clearer understanding of the country and its fine peoples.
The light is now fading fast here (currently 6.35 pm) and the main question facing me this evening is whether I bike – utilising the thoughtful provision of the Four Palms free bicycles - or walk into the village of Bang Suray for my dinner and catch a live broadcast of UK football.
To conclude this week (running out of space!) I – appropriately? – leave you with The Eagles!
Bhdsfheudbli7ye0y34o58q4c3m49jndqc0bxnr7ycbnx8pc9endexu7ovb8c9wnv7ovr8bytn89runc7 or8cbn7yr8bcn78yurvnctuvnc8t8pvnuc8pnveep8n9p ut8w9nt9vuttvt8u8usdhuhunvvihbf!
If the above makes no sense whatsoever, then I believe I have sound reasoning for the initial lines of this week’s diary entry appearing as absolute “gobbly-gook”: I’ve just come out of a local Spa in the Tao Dihn area of Ho Chi Minh City (in the District 2 area where my daughter Jade lives – and who recommended the Spa for me) having undergone probably the most “potent” head massage that I’ve ever experienced – and I’ve undergone a few in my time!
Time and expense allowing, I might even consider repeating such an experience every day of my life. I just can’t be sure if it’s more beneficial at the beginning – or the end – of the day. However, I’m more than willing to initiate an extended period of experimentation (chance would be a fine thing) to be able to deliver the answer to that question, to my loyal readership.
Back to Life, back to reality: for (delayed) starters, the composition of this week’s entry is four days late, as I sit here in Ho Chi Minh airport, early Thursday afternoon, awaiting an evening flight to Bangkok. For once, I have a plausible excuse, in relation to this week’s delay.
In looking to squeeze some quality time with Jade, while I was temporarily based in Ho Chi Minh City, over the past ten days, we decided to make a three-day trip down to the Vung Tau area of Vietnam, two hours hydrofoil or min-bus journey from the centre of the capital city.
As the hydrofoil represented a novel way to make the trip, Jade booked the fares a couple of weeks back, necessitating a Friday 9th morning departure from an inner-city dock on the Mekong River. Not wanting to drag my suitcase all the way down there, just for the three-day stay, I elected to manage the trip utilising my back-pack only. The decision was therefore made to leave my laptop in safe deposit, back at the “Sen Boutique” hotel, where I was due to return on Monday past. Therein lies the reason the Diary entry was not completed on time.
As it turned out, with the hydrofoil leaving the “protection” of the Mekong Delta waterways, ninety minutes into its two-hour journey, to venture into open sea, the final thirty minutes of the trip turned out to be a fairly rough ride. Jade and I discussed our anticipation of how the return leg might pan out, weather wise, and figured that even of the first thirty minutes proved rough – inducing uncomfortable feelings of nausea – then the final ninety minutes of the up-river journey may not allow any initial experience of said nauseas feelings to subside.
Fast forward to the results of a little internet-research on the subject – and the collective decision was to ride back to the city via one of several dedicated mini-bus services available. With Jade having business appointments to honour later that day, I didn’t want to risk a situation that she was feeling under the weather, while needing to concentrate on her work.
It’s unfortunate that I was unable to enjoy the same “quality time” with Bradley, while in Byron Bay, as I have recently spent with Jade: however, I fortuitously arrived here in HCM City during Jade’s quietest part of her working year. With that in mind, I will leave you with a “telling” track from the Rolling Stones, a realistic summation of life itself. Love from Asia.autostart="false"/>
Today sees the first “third” of my trip complete, arriving back into Bangkok this evening, however only temporarily; I have a flight tomorrow morning - taking me to Ho Chi Minh City.
While based in Byron Bay, over the last ten days – and since last Sunday’s entry – I managed to become “embroiled” in a gas-station robbery on Tuesday last, 30th of July! While Bradley was working a day shift, I took the opportunity to motor up to Lismore (a town maybe 2 -3 times the size of Byron Bay) to conduct a “recce” of the used-car outlets. The time has come for Bradley to invest in a vehicle, as he contemplates re-locating further from his business.
However, I digress (not like me, eh?). While in Lismore - a fifty-minute drive from Byron Bay with several “50 km/hour cameras” dotted along the route, most notably in the small towns – I took the opportunity to fill up the “beast” that Enterprise had upgraded me to, upon my arrival in Brisbane International Airport. To note, a Holden Eldorado (Australian brand) “ute”.
With constant reminders, while spending any time in Australia, that it’s far from the least expensive country in the world I spied a “Caltex” fuel station on the corner of one of Lismore’s main streets, advertising $1.00 coffee to their fuel customers. I was there in a heartbeat!
Having witnessed the beast devouring $100 worth of fuel, I made my way into the shop to settle up. Upon entering, I noted a guy sat with his backside on the lower edge of the cooler unit, which housed the cold drinks, milk, sandwiches etc. The counter assistant was cheerily helpful (as is the way with most Australians who are involved in the retail/service industries).
I informed the lady that as well as taking advantage of the coffee offer, I also needed to make use of the internal customer toilets. “I would recommend you do the latter before the former” the lady joked; therefore, I made my way to the back of the shop where the toilets were located. In doing so, I had to negotiate my way past the lad who was perched on the edge of the cooler unit. However – passing much closer to him this time – I was aware of his very intense stare (not at me – just looking directly out the entrance door of the shop) causing my internal radar to register a blip of caution. “Something’s not quite right here” I mused.
Shrugging off this frisson of uneasiness, I continued to the gents, but while washing my hands I perceived a shrill scream and an obvious clattering (like a shelf had collapsed) from the other side of the toilet door. Making my way back into the main area of the shop, I immediately observed “Mr Intense” now down behind the counter, feverishly trying to (it would appear) force open the cash register. That was my cue to ease myself out of the shop and retreat to the safety of the beast, which I now moved off the forecourt into a customer parking space. Within minutes, firstly, an armed private security guard screeched to a halt on the forecourt, followed – less than five minutes later – by two police vehicles. Wild stuff, huh – and I was witness to the whole thing. So much for a quiet few days in New South Wales!
If nothing else, this recent “Stooshie” (a very Scottish word) opens a whole new world of opportunity when choosing this week’s accompanying track. There are, of course, several tunes that could probably, appropriately, debut here. However, in a mildly cryptic vein – and with a nod to my unfailing sixth sense – I’m going with Buddy Guy and “I Smell Trouble”. As I did. XX
I come to you from the town in Australia – Byron Bay - where a noticeable number of visitors (and the incumbents) continue to wander around the streets barefooted (being that it’s the town centre I’m referring to – not the beach) - obviously having never heard of septicaemia.
I’m reminded of what one of George’s Michael’s security guy’s, Dave Moulder, used to say in those situations (holding good for a variety of situations): “They’re young – they’ll learn”.
In my defence here (as I sense some of my younger, “hipper” readers – do I have any of those? – declaring that I’m just too old) I’m going to borrow an “Alice observation”: “Common sense is not very common”. I’ll only say that everyone must pass this way in life. By “this way” I mean where I currently find myself now, at this “Autumnal” stage of my life. You (my older and wiser – and shoed - readers) could be forgiven for surmising “yes, he’s off on one again”. There’s an argument that says he’s off on one every week. On that note, back on track …..
So Byron Bay, eh? You fly half-way across the globe to visit your first-born and there you are - at 3.00 pm local time today - waiting for some signal (a short text will suffice) that he’s still alive and kicking, wondering if the communication was any worse before you contributed to easing Emirates Airlines share price up a notch. There’s no way I’m stressing over this, no sir.
Currently, I have driven 4/5 miles out of Byron Bay, south, to a favourite neighbouring town of mine, called Bangalow – the name of which I may have made mention of last time I was down this way (May last year?) – with an inclined main street, and a definite “vibe” about the place.
I’m sat on a stool, in a coffee shop called “Butcher, Baker”, halfway up the hill of the afore-mentioned High Street, people watching while diary-composing. Currently, I am immersed in a most pleasant environment, both geographically and personally. How, therefore - I am prone to ask myself – do I ensure continuation of these current circumstances? Watch this space.
I’ve now relocated, as of the beginning of this paragraph, back to the “Sunseeker Motel” where I will be billeted during the remainder of my stay – having spent the first three nights at an “AirBnB” property (actually an old Queensland bus – but very imaginatively kitted out). This – the Sunseeker Motel - is the same location that I used during the second half of my stay when I travelled down here last year, after Stella (Bradley’s Mum) had to return to the UK before me, due to work commitments - after which I stayed on here for another six days.
The motel have kindly given me the same room as last time, on the first floor, which overlooks the garden and pool area - and benefits from the sun on the little enclosed balcony (where your author currently sits) for most of the day, being that said balcony appears to face North.
While I continue to acknowledge how fortunate I am to be able to make such global-wide trips, I’m nevertheless acutely aware of the long, energy-sapping, days that have been sacrificed, to find myself in this position. Luck has unarguably played it’s part, however luck – in most cases – only presents the opportunity: without seizing that opportunity, it’s no luck.
Am I the Fortunate Son of which John Fogerty wrote? Listen and decide, dearest readers. X
You could be forgiven for thinking I may be coming to you this week from my “regular”, home-based” haunt of McDonalds in Dunbar: however, if only to introduce a variance of location once in a while, I am sat here (although on Monday morning, 22nd, I would have to admit) in the departures concourse in Terminal One of Don Mueang airport in Bangkok. Different, huh?
Don Mueang is to Bangkok what Gatwick is to London (the notable difference being that Don Mueang was Bangkok’s principal airport until September 2006 – I just looked that up). I can only say that Don (Mueang) must have been a big cheese around these parts, to have had an international airport named after him. And with a name like Don, maybe I shouldn’t speculate!
There are still international flights leaving from here at Don Mueang, one of which I will be departing on, at 11.40 pm this evening, local time, heading towards Brisbane: the carrier is Air Asia, the predominant airline operating international flights out the international terminal here (there exists also a Terminal 2, serving all domestic flights to various areas of Thailand).
In fact, even a cursory glance at the departures board in this terminal shows that Air Asia appear to be operating at least 80% of the international flights with two other companies (NOK Air and Lion Air) approximately making up the other 20%. Air Asia – I think it is fair to say – are considered to be a low cost carrier, and this will be my longest flight on such a carrier. However, I’ve taken the liberty (well, you can’t take it with you when you go) of booking a “flatbed” on tonight’s flight, the advantage being that – cost wise – it’s nowhere near the price to fly business class with a “regular” airline, on the same route. I’ll report back to you, in next week’s Diary entry, as to how it went. I don’t expect “The Hilton in the sky”.
To backtrack just a tad, I flew out of Edinburgh, on Emirates Airlines, on Friday evening past, connecting through Dubai and then onwards to Bangkok. I won’t belabour you with my reasoning for routing myself down to Australia this way (although there is a clue as to what I am up to, when I tell you that the plan is also to visit Jade – in Vietnam - while I am over this side of the world). Suffice to say that, cost-wise, this equated with a “point-to-point” routing.
I didn’t really give much away in that last paragraph (!!) but all will become apparent, in time.
