Sunday 26th December 2021

I can’t deny that – in spite of the UK currently experiencing one of its mildest winters on record – there is no way that my hometown of Dunbar is bathed in 21C heat this afternoon!

There is no feeling to compare like the (warm) sun on one’s back - and I’m very unfortunate to have spent another week in an environment where this is more the rule, than the exception.

Yesterday I was additionally fortunate to be able to enjoy Christmas lunch here with friends old and new. Sitting outside having Christmas lunch – when you hail from the part of the world that I do – is something (initially) of an unreal experience, however a rather enjoyable one!

Since writing last week, I have relocated twice: on Monday past I moved on from Alcala to take up a three-day residence at the Estrella del Mar in Los Abrigos, on the south-west coast of the island. However, finding the accommodation most relaxing – in this same little fishing port that I had warmed to, on my last visit here – I spoke with the “landlady” directly and extended my stay for Friday and Saturday also: however, this time, at a more attractive price!

Earlier today I moved back up to the hotel, where I now sit in full literary flow: on the balcony of room 234 in the Catalonia El Negro in Playa de les Americas, bathed in the evening sunshine.

This is rather a busy hotel I have to say: that, apparently, in the main, appears to cater for UK-customer package holidays which – relatively understandably – does not make for silent hotel corridors, once the somewhat-amateurish, nightly, cabaret show finally draws to a close.

However, the hotel isn’t terribly expensive, keeping in mind the time of year; breakfast is included in the deal – and a very extensive dinner buffet is available for a very reasonable €10. Therefore, all in all, I’m pleasantly comfortable – although it’s only my first night here!

This is probably (if you don’t mind me doing so) the pertinent time to interupt this week’s entry by admitting to discovering an abscess on my groin a couple of days back. Now, of course, guys and groins are always – literally – areas of concern – especially when you throw in a lump underneath the skin, hovering thereabouts. I visited a local Spanish doctor, with a passable command of English who, on identifying said abscess – just proceeded, there and then, to deftly “lance” and subsequently drain it (I trust you’re not reading this while you’re eating!).

The doctor has also administered me a weekly course of antibiotics and painkillers (the latter, it would appear, unrequired) which I am religiously adhering to, meaning – of course – that I am unable to imbibe in any alcohol over this festive period. Well: no choice in that, I’m afraid.

You see: a guy who has known much about excess – now finds himself dealing with an abscess!

Now, from the medical to the musical - and the last festive track (for this year!) from my favoured B.B. King Christmas album. Never a truer word was spoken when this iconic bluesman said, “Christmas Comes But Once A Year”. It is here now. May God bless you all this Xmas. XX

Sunday 19th December 2021

I come to you this evening from the delightful little seaside village of Alcala, in Tenerife.

This trip is something of a reconnaissance mission, with a view to possibly spending longer periods out here in the future, the object of the exercise being to avoid the UK winter season, which in my mind (beware: that’s a complicated place, folks!) is November through February.

In only the six days I have been out here so far (and probably being a tad too quick out of the blocks, with my relative thinking process – but not like me, eh?) I have come up with one summarisation so far, particularly in relation to my own circumstances: in avoiding the UK winter period as already mentioned, one either settles sacrifices one’s (UK) social interactions in preference to the most pleasant of weather conditions, here in Tenerife at this time of year – or one stays in the UK to benefit from those social interactions, but mainly housebound.

Of course, there is much more to it than the above initial (knee-jerk?) overview, however there is a vein of truth running through the assumption. The other aspect to introduce into this discussion (not that I wasn’t somewhat aware of it already, through my association with some Scottish friends who spend at least three months of the year holed up in the likes of Cyprus, The Canary Islands and mainland Spain) is this: I wouldn’t want (say) a developed social life out here to quickly “deteriorate” into long evenings spent lazing around in the local bar(s), just “shooting the breeze”. Already, since being out here, I have seen much of that lifestyle.

For the time being I need to rein in that line of thought – and continue gathering as much local information as I can – as I know I can’t be the only foreign visitor to those shores who has wrestled with such a dilemma (although “dilemma” is probably a touch dramatic at this juncture – until I have had time to study the situation, and subsequent possible opportunities).

Right now (well, within the next twelve hours) I must make the decision whether to extend my stay beyond the middle of next week – and use that time to check out other parts of this increasingly “enlightening” island, in the quest to discover places – along the lines of the Puerto de Santiago area in which I am currently based – where I recognise a certain “comfort level”.

As I write (just coming up for eight o’ clock this evening) I am sat out on the small balcony of the hotel where I am staying, in t-shirt and shorts, with the Atlantic Ocean less than three hundred yards away in one direction, and the mountains of central Tenerife a mere thousand yards in the opposite direction, albeit all (all) shrouded in darkness for the last ninety minutes.

So, leave this with me if you can and I can assure you I will be in a more assertive frame of mind – as to my overall view of Tenerife as a future, bolt hole – when I pen next week’s entry.

In closing today’s offering, I distinctly recall a thought process, earlier today, when the ideal track to accompany this week’s entry flashed across my mind: which, typically, has completely deserted me now. Therefore, in the meantime, let’s go with a fairly descriptive track as to what I’m up to at the moment and leave you with “Dion” and “The Wanderer”. That I am. XX

Sunday 12th December 2021

For me, personally – it’s beginning to look a lot like it’s not Christmas. Allow me to explain. There are many factors that (undeniably?) combine to dilute the attraction of the festive period for me. Top of that list must surely be the absence of any children in the house - if, indeed, there were ever any there in the first place. I was fortunate enough to enjoy around six family Christmases with both the children (and Stella) together, which I’ll always cherish.

Under the possible banner of “Additional Diluting Factors” – and a relatively close “second” to the above – can surely only be the inexcusable over-commercialisation of this time of year, championed, in the main, by those huge consumer companies that stand to benefit from the (literally) poor public’s unwitting seduction into spending money that they actually don’t have.

No doubt, the plethora of credit-lending companies – quietly hovering “in the wings” of the festive season – are eagerly rubbing their hands together at the prospect of the inevitable annual income to be foraged from legions of impressionable, unwitting, Christmas shoppers. Of course, for most of the British public – particularly with the events of the last, almost, two years continuing to bathe them in its shadow - there is little recourse to relieve the perceived doom and gloom that has been visited on our nation: other than the Xmas diversion.

Morally, we should be giving time (to people in a more unfortunate position than ourselves) more so than Christmas presents (to the majority of people who probably don’t need them). However, as we are all very well aware, the ace card for the afore-mentioned, greedy, consumer companies to play is to lean on our equally-unwitting younger children – and that’s not an easy situation to play down to young, expectant, minds. When I think back (and I actually can – just!) there are few memories in life that can compare with the intense anticipation of tiptoeing towards the main room in the house, to check out Santa’s deliveries!

Will this over-commercialisation of Christmas just continue apace annually, to the point that the marketing machine will now be kicking into gear, in future, more towards the beginning of October rather than (in my perception, at least, this year) currently at the end of that month?

What – if anything – is the solution? Short of government, legislative, intervention I can hardly see this situation abating over the coming years. It’s all down to how we view the situation as individuals, and how we can register our personal protest – if we so wish. Whatever action we decide to take, off our own back (believing we are at least, even in a very minor way, making some small difference) should allow us the personal satisfaction