I’ve spent the last two nights billeted at a small hotel that was only a £3 cab ride from this airport, being that A) the connection time between airports, to have allowed me to make the 11.40 pm flight out of here on Saturday night, was a little “close for comfort”, especially for my first time and B) there is no Air Asia flight to Brisbane on a Sunday night, from here.
Of course, there is a marked difference in temperatures down this neck of the woods, and I always find it to be a relaxing experience to be able to walk around in shorts later in the evening: albeit in – typically - poorly-lit streets, not uncommon to the quieter suburban areas.
There is little doubt that when one is so distanced from one’s natural domestic habitat, all regular “home concerns” recede into the middle distance. With that in mind, I have trawled the recesses of my brain (you don’t wanna go there) to unearth an appropriate track: this week I leave you with the iconic Slade and “Far Far Away”. I’ve been “there” many many times.
Several times over the last few weeks, I’ve heard it said – from local Dunbar people mind you - “It’s not been much of a summer”. Personally, I would beg to differ – as (having not been around the Dunbar area in the middle of the year, for the past five years) this is the most memorable summer I’ve enjoyed to date! However my UK summer is about to come to a close.
The reason being that, come this time next week, I’m off to visit both of my children in distant climes, dictating that next week’s diary entry (keeping in mind that I’ll be seven hours ahead of the UK at the time) will be penned from an airport hotel in Thailand just across the way from the main terminal of Don Muang airport. Think of Don Muang as the “Gatwick” of Thailand, being the location from which I will make the next leg of my journey – next Sunday night – due East towards Brisbane. Initially, I will have landed in Thailand at the main international airport (Suvarnabhumi), mid-afternoon next Saturday, and taken the inter-airport shuttle on a fifty-minute journey to Don Muang, to “connect “with an Air Asia flight.
Sure, I researched various ways to visit both my children (one – Bradley - in Byron Bay, on the furthermost Eastern point of Australia and the other – Jade – based in Ho Chi Min City) without having to resort to a costly point-to-point fare: but the most practical and “inexpensive” way to accomplish the exercise - without making two separate, easterly, trips – was to fly in and out of Bangkok over a period of six weeks when – during that time – I could squeeze in “down and back” flights from Bangkok, to both Brisbane and Ho Chi Min City.
Not that I’m short of a long-distance flight or two, in my time: however until they come up with a more direct form of travel (right through the centre of the earth? – which I recall having seen in a sci-fi movie one time) there’s no other feasible – or time-saving – alternative.
There’s no question that I have to make such a lengthy trip at this present time (which I’m very much looking forward to) – particularly in light of my upcoming 15-week involvement in Little Mix’s tour, from early September onwards. However it would certainly have been more suitable had the LM tour started a month later, meaning of course that I could have “delayed” my trip by another month – and enjoyed four more weeks of this fabulous UK summer weather.
Naturally, I don’t believe I’m going to want for sunshine where I’m headed, albeit this current period is actually Australia’s “winter”: I just had a quick peek there, at today’s (Sunday’s) temperatures in both Byron Bay & Ho Chi Min City and, respectively, which were 17C and 24C.
For the remaining five days, prior to next Friday evening’s departure from Edinburgh, initially to Bangkok via Dubai, there is much to be done to be able to leave my affairs – both business and domestic – at a stage where I would wish to find them, upon my return in early September.
As always, in such situations, one makes a list of everything that one believes can be reasonably accomplished within the time remaining – and then you go at in prioritised order!
To think I will be 3000+ miles distant from here, one week from now, on the occasion of next week’s entry. With that in mind, and a definite travel theme running throughout this week’s entry, I’m giving the floor to Mr Sam Cooke with the memorable “What A Wonderful World”.
I’ve taken up position in McDonalds once again, on another fine Sunday evening in Dunbar, to compose a further entry of the “Diary from the Road”. Tonight, however, I’ve come to the realisation that I have to work towards not making a habit of this, if only on the diet front.
While McDonalds cleverly “move with the times” in providing their legions of customers with healthier options - in contrast to the historical hamburger-orientated fare - I still can’t believe the variety of food on offer forms part of the calorie-controlled diet of a 67 year old senior, with a higher-than-normal cholesterol reading: so a change of venue’s on the cards!
Earlier this evening, three out of four of my “current” footballers, presently billeted at Stirling University, decided to return to France where they believe they have a better chance to land a club for the upcoming season, than they currently do in Scotland. I cannot take issue with their decisions: they have gone on trial, albeit it briefly at times, to several of the small Scottish clubs and – for a variety of unfortunate reasons – have been unable to secure even a small deal for themselves, at any of the League One or League Two clubs. It’s not to be.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the past three weeks (and even being £2K+ out of pocket is not a palatable regret) is that – with one notable exception – they have been very understanding about the whole situation and have demonstrated patience beyond their years.
I am somewhat saddened to see them go, but I need to learn when to recognise that time and related circumstances have unintentionally conspired to leave me “behind the eight ball” as our American cousins would say. The truth is that, as a result of my touring projects (which are my only bona-fide source of earned income) extending into early June, I did not have enough time to efficiently “marry” the requisite football clubs with the players who flew themselves into Scotland in the middle of June – and I was always chasing my tail after that.
When Scottish clubs are looking to bolster their playing squads for the upcoming season, my lads are well down the queue to be considered for filling such vacancies. In front of them they will find available Scottish players (released by clubs last season); potential signings that the club have been scouting over the previous months – and tempting loan deals from the cream of the English clubs, with said clubs offering players at no cost to the Scottish clubs.
Therefore, to some degree, it’s back to the drawing board – and an honest debrief. With the advantage of heading off to the other side of the world later this month, to go visit my children (and therefore physically distancing myself from all things football back here in Scotland) I will be able to view my footballing exploits from afar – hopefully with the warm sun beating down on my back. I look forward to walking out into balmy evening air in ten days.
In closing, I’m aware of the need to investigate – and innately learn about – this minor bi-polar condition of mine, which has been responsible – when I’m on the crest of my mood wave-form - for many a snap decision which has not exactly enhanced my bank balance. Caution and calm – and an even frame of mind – must be the new orders of the day, as I venture forward in the years ahead. Now, what could I suggest this week as an accompanying track to reflect this week’s typically meandering theme? Here comes a little tune called “Roller Coaster”! Big love.
“Billy No Mates” here again: broadcasting from my occasional haunt of Dunbar’s McDonald’s.
“Sunny Dunny” as Dunbar is often referred to, is living up to its name this evening - with a gorgeously streaked skyline featuring almost every hue of the colour blue that is imaginable.
While able to boast to having fired off last week’s entry prior to midday, it may be that this week’s follow-up (stuttering) entry just scrapes into publication by the stroke of midnight. The real time at this very moment is 10.18 pm, so I would be looking to have fired this away by the time 11.00 pm rolls around. I’m consciously averse to careering through the following paragraphs, just to beat a midnight “deadline”: better that I anchor the entry “thematically”.
Easier said than done, when one has arisen at 07.00 this morning and given the entirety of his day over to his footballing exploits. On this particular day, I have been clinging on to the mood waveform as I’ve experienced probably two distinct “crests and troughs” in the preceding twelve hours – finding myself currently more on the upswing, due to a late development with a young Left Back who (bless him) is boarding a 06.00 am flight out of Paris in the morning.
I’ll have you know that it’s a weighty responsibility having to deal with the hopes and aspirations of young football players: they are not all going to land a deal here and – worse still – by the time they exhaust all possibilities in Scotland, there will typically only be slim pickings by the time they return to France. It’s the most debilitating aspect of the process.
I had to level with a real decent guy (a Central Defender to trade) earlier this afternoon, off the back of him having had trials for three of Scotland’s smaller senior clubs. You will not be surprised to learn that – not for the first time, by a long shot – I allowed my heart to rule my head and (based upon a very positive attitude, married to an impressively ambitious approach) allowed the player to travel into Scotland, having never witnessed him on the football field or, more importantly still, having never dispatched my trustworthy scout to check him out.
Another lesson learned: there can’t (surely) be too many un-turned stones left in said learning process: through all the mists of uncertainty that I have staggered, along the highway of football, I like to think that there are not too many holes left in the road. But who knows?!
This coming week, I have several friendly games to attend in the quest to have the remaining four players (that I have here in Scotland at the moment) signed up to professional clubs, at least until the transfer window opens for the second time in the season, on January 1st, 2020.
Turning more to family matters, there are now just “only” twenty days left until I venture across the other side of the world to spend some time with my children - separately unfortunately. However, there are moves afoot to try and rectify that situation later in the year, if my son is able to travel from Australia to Ho Chi Min City to visit his “toe-blister”.
Let’s see if we then can’t finish up this week’s entry with some form of “family” accompanying track (author currently paused to rack his brains). Aha – here we go! Fairly obvious actually, when you’ve been around as long as I have: Sly & The Family Stone with “It’s A Family Affair”!
Well, here goes an attempt to have this week’s entry completed by 12.00 noon today.
Albeit, without tearing through it like a hurricane – and I would have to admit that there’s been instances (fairly isolated, please tell me!) where, and invariably always as a result of touring commitments, I have found myself with barely enough time to make s good job of it.
However, here I am today - coming to you from the relaxed atmosphere in the Café of our local Garden Centre: resembling something of a huge atrium, thereby I am plentiful supply of one of the “commodities” that is a key requirement in keeping me on a fairly even keel: light.
I have sure made mention of the fact (well, it may not be pure fact – however I will certainly investigate) that our little old fishing town is known in many circles as “Sunny Dunny”. Is this actually the “meteorological” case with Dunbar? As I traverse the world – but nowhere near as much as I used to – can I actually, factually, offer up this information to all and sundry?
In defence of the above – but also keeping in mind that I’ve probably only spent one previous summer located mainly in Dunbar – there is something most invigorating about cycling back from the centre of town, at a few minutes past ten in the evening (as I did last night following my attendance at the share-issue meeting for our local “Crunchy Carrot” without any lights.
Community is a fabulous thing, nowhere more prevalent than in the long history of football – with an immediate caveat being added there, that being that of course that while said community can still be found in the beautiful game, it is surely now only at the lower levels: but take heart “fellow cherishers” of the game, because that true spirit will never be lost.
You guys are no doubt aware that – time permitting – I have been in the habit of bringing a squad of aspiring young French players into Scotland (usually around about this time, middle to late June) when the months of April and May have been free, in respect of my touring calendar as – and any organisationally-orientated reader will empathise with this immediately – there is a fair amount of “plate-spinning” involved in trying to, firstly, amass a squad of sixteen players whereby all positions on the field of play are covered and, secondly, you can actually find a few of the smaller clubs who will commit early to providing “game opposition”.
Of course, with the Olly Murs tour not finishing up until 7th June this year, it would have been a rush job to try and make all of the above happen, while trying to stay “true” to (say) sixteen young, hopeful, players who’ve probably had to plead with their families to pay their flights.
Therefore, without being able to invoke “The French Connection” this summer, in its normal entirety, I have plumped to cherry-pick a small handful of players who are being recommended to me and try to target them, individually – or in “pairs” – to League 1 and League 2 clubs. Consequently, I have two players in Scotland at the moment with another three or four due to arrive tomorrow evening. The plate spinning continues – although of a different variation.
What track could I offer up this week, that would bear some connection to all of the above?
Bet you never thought you would here an Abba track on here! Take it away, girls and guys! XX
Greetings, avid (and long suffering?) readers of these – must surely be – fifteen-year old weekly ramblings. If you’re still out there, feel free to drop me a note once on a while. Being that I receive so much junk mail onto my web-based site, there is always the alternative address of jakeduncan at mac.com. Realistically, I don’t anticipate the floodgates now opening!
Since returning from my last Olly show (for the time being – he’ll back at some point folks), nine days ago, the emphasis has switched back to the re-ordering of my personal life – and that is no straightforward task. The over-riding priority is unquestionably Health, followed by Home, followed by Hobbies: the three “H’s” indeed, but please allow me to expand on this.
Having said that, there’s not much further explanation required to substantiate Health as the first priority: it should indeed be everyone’s first priority. Without this you have “nothing”. As obvious as this may seem, there nevertheless is required a constant monitoring of one’s well-being, particularly when you “suddenly” find yourself in the same demographic as your author. I’m finding there’s a “priority analysis” approach required, whereby you should address first any prevailing or current medical condition and apply yourself to dealing with it.
Possibly the best example of the above (as a very common “ailment”) is being overweight, which in itself can trigger several other troubling conditions, if it is allowed to perpetuate over an extended period of time. Conversely, if you apply yourself to an overweight condition (the most obvious courses of action being diet and exercise) those other “pending” ailments will certainly not worsen. Therefore, pro-actively dealing with one prime health aspect knocks-on to having beneficial effects on other underlying medical conditions. Dr Jake has spoken!
And the next “H” right this way please”: Home. This aspect probably holds more significance to me than many, being that I live alone and – as I face up to the prospect, in the coming years, of spending significantly more time in that environment - it follows said environment needs to be a comforting and welcoming space, both from a working and relaxing point of view.
As regards the above, I have a plan – a plan which predominately involves cosmetic improvement in addition to a re-work to my ailing garden. As I have made mention of recently – and as long as I remain in a position to be able to do so financially (work prospects aside) - I harbour no real inclination to be resident, over any extended period of time, in the UK, in the months of October/November and January through April. I need light and I need warmth.
In years to come, when being an international jet-setter no longer holds the appeal it once did (or my physical condition precludes jumping on and off planes) there may be a consideration to re-locate about 450 miles south of where I currently reside. Will the future see me back in Seaford, the most enjoyable seaside town where I spent the majority of 2013?
Oops: I’ve run out of space this week before I could expand upon the third “H”, that being “Hobbies”, something of a “catch all” description – mainly to do with my footballing activities.
I will certainly pick up that thread in next week’s Diary entry as it is probably the particular “H” that I am grappling with – more so than the other two – at this present time. Just enough space to nominate this week’s accompanying track, as it’s over to Otis Redding, once again …
The trouble with being a decent human being (as I believe myself to be) is that injustice is a hard thing to deal with – and this past week I’ve been wrestling with some glaring injustices.
I should mention that these injustices have occurred in my professional life and not in my personal life (although there have been a few of the latter down the years – but I’m still here to tell the stories!). Unfortunately, there’s little more I can say at this point as these “Diary of the Road” entries are published openly - and I would like to continue with my career!
I can tell you this though: when the time is right (and it won’t require me to win the lottery either) I will expand upon those very injustices that I have referred to above. The good people will, at some point, know what the good people deserve to know. Charlatans beware!
Sadly (but “sadly” in an uplifting way) the Olly Murs tour drew to a close on Friday past, with the final show – outdoors – at the Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester. I have to admit to an odd – and unusual – feeling, travelling homewards after a tour on a Saturday, normally the most popular concert day (night) of the week. However, I headed north with a song in my heart!
Ahead of me, over the next six weeks, prior to heading off to the other side of the world to visit my children (during which time I’m going to “short-let” my house – how Scottish is that?) is the opportunity to bring my house “up to spec”, a task I’ve been endeavouring to complete since I moved into this property, which will be six years this December. Hopefully, this year.
This year will possibly also herald the most amount of time I have been around, based back home, over the summer months – and I have to say I’m rather looking forward to it: I may even take a glass of red out to the garden at some point. Inebriation of thought and spirit!!
Most of today has been spent collating and logging a welter of travel receipts that rained down on me, throughout the day, at the Gloucester show – and this is typical of the situation on the last date of any major arena tour. If you don’t get reimbursed then, you are likely never to be reimbursed! You would be surprised how much the cost can amount to, from only twenty crew independently making their way to and from the show, when it’s just a “one-off”.
As I sit here in McDonald’s in Dunbar I’ve just witnessed – along with all the seated customers in the place – something of a heated altercation breakout between a few of the counter staff, which – incredibly – “dragged on” for at least three minutes before the Manager appeared and finally calmed the situation down. It’s bad enough with the continually beeping timers – a subject that I’m sure I raised in a previous entry, composed from this very same McDonalds.
It’s currently 8.50 pm in the evening , here in Dunbar, and it is still light outside - with the promise of a decent sunset. Once I’ve completed this entry and fired it off to David, who has looked after my website for many a year now, it’s off across the way to Asda to stock up with provisions for the next week. There’s always a bargain to be had in there, on a Sunday night!
This evening, feeling good – and with an abundance of the afore-mentioned light – how about this as an appropriate song choice: Little Richard with “By the light of the Silvery Moon”. XX
You join me at a time when the phrase “The calm after the storm” sums up my morning so far.
However, before proceeding any further, out with the truth: I’m sat on a “Cross Country” train, headed north to that fine little coastal town, where I have now resided for six years, come this December, and where – reputedly – the weather in Scotland is better than England!
Last night, sadly, saw Olly Murs’ final live performance on the current “Ten Years of Hits” tour, played out at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester: hardly the greatest of weather, with various intensities of rain throughout the day. Not that this seemed, in any way, to deter the spirits of the 20,000+ concert-goers who trooped along to enjoy the entertainment on offer.
Being the last day of the tour brings with it a generally frenetic – however organised – state of activity, as it’s the last chance for our considerably large technical crew to settle any outstanding travel receipts that I’ve not already been reimbursed to them on the tour, so far.
I arrived into the show yesterday morning with around £3,000 figuring that this would sufficiently cover the requirements of all outstanding band and crew travel receipts, however our drummer Matty Brown (an extremely talented 22 year-old) conspired to unearth a whole raft of London Underground fares from “way back” at band rehearsals in the middle of April.
Consequently, I have around £200 of road-float left in my pocket: so that was a fairly close-run thing! It follows, of course, that in place of £2,800 I have a folder brimming over with travel receipts, all of which will have to be logged onto my “Quickbooks” accounting system.
Having said the above, I have laid aside Monday and Tuesday next week (10th & 11th of this month - as you have no doubt sussed that I’m currently penning this diary entry almost one week later than I actually should – Saturday 8th in fact). This is me back in catch-up mode.
On a personal level, I’ve become unsurprisingly aware that my sleeping habits/patterns are developing something of a downward trajectory: it’s all very well gathering – as I do – copious amounts of online-generated articles, on many aspects of improving one’s sleep – and then never making the time to dig them out again and see what positive lessons I could be learning.
It’s a glaringly obvious statement to make, but one should unquestionably heed the importance (especially relating to “one” of as many tender years as myself) of driving directly through the middle of the “city of well-being” rather than jumping onto the “bypass” – a word that could have another worrying connotation, if health issues are repeatedly pushed to the side.
I probably have a total of two days work left to complete all finalisation aspects of the Olly Murs tour, therefore come next weekend (and by that I mean the weekend of 16th June) all tour-related activity should have been slid onto the back burner, meaning I can concentrate on enjoying myself with a renewed involvement on the football side of things, specifically to try and place one or two of my young, “hungry” players with small clubs in Scotland, for the time being. Let’s end this week’s entry on a positive note, by once again featuring Mr Huey Lewis with “Don’t Fight It” as our accompanying song. Why do I feel so free today?! XXX
Something of a reflective day: this having been one of the few years that Hearts had made it into the Scottish Cup Final, only for Celtic’s superior quality to have triumphed on the day.
Along with probably 90% of the Hearts fan following that attended yesterday’s game (and all those who unfortunately didn’t manage to land themselves a ticket) I was under no illusions how tough the job at hand would be: Celtic are already the Scottish Champions, in addition to having the League Cup tucked under their belts, beating Aberdeen 1-0 back in December ’18.
This now means that Celtic have won the “treble-treble”, off the back of yesterday’s victory at the National Stadium in Hampden, a feat previously unaccomplished by any other professional team in Scotland - but unlikely to be repeated, with Rangers in the “ascendancy”.
However, the main thing to say here (which I have omitted to make mention of as yet, but which is probably fairly obvious by now) is that I was actually in attendance at yesterday’s game, only because Olly Murs did not have a show last night on this current UK tour. Olly, being the good lad that he is – not to mention his avid love of football, particularly as a devoted Manchester United fan – agreed to let me slip away from Friday night’s Sheffield Arena show, mid-evening, in sufficient time for me to catch the last train up to Edinburgh. Even then, it was 12.55 am before the train pulled into Edinburgh’s Waverley station from where I made my way to a small, pre-booked, hotel, only 300 yards from Hearts “Tynecastle Park” stadium.
I have to admit it to be an uplifting experience to join hordes of Hearts fans, in a convoy of coaches, en-route to the game. I spotted many old faces – and renewed the odd old acquaintance – during the lunchtime break at Glasgow’s Marriott hotel, as part of a (relatively inexpensive, I have to say) “corporate” package that included the afore-mentioned lunch stop.
The overall opinion of the majority of the Hearts fans was that we gave it our best shot, and came within eight minutes of forcing the tie into extra time. They certainly didn’t swamp us.
I need to check the following fact, but I believe that sees Hearts into Europe for the qualification stages of the “Europa League”: this will – if I’m not wrong – require the players to return “early” for the pre-season, as said qualifying games commence late June. I might even have the opportunity to attend the “away” leg of an early qualification round, as I’m not leaving Scotland to fly to Asia/Australia to visit both my children until mid-July. The plan, where said trip is concerned, is to fly into Bangkok, from where I will base myself, to make two further “return” trips, one down to Brisbane and then another to Ho Chi Min City.
With the above in mind, I’m just tying up the details with Jade and Bradley, as to when I take the initial leg down to Bangkok as – quite understandably – they have their own holidays to plan. It’s looking like I will travel first from Bangkok to Brisbane, to see Bradley after which, upon my return to “base” in Bangkok, I will spend the first two weeks of August in Vietnam.
Today I will travel (departure in 30 minutes) from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station – where I now sit, in the adjacent food court – all the way to the south coast of England, Brighton specifically for tomorrow’s show. Let The Doobie Brothers sum it up with “Long Train Runnin’”!
I come to you this evening in the “shadow” of the stadium of the club Newcastle United FC.
To explain: we have arrived at the “Sandman Signature” hotel in Newcastle (no show this evening) – a hotel where Alice and I based ourselves for the new Year period, several years ago. During that visit we also witnessed Newcastle playing a home game versus Burnley, on the 2nd January – being that the hotel is located directly adjacent to the iconic St. James Park.
We were most fortunate to arrive at the hotel at 10.00 am this morning, overnight from the second of the London O2 shows last night, to find that our hotel rooms were ready to check into immediately! Folks – I can tell you that is a very unusual occurrence, particularly on a Sunday morning, when the previous night’s occupants are loath to drag themselves out of bed (as well we can understand) before midday, after which it still requires the housekeeping staff to go “hell for leather” to turn the rooms around, to be available for the incoming guests.
The reality of the matter must have been that – with the Premiership season now complete, and therefore no major game being staged just across the road – the hotel could not feasibly have been running at anywhere near full occupancy last night, especially when you consider that the Olly’s technical crew (in three double-decker sleeper buses) numbers forty-one.
Once in my room this morning and having taking a shower to clear the “cobwebs” from my brain, I set about completing last week’s Diary entry which – by now you will know – had fallen a week behind. With that under my belt, I spent the next hour (having relocated to the hotel’s in-house bar/restaurant on the ground floor) housekeeping the backlog of e-mails that had built up, over the two days spent at London’s O2 . I must have done close to fifty shows now, at the O2, over the last seven/eight years. I’ve no wish to see that number reach one hundred!
Earlier in the week, we had taken the ferry across the Irish sea, to play two shows, back-to-back, in Dublin and Belfast. Although all three crew buses – and the one band bus – made directly for the return ferry at Dublin Port, following Tuesday night’s show at Belfast’s SSE Arena (the band on a 02.15 am ferry with the crew making the crossing three hours later) I stayed back in a Belfast hotel, to enable me to make the short flight to Paris the next day.
As (if?) a regular reader, you will correctly surmise that this was one of my regular trips out to Paris – afforded to me on this occasion, because we had two consecutive days off on Wednesday and Thursday past – to meet with my partner French agents and (as always) a select handful of young players who think they have what it takes to break into UK football. This was obviously something of a whistle-stop trip: arriving into Paris on Wednesday afternoon, and then back out on Thursday evening, albeit with a two-hour delay on the return.
Therefore, all in all, something of a busy week – buy most satisfying, as Olly’s shows continue to be well received, with twelve of the eighteen shows already under our belts. The remaining shows are grouped as (4 x 2) with a day off between each “double”, finishing up in Manchester.
To accompany this week’s entry (keeping in mind the hopes and dreams of those young players that I met in Paris) I’m plumping for a Terence Trent Darby track to close the proceedings.X
Slipped a little behind with publishing this week’s entry. Yes - life on the road, once again.
Now I find myself, on Saturday morning (18th!) - sat here in the Aloft Excel Hotel in East London – just across from City Airport – going “hell for leather” trying to complete “last week’s” entry before the stroke of midnight, before time heralds the requirement of the next edition of the Diary. Even if I attempted to document the frenzy of the past week, I would be lucky to recall to where the hours of each waking day, on tour, always disappear to.
Roll on twelve hours – and here I am sat in the Production Office at thirty-five minutes past midnight, with my flight-case on its way to the truck – and an 02.00 am bus departure set by Fran, our resolute Production Assistant - at which time we will be on our way to Newcastle.
In such situations, when we are driving into a day-off (rather than facing a “back-to-back” show) I usually switch offices to this here Production Office, which is the last of the backstage offices to be vacated – with the Production flight cases, including my accounting flight case, subsequently loaded onto the back of the last of eight trucks to leave the venue.
At this time and point of the evening, I usually have (as I have now) my small “Bose” Wi-fi speaker close to hand, to “play out” the evening on a few classic late night – make that early morning – tunes. Within the last five minutes, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole and Warren Haynes have featured: thankfully, there are a few old timers on the tour, in addition to yours truly.
As I start this paragraph – less I allow myself to slide towards the occasionally morose side of my character – I have upped the tempo to allow Mr Robert Palmer (God rest his soul) to command downstage centre with the iconic “Addicted to Love”. The video is right up there with some of the more memorable that have ever been released. Surely you’ve seen the video?!
Calling my wide musical tastes to the fore (well, I’m old enough to blow my own trumpet) we have just listened to a Vera Lynn track, followed by the Foo Fighters and now The Kinks are the featured band: particular favourites of mine, harking way back to my formative years. I managed to buy two classic Kinks albums on the then Marble Arch label, a label that was the forerunner of the “cheapo” greatest hits albums. Why did I ever part with those records? The answer is that I didn’t (knowingly) part with them: they just slid out of my life, due to a probable combination of circumstances that I had little control over. Or I was just too busy chasing after the fairer sex to pay mindful attention to keeping track of my prize possessions.
I’ve obviously (not for the first time – by a long shot) lost my way a little on this week’s Diary edition and I’m going to admit that playing these select Kinks tracks over the last few minutes has induced a melancholy note to this evening’s (morning’s!) proceedings. These were such innocent, carefree and memorable times and, oh, what I would give to re-visit them. I would even settle for a twenty-four hour day pass - a window of time into past, formative, years.
I can’t (now) leave you with anything but a Kinks track to accompany this week’s entry (from the many, iconic, songs penned by Ray Davies) however I have included Kinks tracks in the past, so let’s plump for one of Ray Davies’s lesser known compositions: “Come Dancing”. XX
Coming to you this evening from a city with a rich footballing heritage. “Ah” I possibly hear you say “He must surely then be in Manchester or Liverpool”. However, avid readers – or those of you that were thinking that – you would miss your guess, in most cases. It is indeed Nottingham from where I broadcast to you this evening: the home of the English Championship side “Nottingham Forest” – a team who accomplished a unique achievement in the consecutive seasons of 1978-79 and 1979-80 by winning the (then) European Cup in both of those years. It always takes a little time for the enormity of that achievement to sink in.
We arrived here at lunchtime today, overnight from Glasgow, where we had played two consecutive shows at The Hydro on Friday and Saturday evenings. Those were our second and third shows of the tour: however, maybe I should backtrack to Monday last, and pick up from where I left off last week, following my 16-hour, whistle-stop journey to London and back.
Having returned to Olly’s rehearsals in Birmingham by 2.00 pm – and with only the final dress rehearsal due to take place – it was not long before the crew were voraciously engaged in the pursuit of loading out and then jumping on the sleeper buses to travel overnight to Aberdeen.
We duly pulled up at the back entrance of the BHGE Arena (formerly the AECC) at around 7.00 am in the morning – and fortunately gained entry to the building an hour earlier than our planned load-in of 9.00 am. I should say at this point that Tuesday in the Aberdeen venue had always been scheduled as a “technical rehearsal” day, prior to Wednesday’s first show of the tour. Thursday was a travel day and then, as made mention of already, Friday and Saturday saw us take “Glasgae” by reasonable storm, playing to upwards of 20,000 over those two days.
So there we are – three days into a twenty-date UK/Irish tour, and things are going swimmingly well. However, I’ve also been of a mind that the “vibe” of any given tour flows “downwards” from the principal Artist(s) and that is certainly borne out on this current tour.
Consecutive shows undoubtedly allow the crew to “catch their breath” and also allows them one less load-out in addition to a night in a hotel bed, rather than a night in a sleeper-bus bunk. This, of course, is not to cast any derogatory shadow over the comfort of touring sleeper-buses. When “back-to-back” shows are involved, it’s the only way to travel - with the unquestionable benefit of maximising the crews’ rest hours when faced with consecutive gigs.
Being no spring chicken anymore, I made a responsible and disciplined decision – a good few weeks prior to the commencement of this tour (and probably alluded to – to a lesser or greater degree - in several of my past weekly Diary entries) to pay far greater attention to my general health. As best I can – in the face of incredibly sumptuous tour catering – I’m attempting to control and monitor my diet (certainly more so than on previous tours) in addition to ensuring that I find the time, on non-show days, to get out of my hotel to undertake some brisk walking.
It’s early days yet, on this tour, with less than 20% of the shows under our belt to date. With a slight nod to the previous paragraph, I ‘m going to invite “Huey Lewis & The News” to play us out this week with a track that was featured at a little band and crew soiree we had after the first Glasgow show. So, my friends, fear not as the years go by: its Hip To Be Square. X
This Sunday evening finds me ensconced in the Olympia Hilton in London – smack bang in the middle of (or more towards the end of, actually) my Olly Murs production-rehearsals period. There is however a logical explanation for this “overnight deviation” – and that now follows.
I have zipped away from the afore-mentioned rehearsals for this quick overnight stop in London (having left Birmingham at 8.30 pm this evening, but planning to be back on site by 2.00 pm tomorrow) to film a small piece to camera for a documentary that an old friend of mine, legendary music-business manager Simon Napier-Bell, is producing for Netflix. The focus of the programme will be directed towards “Wham’s” trip to China in 1986, to play two record-breaking live concerts – the first time any Western “pop” group had ever stage live concerts in the country. Of course, as you may (or may not!) know, I was very much involved!
Otherwise, the majority of this week – well, from Thursday onwards – has been taken up with (typically) 12+ hour days at our West Midlands rehearsal facility (now, ladies, don’t be trawling the greater Birmingham area trying to locate where we are, because – as of tomorrow night – we will be long gone, heading up to Aberdeen, to undertake the first show of this UK tour).
Production rehearsals – as I’ve no doubt alluded to in one or two historic Diary entries – is when all of the various components of the upcoming tour (lights, sound, staging, video, rigging, special effects – and the myriad of technical personnel required to assemble it all) come together in the one place for the first time, to combine it all into a slick presentation format.
As the first day (Thursday past, in our case) necessitates an early start, then the crew all travelled to our designated hotel on Wednesday afternoon or evening, for the commencement of a five-night stay, while production rehearsals are ongoing. In such a situation, the first day will be given over to a “technical set-up” thereby not requiring the attendance of the Artist.
That first day can be something of a long one, being that the Artist is generally chomping at the bit to make a start to the proceedings and will therefore be keen to be involved on the morning of the second day, usually after the band members have firstly “sound-checked”.
The general progression of production rehearsals sees a relatively slow start, as the show is pieced together, block by block (a process referred to as “blocking”, funnily enough) and – initially - song by song. A fair amount of stop-start scheduling will be evident during this time.
After the third day of these rehearsals (the second day of the Artist’s and band member’s involvement) proceedings have generally reached the point where the first complete “run-through” can be attempted and – in fact – as I left the studios earlier this evening, en-route to London, the second run-through was just starting: leaving two “full dress” runs for tomorrow, our last day in the facility, before loading up eight trucks and heading to Aberdeen.
Harking back to the opening paragraph (and all the “Wham!”/George Michael memories that are flooding back, prior to me being re-united, all too briefly, with Simon Napier-Bell tomorrow morning) I feel it is only fitting to slip in a “Wham!” song as this week’s accompanying track: therefore to “bring it all back to me” I’m leaving you with “Everything She Wants”. XX
This past week may certainly go down as one of my unluckiest for a while. Allow me to explain.
I may have made mention a few weeks ago that I was hoping to zip down to Vietnam for ten days prior to my Olly Murs touring commitment - commencing 25th of this month with a five-day stint in production rehearsals - before we head up to Aberdeen for the opening show on 1st May. However, due to my daughter Jade’s heavy work schedule over the last two weeks in April (meaning of course I would not be able to spend any significant amount of time with her) we’ve both decided to hold off until early July, when I can visit my son in Australia as well.
Nevertheless, I just had a hankering to enjoy a little sun, before I spend the majority of my days in windowless production offices throughout May, while out on the road with Olly.
Onto the online site “Lastminute.com” I went, to see what might still be available at relatively short notice. At this juncture I should say that their definition of “last minute” (meaning, it would appear – anytime from four weeks hence) certainly differs from mine, which is more “in the next few days”). With that sort of “notice” in mind there’s a limited amount of choice.
Therefore, there wasn’t a whole lot on offer for a 7/10 ten day period where I would be “guaranteed” some sunshine and decent temperatures. Admittedly, I didn’t do any lengthy research of the Spanish weather (Spain being the optimum choice) figuring – all too quickly, as we shall see! – that it couldn’t be any worse than the current Scottish weather (16C) with, surely, more sunshine hours: I just wanted to spend most of my time in shorts and flip-flops.
In the end I found a seven-day package holiday (16th through 22nd of this month), leaving from Newcastle - perfectly do-able from Dunbar, only two stops on the southbound line – involving just under a three hour flight to Alicante, and a hotel located 600 meters from the centre of Benidorm, on the south-east coast of Spain. Everything seemed hunky-dory with my plans.
By the time the various Thomson’s holidaymakers had been herded on to my coach – one of three meeting our incoming flight - I eventually arrived at the hotel mid-evening on Tuesday past, 16th (the only one to alight the Thomson’s transfer coach to stay here – I wondered about that!) in enough time to partake of dinner, served buffet-style in a packed restaurant.
I apologise that it’s taken me a while to arrive at the “punch line” of my story – relative to the introductory line of this week’s Diary – however here we go: apart from a pleasant day of wandering along the sun-soaked beachfront of Benidorm, on Wednesday, and a “passable” overcast day on Thursday (didn’t wander so far this time), it has RAINED every day since!!
At his point I should confess that I’m penning this version on Monday morning, 21st (well, I am on some kind of “holiday”, so I’m possibly excused) and it is still RAINING. Word is that the weather may lift tomorrow. Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of sunshine just as the plane lifts off.
As far as a choice of accompanying track goes this week, there is no question of the theme. Therefore as much as the weather has, in the main, been depressingly dismal, I could not say the same about this song: the iconic Buddy Guy with “Feels Like Rain”. More than “feels”! XX
The saga of my life continues (although I’m probably fast approaching the point where “Saga” may take on an additional significant meaning for me, when it comes to the occasional holiday).
Anyway, location wise this evening, you find me – once again – in the McDonald’s, situated adjacent to Dunbar’s Asda supermarket although (at the rate Dunbar is expanding) I have the sneaking suspicion that it’s only a matter of time until a competing “Aldi” or “Lidl” food store springs up in Dunbar, and probably not too far from where I sit now, close to vacant land.
Such is progress: however, in the little cul-de-sac where I reside in the town, Dunbar’s frantic housebuilding activity is not apparent to me. In fact, I am most reminded of the ongoing expansion when the train is decelerating, from the Edinburgh direction, into Dunbar station.
Some great news: Hearts (the football team I have followed for over fifty years now) have reached the Scottish Cup Final – and I was there yesterday at the national football stadium (Hampden Park) to witness our passage into said final, as a result of a decisive 3-0 victory in the semi-final, versus the Championship club “Inverness Caledonian Thistle”. Today the second semi-final was staged (at the same location) with Celtic running out 3-0 winners against Aberdeen, with the tensions that such games bring finally reducing Aberdeen to nine men.
The final is set for Saturday 25th May which (and how about this for a stroke of luck?) is coincidentally a “non-show” day on Olly Murs’s upcoming tour. So, yes, Jake is going to the football game! A few minor logistics to be ironed out of course but, hey, that’s what I do for a living. I will probably have to board an Edinburgh-bound train, from Sheffield, at “sparrow fart” to enable me to be up in God’s country in enough time to make it through to Glasgow for the game. In my lifetime of following Hearts this will be the fifth cup final I have attended.
Sliding over to family matters, it was my intention to zip down to Vietnam before I am due into Olly’s production rehearsals on 25th of this month, however a combination of escalating air fares (which tends to happen, when you attempt to book at a week’s notice!) and Jade’s current, heavy, work commitments has scuppered that plan – and I’ll now go down in June/July.
With the above in mind, I’m now slowly hatching a plan whereby I head down to south-east Asia for a combined period of (say) five weeks arriving in (again, only mooted, at this early stage) Bangkok – on the back of an Edinburgh/Bangkok/Edinburgh return – and then taking two additional “return” flights from Bangkok: one to Brisbane to visit Bradley and one to Ho Chi Min City to visit Jade, after which I then jump back on the return portion of my Bangkok flight back to Edinburgh (having, maybe, resisted the temptation to skip down to Ko Samui for a few days – however, it’s an idyllic location.) Don’t come asking me for a loan after that!!
Now that I’ve postponed the planned trip to Vietnam, I nevertheless decided that I fancy some sunshine (not terribly prevalent in Scotland at the moment) therefore I made the snap decision, on Friday past, to book a seven-day “Lastminute.com” holiday down to the south of Spain: I’ll probably be the oldest holidaymaker on the Costa Blanca. It follows then, surely, that this week’s accompanying track should have something of a “vacation” connection – so what better than this gentle rocker from Scottish band Nazareth, aptly named “Holiday”. XX
Definitely, one of the best things I ever did was to remove my date of birth from Facebook!
The above “revelation” bears relevance this 7th day of April as I’ve reached the grand(?) old age, today, of 67 (that’s sixty-seven). My contemporaries might suspect – based upon their own experiences of having “similar” birthdays within this demographic – that I may not be too enamoured to be reaching such a milestone. Actually, because – today of all days – I feel physically better than I have for the last month (has the body – my body – finally completed it’s repair work?) since – it would appear – I suffered the side effects to the “Lansoprazole”.
One day, I can hopefully reveal the reason that I’m sat here in Darlington Station, working on this week’s Diary entry. Didn’t expect to find myself here – of all places – at this time - but it’s just a result of the way things have panned out over the last few frustrating weeks.
As already alluded to, in this evening’s first paragraph, I certainly feel a whole lot better than I did a week ago today (as you will recall) and must now – seriously – build upon this gentle suffusion of renewed energy to ease myself back on track. However, it’s been a “good” thing.
Allow me to elaborate upon that last sentence: I’ve little doubt than anyone suddenly experiencing “inexplicable” stomach/gut pains – accompanied by other minor attendant ailments, such as headache and fatigue – could be forgiven for “thinking the worst”. In that respect, I was no different. With relief comes assurance & with assurance comes confidence.
Just as an aside, my regular readers will no doubt have picked up on the fact that I’m a disciple of the “wrapped” paragraph and, subsequently, I would have to confess to slightly altering the wording and/or grammar, probably at least 2/3 times on each individual, weekly, entry – in order that neatness is preserved. The “ampersand”(&) in the previous paragraph is an example!
Otherwise, the main decision at my doorstep in the forthcoming week is whether I head down to visit my daughter Jade in Vietnam before the start of the Olly Murs project (25th of this month) or whether I wait until mid-June and (with a wee bit of strategic planning) “incorporate” that trip into a visit to Byron Bay to spend some time with my son as well. Having not booked any international flights as yet, this is a decision that needs to be made within the next 24 – 48 hours if it has any chance of being accomplished without spending a fortune.
Tomorrow, Monday, I will have the opportunity to catch three of my young players in two different games, the first kicking-off at 2.00 pm in the afternoon in Edinburgh (in which Souleymane will play) with the second game due to commence at 7.30 pm in the evening at Starks Park in Kirkcaldy, in which game Joe and Henoch should play for around 75 minutes. These three young players (aged 16, 19 and almost 21) are made of fairly stern stuff for their young years: I’m sure they also have the potential to develop into quality players in the future.
There will no more “recruitment-activity” – player wise – for at least the next two months, with A) the signing deadline having passed a week ago and B) the current season due to finish towards the end of May. With that in mind, and with the football activity not due to re-commence until mid-June, this week’s accompanying track is from The Average White Band.
Well, there goes the first three months of the year – just another “VAT quarter” of life!
For those of you who have had to endure my (fairly recently) intermittent ramblings about having to slow things down a little in my life - and take sensible stock of my situation – your patient understanding may just be “rewarded” over the NEXT three months of this year.
Is it – do you think – just a natural human trait that we never really visualise a time when we won’t actually be on this planet? The general exception to that rule probably being when you reach your “sixties” - when such thoughts gently swim into focus, and time takes on even more significance as the world’s most precious commodity. This is where you find me this weekend.
Specifically, I have been up in Inverness for Saturday and Sunday nights where – in addition to taking in the “Inverness Caledonian v Falkirk” game yesterday – I indulged myself, for a second time in the last five years, with a trip on the the West Highland Railway that runs from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh: a most delightful and scenic round-trip train excursion.
I departed Inverness today at 1059, arrived into Klyle of Lochalsh at 1337, wandered up to the local “Bothy” in the village for a baked potato and then – armed with a takeaway coffee – headed back down to the station to “re-board” the same physical train which had carried me on the outward journey, departing 1512 to re-trace our “steps” back towards Inverness. The best view, unquestionably (but question if you wish!) is on the northside of the track, particularly when – headed west – you pass the Stromferry station and the shores of Loch Carron start to open up. I would have no hesitancy in recommending this enthralling journey.
Otherwise, train trips remaining as therapeutic to me as they always have been, I’ve enjoyed sufficient “me” time over the last forty-eight hours to assist in formulating a structure and a direction for the years ahead. I’m acutely aware such planning must firmly edge it’s way to the front of the queue of life: the emphasis being predominately during the time I am off (rather than on) the road. It’s no secret, as a result of my own conscious efforts, that the former is definitely heading in the direction of eclipsing the latter. What took me so long?
With my recently-diagnosed cholesterol count (above normal!) the requirement for regular exercise has returned, in fairly sharp focus. Not being the full-time owner of a car at this current time – and for almost four years now, believe it or not – encourages me (leaves me no choice?) to either walk or cycle to the likes of the station, the supermarket or into the village. This, of course, is no bad thing: the key is now just to regulate such walking activities, on a weekly basis, to where I am regularly accomplishing certain time and/or distance targets.
Within the last few weeks – certainly boosted by the outcome of having pushed myself too hard on the recent “TFF” tour – I have finally accepted that (especially at my stage of life) health matters take precedence over all others. Therefore it would be my intention to now be able to keep you regularly informed of all positive developments over the coming weeks.
In closing (and not for the first time, I suspect) – I leave you this week with my main man Otis Redding and his version of a Sam Cooke classic “A Change is Gonna Come”. It has to. XX
Greetings, readers - once again this week - from the department of the “Walking Wounded”.
Being convinced that something is still not quite right with me (and there’s a few folk may not dispute that, especially where my head’s concerned!) I have now set up the recently mentioned “all singing/all dancing” BUPA medical examination for Wednesday of next week . Sure, that’s coming out of my pocket, however the way I feel right now – and with the added consideration that my own doctor is on vacation for another ten days – I reckon one doesn’t skimp with issues of one’s health if one is in the fortunate position to personally cover the cost involved.
I underwent such an examination about twelve years ago, with a company called “Lifescan” in Glasgow which – at that time – included a full MRI body-scan: however I’ve since learned, from several reputable sources, that the various blood tests have become so sophisticated there’s not much that cannot be detected, therefore negating the cost of an expensive MRI scan.
I should say at this point that although I’ve made mention on several past occasions about my belief of the “destructive nature” of certain aspects of Social Media- particularly where the impressionable generations are concerned- from the point of view of researching symptoms and suspected illnesses there is an untold wealth of reliable information to be found online.
Once the health check has been completed this coming Wednesday – and the various results communicated to me – then I suspect the time will have come for me to do what I have been threatening to do over the course of many a Diary entry, namely place my health firmly at the “front of the life queue”. Other factors of the past week have reinforced my growing resolve.
Just to slide back over to touring matters (after all, this blog still retains the “Diary of the Road” title) – and what a convenient bit of dovetailing this presents me with – it is exactly one month today that I will be heading down south to hook up with Olly Murs production rehearsals prior to heading directly north again, six days later, for the first show in Aberdeen (1st May).
I’m very much looking forward to what – for sure – will be a very enjoyable tour with an Artist, of course, with whom I have toured on several (equally enjoyable) previous occasions. Add to that the bonus of a live band – not always a “given” within the realms of modern day touring – and, collectively, you have there all the essential elements for a very memorable experience.
As if the above wasn’t enough to ensure a most relaxing and convivial touring experience, our Production Manager (Andy Colby, a stand-up guy and longtime touring buddy of mine), several reprobates on the crew - and certain members of Olly’s band - are ardent football fans (with a host of different clubs supported, across all those folks: which makes for great crack).
Prior to departing the sunny shores of Dunbar, as previously mentioned above, I may “zip” over to Australia between (say) 11th and 23rd April to see my son in Byron Bay, with the added incentive of attending the iconic Byron Bay Blues Festival – something of a bonus, if I’m there.
However, I want to be “fighting fit” before making the trip, otherwise I may delay until June: with that in mind , here’s Australia’s Jimmy Barnes with a rocker called “No Second Prize”.X
Something of a watershed week, this week – if that’s the correct term, but read on ……
I continue to feel out of sorts - and have returned to Edinburgh this evening, with an appointment at my local doctors tomorrow morning, in the hope of determining the source of this “malaise” that has descended upon me, since returning from the “Tears For Fears” tour.
Whatever the diagnoses (and I remain “hopeful” that my condition is purely borne of years and years of over-exertion – because with application, diet and exercise I know that can be fixed) I surely have to recognise, this time, the need to give absolute priority to my health.
My re-adjusted approach to (the remainder) of my life will certainly feature a personal ruling that I do not go careering into projects at the eleventh hour, like a knight on a white charger, to assist Artists with their touring projects – and subsequently expose myself to 16-hour stressful days for weeks on end. If I don’t have a “fair run” prior to any given project, to enable me to arrive at the first show, properly prepared, then I walk away from the project.
Impressive start to turning over a new leaf? Stick around – I suspect there is more to follow.
As much as I love my involvement with football, that – too – has to have some curtailment introduced to the process, although that is pretty much the current state of affairs based upon the fact that I am only assisting three players in Scotland at the moment (and have no plans to extend that for the current season, particularly as the signing deadline is only two weeks away). I must accept that my touring business will always take priority and if I get to football after that, then fine – but if the football has to “wait” then, in future, it has to wait.
At the moment, I have the possibility of four projects which could come to fruition, before the end of this year: none of them have been absolutely confirmed, however I’m confident of being able to confirm the first of them, by next week’s Diary entry – with the confirmation of the second project following within the next month. Once the two afore-mentioned projects are given the “green light” then it would be the icing on the cake if one of the two remaining projects fell into place: if both did, that would actually be too much work for me!
I cannot forget how fortunate I am to be in this position, coming from such humble beginnings and having made one or two key, momentously bad, decisions along the way (notably of a domestic nature). To have infamously have been in a position whereby I was down to my last 37 pence in mid-1998, but then to have somehow dragged my way back – twenty years later - to owning two small properties, in addition to being mortgage free now in my own house, has its foundations in a serious amount of hard work, and a few, timely, welcome slices of luck.
However, the hard work which I have alluded to above, may – with the manifestation of what currently ails me – have taken its toll: I can only hope I can get back to my “old self” soon.
This week I will leave you with a track penned by one of my all-time favourite songwriters, Mr. John Fogerty, here with a 35-year old (original) rendition of one of several great “Creedence Clearwater Revival” songs, namely “Fortunate Son” (and I surely have been!). XX
As I gaze through the windows of this small Café in North Yorkshire this evening – from where I have taken up temporary residence, to pen this week’s edition of the Diary – I can indeed report snow on the ground! Surely the first I have experienced in the UK this year.
You may recall I alluded to feeling rather out of sorts, towards the end of last week. That situation hasn’t noticeably improved since then: in fact, it has been compounded by a sudden gout flare-up – maybe my fifth or sixth occurrence of such, since first being struck with it back in 2009, on a European promotional tour with Paul Potts (in Germany if I recall correctly).
It may yet be shown that there exists a connection between those current two ailments of mine - that connection being “dehydration”: a by-product of those long hours spent in windowless production offices on the recent European leg of the Tears For Fears tour, many with questionable air-conditioning systems. Such inattention to one’s fluid intake can fairly quickly result in mild to considerable dehydration. That may be precisely what’s happened!
Sprinkle that situation with a serious lack of sleeping hours, over that particular ten-day period – not to mention a few seriously late nights, upon my immediate return, attempting to package all the accounts away to the States before the end of last week - and all the signs ominously point to me probably pushing myself a little too far, considering my tender age.
Thankfully, off the back of a useful visit to a local “drop in” clinic near where Alice is now based and a subsequent issue of prescription medication – albeit with a couple of very uncomfortably sleepless nights in the interim - I’m now over the worst of the gout flare-up.
Mildly concerning, however, is the continued presence of this current state of lassitude that I am experiencing. With the abatement of the gout condition (which, if you have ever experienced that particular condition, you will be aware of how distracting it can be) I am now able to focus more intently on the symptoms of this other temporary (it had better bloody be!) ailment of mine. The uncanny physical “imbalance”, that is suffusing my system at the moment, appears – as best as this layman can ascertain – to be emanating from the bowel area.
The very helpful doctor that saw me at the “stop-in” clinic in Catterick village on Friday past was kind enough, in spite of a heavily attended waiting room, to check my blood pressure and “take my bloods”, the result of the latter which will be made available to me in the next forty-eight hours. Naturally, I’m hoping that said results may throw some informative light on my current “un-wellness” – and point the way to taking advantage of some corrective medication.
The events of the last week have brought into sharp focus, the constant need – especially during one’s advancing years – to place one’s health and well-being unquestionably at the front of the queue of life - and that must now be the priority going forward. I’ll be able to update you on the origin of my current “out of sorts” condition. Let’s just hope I’ve not overdone it!
In summary of the spirit of this week’s Diary – meaning I’ve had something of a wake-up call on the health side of things – but also to keep the mood upbeat, I’m going with a track that is nefariously, appropriately, named - so take it away Mr Levi Stubbs of “The Four Tops”. XX
Back on track! Sure it may be 8.21 pm on Sunday evening - but it’s the actual Sunday evening that this particular Diary entry is due to be published. So, for me, that’s “Back on Track”.
The (obvious?) disadvantage to “rushing” the weekly entries, is that the content is almost “time driven” whenever I find myself behind schedule. This, of course, sees me pushing on to complete said entries - rather than just allowing the content to flow from the mind to the keyboard, as it generally does when I take an on-the-day, relaxed, approach to composing it.
Today finds me almost having completed the “clear-up” on the recent Tears For Fears tour, with possibly three or four hours work left, to enable me to draw a line under it. From that point onwards, I will be awaiting the response to a proposal which I’ve submitted to the management of a very popular act, whose upcoming summer itinerary will feature the concentration of their shows being staged over “long” weekends. Should this project come to fruition, it would require me to be “on call” throughout the six-month period May until August. Then, from mid-September onwards, I’m committed to a two-month touring period, but can’t say too much for the moment. Once I am in a position to go “public”, I will divulge all to you!
Prior to that, my Olly Murs commitment will commence around 25th/26th April and that - essentially - “bookends” the time I can use to travel to see my children, hopefully taking in Vietnam and Byron Bay on the same trip: in other words, I have seven weeks “downtime” in which to figure out the best period to pop across the other side of the world for a few weeks.
By the time of next week’s Diary entry, I should have a clearer idea of when I can look to “Go West, Old Man” and subsequently have the framework of a travel itinerary in place. Naturally, the sooner I book up the required flight(s) the sooner I’ll be able to secure a reasonable deal on the air fares. I need to be six months ahead of myself, rather than only six weeks: less planning generally translates into more cost. I’ve learned that lesson painfully, in the past.
Over the last couple of days I feel like I’ve hit something of a wall, particularly today - as I continue to attempt to eradicate the last vestiges of a heavy cold which first took hold of me over ten days ago now. There was a time where I could shake such an ailment in a matter of days, even while still out on the road - admittedly, by dosing up on a cocktail of cold medicines.
That same “quick” fix appears to be less effective as the years progress, witnessed by this latest episode - following in from which I racked up two consecutive early morning finishes in an attempt to wrap up my company (and the Tears For Fears!) accounts within only 3 days.
I sense the time has come for me to take my foot off the gas, and be content to “cruise” for a while. This last week has demonstrated that pacing myself now becomes more important than ever. I’m going to constructively utilise the next few days to formulate a plan where considerations for my health (short and long term) unquestionably take precedence. Now, yes, I’ve alluded to such an approach on previous occasions: however, events of the last week are a clear indication of the need to get serious. I can’t say right now what the next move will be - other than to say that move is, arguably, long overdue. In looking to source a track that mirror’s those sentiments, I give you the inimitable Beth Hart and “Everything Must Change”.
The catch-up exercise continues: whereas, on the other hand, the tour is “dis-continued”.
Not that it ended prematurely (“discontinued” is obviously not the most appropriate word, however you get my drift) with the last scheduled show being “this evening” in Padova. Of course, if I could have summoned the strength to do so, I would have at least made a start to this week’s edition when I returned to the hotel after the Padova show. Alas, the last show clamour – with trucks being loaded in accordance with their drop-off schedules back in the UK (keeping in mind that the shows always start a little later in Italy – in our case 9.15 pm, instead of the “normal” 8.45 pm) this decreed the last night was something pf a late one.
When you vector into the above a 40-minute ride to Marco Polo airport (one of two major airports serving Venice) it was pushing 2.30 am by the time we were collecting our keys from the Airport Courtyard Marriott hotel – at which point one’s literary juices have evaporated.
Fast forward to Saturday evening (2nd March) at 10.26 pm and here I am desperately trying to complete last week’s entry, prior to the stroke of midnight - in readiness to actually start the next edition on the day it should be started. All this with Susannah Yorke gadding about on the TV screen right now - as part of some fairly graphic war movie, involving lots of Spitfires - in only wartime suspenders and a blue R.A.F. shirt. My concentration’s shattered!
Back to the literary task at hand: I would probably have to admit that a combination of my involvement with Tears For Fears; a subsequent heavy cold brought on as a result of the afore mentioned commitment and, finally, two or three early morning finishes in my home-based office in an attempt to both mail the TFF accounts away - and complete my own company accounts - before the end of this current week, has blown a large hole in my energy reserves.
I go back to my analogy of the egg-timer, meaning that I need to allow the top “glass” to drain completely to build up the reserves of strength in the bottom “glass” before I turn it over and “start again”. There was a time where I could function adequately on “half a glass of sand” but I suspect my requirements nowadays are to commence with a full glass. To that end, it surely comes down to pacing myself, both during the times when I am on - and off - tour. I can’t go into too much detail, just yet, until a few key, prospective, touring projects are confirmed: however, suffice to say that I may have a busy year ahead of me. The one good thing to say at this moment is that the next six weeks definitely look to be free, therefore I must use that time wisely - to be in the best possible shape to deal with what lies ahead.
Right now, the clock is ticking (it’s currently 11.18 pm - well the war film has some very realistic dog-fight scenes!) and my laptop is down to 38% battery. Tomorrow, finally, I’ll be back on track with my Diary entries - a clear barometer that I’m finally back to some sort of schedule.
For those consumed with curiosity as to which war film I may have been watching (and being occasionally distracted by) it was indeed “The Battle of Britain” with many famous names. Now I must draw this week’s entry to a close (11.42 pm - and counting down) but with no real theme on which to “tag” a particular track, I’m just going to go with a great little tune that will hopefully have proven connotations: Daniel Boone with “Beautiful Sunday”. Let’s hope it is!
Another week playing “catchup” – it would be an ideal situation for a Sunday to be a day off.
However, that’s not how things have worked out on this little Tears For Fears jaunt. Again, I find myself days behind with my weekly Diary entry, as I currently sit on the tour bus, en-route from last night’s Paris show towards Milan, where – as good luck would have it – we have no show this evening. Having said that, with our rooms not being held from “last night” we just have to keep our fingers crossed that our Milan hotel was not heavily booked last night.
Fast forward to me sat in the stylish bar/lounge of the NH Hotel (so, obviously I fit right in, yeah?) on the outskirts of Milan, however only a “stone’s throw” from tomorrow night’s venue, the iconic Mediolanum Forum. Again, allowing honesty to come to the fore, just let me remind you that – at this very second, no less – it is currently 8.00 pm on Friday 22nd February, and there is nowhere to hide while I attempt to catch up, with this Diary entry from last Sunday!
A second ago there, I used the adjective “iconic” to describe the building in which we will play tomorrow night’s show - the second last on this short continental European jaunt. However, having endured many a “robust” show settlement in that venue – with me last to leave the place on a couple of memorable occasions – there have been a few less complimentary adjectives thrown around in the past: certainly when I have been in there during the summer months, where there is a most inefficient air-conditioning system – if indeed any form of functioning AC system in the place at all. The sort of days that call for taking a second shower.
Did you note that both the second and the second-last word in the previous paragraph were actually the word “second”. What would the worlds’ greatest grammarians (I looked that up in Google!) make of such a phenomenon? Maybe it has its own “conspiracy theory” to match?
You see: undying proof once again that nobody goes off at tangents like I do. I could probably put it down to (quoting Alice here) a combination of “the way your brain works” and the somewhat OCD need of mine, personally, to have everything tidy and in its place: therefore, when five days late with processing my Diary entry, such as today, I’m not really “composing” at the leisurely pace that I would prefer; rather there’s a little too much haste involved.
To be honest (twice during one Diary entry!) I’m not sure what the answer is to producing the Diary entries on time, when I’m engulfed in the maelstrom of back-to-back touring. One’s sixteen-hour days fly by in a hurricane of “fire-fighting” issues; intense financial debates (me and the local Promoter); repeated trips out onto the “floor” of the house to assess how the production set-up is coming along – and to see if further seats can be released for sale – and so it goes on. A “time and motion” expert would surely send me back to the drawing-board.
Actually, on that last point (and this has taken way too long to hit home – hard) I need to ease back on the absolute detail to which I undertake my work, particularly in terms of record-keeping. It’s surely never too late to rectify a situation that finds you more time in your life.
In closing this week’s entry, and in mentioning earlier how stifling tomorrow’s venue can become, when played in the height of summer, I’m going to hand over to Mr. Joe Cocker ….. X
Another week when I’m four days behind with my Diary: my life just isn’t my own, out here.
It’s hard to find any personal time when undertaking a run of three back-to-back shows – when the days seem to fly past. Trust me, when you’ve spent fourteen hours in the venue, all you want is to climb into your bunk, as soon as you clamber onto the crew bus. To think that – in days gone by (many moons ago) – we would sit in the downstairs lounge quaffing a few drinks before heading upstairs to get our heads down for a mere five hours sleep before the next day’s show. That sort of activity is only sensibly now reserved for “travelling” into a day off.
On the Tears for Fears tour we have “just” the two crew buses (I don’t miss the days of stadium touring and the attendant five or six crew buses) which keeps things “comfortably cosy”. Our bus actually “shredded” a back tyre on the rear steering axle, about forty-five minutes out from Glasgow on Monday night past, around 0230 on Tuesday morning. Us old road dogs are familiar with the sensation and sound of the tour-bus runner over patchy stretches of highway, however the accentuate rumbling left me in no doubt what the real problem was.
Our driver, Mike, then had no choice but to call out the breakdown service to the Abingdon service area, about 30 minutes north of Carlisle. This set us back around three hours – however, priority wise, the other crew bus (Production Manager and his assistant; Rigger; Caterers & Lighting crew) is the one required at the venue for “first light” therefore – although we didn’t reach Birmingham (“Resorts World”) Arena until around 10.30 am – if it had been the other way around, crew bus wise, we would have been lucky to “open doors” on time.
To recap, this past week, we (as previously alluded to) played the Glasgow Hydro on Monday night past; Birmingham Resorts World Arena (essentially the “NEC”) on Tuesday – and then finishing the current UK leg last night, and our ninth show, at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.
Can I just briefly pause to honestly inform you that the time lapse behind that last paragraph and this first line of this paragraph is – wait for it – around forty-eight hours: hence the reason you finding me typing away with fervour, just before 9.00 pm on Saturday 16th of February, cocooned backstage at the Berlin “Tempodrom”, with the band having just gone on!
Yes, I have been known to slip behind like this before and – yes – my touring activities have invariably been to blame for such a lamentable state of affairs on similar past occasions. However I will not rest in my bunk on the tour bus tonight, knowing I’m heading into Sunday, tomorrow, without having managed to draw to a close, the previous Sunday’s entry. Not good.
It doesn’t stop there: we have a nine-hour run to Amsterdam after tonight’s show here in Berlin, which means the rigging truck - last out tonight, required to be first in tomorrow morning - is probably not going to roll up to “AFAS Live” (formerly the Heineken Music Hall) until 10.30 am tomorrow morning: compare that with our usual load-in time of 07.30 am. Ouch.
Forty-five years of experience tells me that tomorrow will flash by in a kaleidoscopic collage of frantic activity, crazed timings and snatched mealtimes. Anticipating all of that, there are few tracks that could capture that sentiment, however I intend to heed Huey Lewis ‘s advice.
Well, as any regular reader of this Diary will know, what’s happened this past week was inevitable: back out on the road I go and my personal life becomes files under “hold”. However, being that this project came to me a little late in the day, there are worse tours to be involved with (believe me!) than the enchanting Alison Moyet opening up for the iconic Tears for Fears.
There’s a further “bonus” (there had better be!) in that both principal Artists feature live musicians: honestly, it’s been too long since both opener and headliner – on a tour I was involved in – when both opener and headliner featured real musicians throughout their show.
As of today (which is meant to be Sunday past – but it’s actually Tuesday evening) we’ve played four shows already: Killarney, Wednesday last; Dublin Thursday; travel day on Friday; Liverpool Saturday and Brighton Sunday. So this gives you an insight as to why I was unable to complete my Diary on time – for the first time for a long time, I would add in my defense.
This evening finds me “camped” along the road from the O2, in the salubrious Holiday Inn Express, the location of tomorrow’s performance – after which it’s overnight to Bournemouth for a “back-to-back” show. Once out of Bournemouth, that will see five out of nine shows completed. As always, long taxing days are involved - adrenalin being the only drug you need.
I’ve elected to travel on the crew bus (one of two) on this little jaunt, as it is the most convenient method of travelling from “point A to point B” and – probably more significant – it’s a fairly short (yet sold out) tour, so I’ll be fine with a few nights hanging with the crew.
Tomorrow I will not experience daylight, at all, as we’re heading in to the venue at 0745 (still dark outside) and not leaving their again until around 0045 the next morning (still dark outside) That’s just the way it is when you sign up (temporarily) for such a stamina-sapping lifestyle, either playing shows or travelling formidable distances to play those said shows. I’m sure I’ve mentioned, a few times down the years, there’s nothing more personally rewarding (for me anyway) than climbing into my bunk, reading a few pages of my book, then nodding off.
Not for the claustrophobic mind you : as each bunk space occupies only a 6 feet by 2 feet by (wait for it!) 2 foot high space, there’s not a lot of room to move around in there just to sleep.
I probably prefer the scenario whereby I run around in a small rental car, sorting my own hotels through “Booking.com” and generally being my own man: the sense of freedom is palpable as one charges about the length and breadth of the country , somewhat unfettered.
On the football front, my young lad – Boris Melingui – has now signed for the Scottish League One club “Dumbarton FC) which will enable him to get his head down and concentrate his energies in keeping Dumbarton clear of the relegation zone; now comes the real challenge .
Having played out last week’s Diary – appropriately, with an accompanying track by Tears for Fears, I feel it is only fair that we repeat this scenario by seeking to leave you with something by our very impressive opening act, Alison Moyet. From my system, I have selected the following track, hailing from a good few years ago, a lovely song called “All Cried Out”. XX
Finally, my silence can be broken, in relation to my veiled references of the past few weeks.
The first revelation: I am currently sitting in Killarney this Sunday evening, preparing for the commencement of a “Tears For Fears” Ireland/UK/Europe tour that takes up the next month.
It’s never too difficult to persuade me to come out on the road when the Artist involved uses live musicians: and that’s refreshingly the case with TFF, which ensures that I’ll be nipping out into the concert bowl to give these lads a listen, whenever I can tear myself away from my accounting office backstage. There is however a rather thick layer of icing on the cake: Alison Moyet is the lads’ special guest act. Another reason to be most positive about this tour!
Finding my way to Killarney involved a (direct, thankfully) flight from Edinburgh to Shannon, down here in the south-west of Ireland – the Republic of Ireland to be precise – and then a connecting bus run, through Limerick, with the bonus of some delightful countryside en-route.
The venue in Killarney, for Wednesday night’s show upcoming show, is the same location where we kicked-off Niall Horan’s Ireland & UK tour, back in March of last year. The venue is staffed by a most energetic team, under the direction of the Event Manager, Shane O’Driscoll. It makes for such an easier day, when the venue staff genuinely want to go out of their way to ensure a smooth operation and this invariably contributes toward a great show.
So, this is me back in the swing of things, doing what I do best – and surrounded by several familiar “road dogs”: essentially, as I have made reference to in the past, my extended family. On this particular tour, I’ve toured several times before with the Production Manager (Andy Colby); the Catering Chief (Sarah Nicholas); the Stage Manager (Torin Arnold) and the Video Engineer (Devin Turner). The remainder of the crew appears to be a fairly even split between UK and American which – when you think about it - is the same as the “Artist split” with one of the lads residing in the UK, and the other having (I believe) spent many years in the U.S..
On the football front, one of my young lads (Boris Melingui) scored a cracking goal in his debut for the Scottish L1 club Dumbarton, the result of which earned him “Man of the Match”. Initially – with so much going on prior to my imminent departure here to the Emerald Isle – I was doubtful I would find the six-hour window required to attend the game (Dumbarton is right across the other side of Scotland, from where I stay in Dunbar). With a fair sprinkling of judicious planning, I arranged it that I could stay in Edinburgh last night, after handing my rental car back on the way into town, having secured an cheapish one-night hotel stay in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh - and within walking distance of the Airport Express bus stop.
Two more of my young French footballers arrived into Edinburgh late this morning (I only “missed” them at the airport by 3 hours!) as both Falkirk FC, in the Championship, and Raith Rovers, in League One – both very approachable clubs – have each agreed to assess the lads.
All in all, not a bad end to a fairly frantic week (including two 03.00 a.m. stints in my office) but nothing I didn’t anticipate. In closing this week’s Diary entry, it may come as no surprise as to my choice of Artist to lead us out, with this week’s accompanying track. On you go, lads.
I’m making a start to this week’s entry, ahead of a Hearts cup-tie, kicking off at 2.30 pm. The majority of the other sixteen ties were played yesterday, save for the cancellation of Friday night’s televised game at “lowly” Cowdenbeath, where their opponents were the high-flying Glasgow Rangers. At this time of the year, the weather can cause havoc with football fixtures.
Back with you, now, after the Hearts v Livingston game, which Hearts managed to win 1-0 - however not terribly convincingly. Being that the Hearts game was the last of the 16 games to be played (although – as mentioned above – the Cowdenbeath v Rangers game has now been re-scheduled to Wednesday 30th of this month) the draw for the next round of the Scottish Cup, was conducted from Hearts stadium – “Tynecastle” – ten minutes after today’s final whistle blew. Hearts came out with a (favourable, you would have to say) tie against the only “Junior” club remaining in the competition – and a club that Hearts played in this same competition, back in 2012, on the way to winning the cup (I was there!): Auchinleck Talbot.
It is great credit to Auchinleck Talbot’s efforts that they have reached this stage of the competition, culminating yesterday in knocking out their senior-club “neighbours” Ayr United, the latter currently sitting second in the Scottish Championship – and pushing for promotion.
Unfortunately, with the next round being played on the weekend of 9th/10th February, I may be out on tour during that time (although I’m still awaiting confirmation of that actual project, with the date scheduled to leave town being a week today!). Ach, we (Hearts) should ease into the quarter-finals of the Cup, but we need to avoid complacency against Auchinleck Talbot!
Apart from the obvious reasons to know if I’m involved in the previously-mentioned project (and all will be revealed, next week, if I am!) which commences only ten days from now, there is much for me to be getting along with at the house, both on the practical and administrational fronts: I remain cognizant of my current home being my most prized asset!
On the weather front, it has certainly been something of a wake-up call to return here to chilly Scotland (2 celcius today!) when I have probably experienced an average daily temperature of 20 celcius for the past two and a half months. Also, while dusk in Cyprus currently falls around the same time as Scotland – 5.00 p.m. – the noticeable difference is that dawn is around 6.15 a.m. in Cyprus, at this time of year, whereby it’s not much before 8.00, here at the moment.
Therefore, with my constant “need” of light and (reasonable) warmth, I’m bound to personally find January and February, in Scotland, not the most comfortable months to endure. This is not to attract sympathy for my situation – but I’ve (increasingly, down the years?) monitored these developments and – seeing things as objectively as I can – I really don’t fare too well. Having said that, I’ve rarely been able to apply the requisite amount of time seriously required to study, research and pro-actively combat my “condition”. But I know something needs done!
On a brighter note, the jewel in my crown of young footballers (that I have been involved with over the last season) – Souleymane “Souley” Diakite - will hopefully be signing to a Scottish Championship club, within the next two weeks. This is gratifying news and subsequently prompts me to leave you with The Rolling Stones to sum things up for this week! Brrrrr. XXX
The decision has been made: of Cyprus’s four main cities (Paphos; Limassol; Nicosia and Larnaka) it is Larnaka that shades it, as my personal preference – just edging out Paphos, with Limassol not far behind in third place, leaving Nicosia a good few lengths back in the running.
The above judgement may come down a little unfairly on Nicosia as – apart from the other three all nestling directly on the Mediterranean (a definite “plus”) - I have only ever visited Nicosia on two occasions, over the two and a half years that I have been frequenting Cyprus.
Additionally, it’s from the balcony of our room at the Frangorgiou Hotel in Larnaka (a five-minute walk from the Marina and seafront) where, today – while it is still light – I am in the process of penning this week’s Diary entry. What has certainly not caused any slight on my choice of favourite city was last night’s dinner visit to a quaint back-street restaurant called “Art Café 1900”. Very chic decoration (without being pretentious); jazz and blues music in the background, through a decent sound system – and, key to it all of course, impressive food.
Got to zip off to lunch now, therefore I’ll pick this back up again, before we head out tonight.
Back in the hotel, just coming up to 5.00 pm local Cyprus time - having just discovered a neat little esplanade-front restaurant, serving “Sunday Roast”, which would appear to be a fairly popular event for the majority of the ex-pat community, whereas - for the indigent Cypriot population - Sunday is seen as a family day, when the midday meal in generally enjoyed indoors.
With Alice due to re-locate back to the UK around the end of this month, this may be my last time in Larnaka (and Cyprus) for a good while. However, albeit in more sunnier months than December and January, there could be a lot worse places to hangout for a few leisurely weeks.
Having, now, been out of the country for almost two and a half months, there will follow something of a “re-alignment” exercise for me, upon my return to Scotland in three days from now - with the work prospects on the horizon (there will undoubtedly be a “re-clothing” exercise!). It’s probably close on ten years since I last spent such an extended period away from the UK shores, what with the intentional deceleration of my recent worldwide touring activities. However, I do foresee a fair amount of time being spent out of the country this year, again – albeit (as a result of developing work projects) without a twelve week “chunk”.
There’s a fair amount of work on the cards for me during this coming year, whereas – at the moment – 2020 looks fairly sparse (although work opportunities can “turn on a sixpence” in this topsy-turvy industry, where I ply my trade) which, I have to admit, is just as I planned! The time is fast approaching whereby the lion’s share of my time will be applied to my OWN travelling plans, rather than those of my clients. Time to start thinking about a bucket list?!
Possibly the most significant aspect of recent extended period away from the clamour of both the music and football business has been to enable me to reach a decision to streamline my activity and involvement around the football side of things, which I’ll be happy to expand upon next week! This dovetails beautifully into allowing my man Otis Redding to encapsulate such a mood, with this week’s accompanying track, aptly titled “A Change Is Gonna Come”. XX
Well, there’s no avoiding it now: the new year is definitely upon us – and already six days old.
Alice and I managed to find a cheap deal on an apartment in Pomos, on the northwest coast of Cyprus (you may recall me singing the praises of the area, in a past Diary entry) and it is there that we have spent the last two days, returning “home” this afternoon via Pafos, where we planned to take in the sunset, from the vicinity of the harbour lighthouse coffee shop.
However, that plan was well and truly scotched when (as can happen occasionally in Cyprus, at this time of year) a surprisingly squalid stormfront literally appeared from nowhere to block out the final thirty minutes of the sunset. No complaints, really, on the overall weather front in Cyprus though – considering the countless days of warm sunshine that I have taken advantage of on (now) several visits to this island. For sure, Cyprus has much going for it.
Having said that, it may now be a while until I return here (I’m heading home to Scotland next week) as Alice’s company are re-locating back to the UK at the end of the month – and it very much looks like she will be based in either Leeds or York, for the remainder of this year. Of course, this will represent a major “climate change” for Alice, who is in the process of digging out a host of winter-clothing items that she has had no requirement of for the past two years.
Just to say that I’m currently awaiting final confirmation of my involvement (as Tour Accountant) on a “small” – eleven date – UK arena tour, with an iconic “eighties” outfit but – as I’m sure you can appreciate – cannot say too much at this time, until all is finally in place.
That would take up most of February, after which my next project (as things stand at the moment) would not kick in, until mid-April. The plan therefore – if I can pull it together – would be to go visit my son and daughter in late March/early April – and hopefully in the same location. In other words, Bradley flies to Vietnam – the more likely of the two scenarios – or Jade flies to Australia, which of course would save me having to “Continent-hop” - because you know I’ve done a fair bit of that in my time (I often wonder how I managed all of that!).
For the time being – if nothing else comes in for the summer period (and that’s 50/50 at the moment) I intend to anchor myself to my home town of Dunbar, at least for the four-month period of June through September. Following on from that, it very much looks like I will be involved with another touring project for the best part of two months, specifically October and November. Subsequently, I’ve already pretty much set my sights on being home for Christmas “this” year: I just feel the “pull” of my own environment, for that particular period.
So, there you have it: a first glimpse at my plan for 2019. Being that I’ve now committed the above tentative “forecast” to the record, it will be most interesting to look back at this particular Diary entry – one year from now – to make a “projected versus actual” comparison!
Generally speaking, I’m just easing my foot back, a little more, off the gas as I look to restore the personal/work life balance: that, in conjunction with paying increasing attention to my general health, is how I intend to move forward in this coming year. With that in mind, I leave you in the capable hands of the legendary Maxine Nightingale to elaborate. Here’s to 2019! X
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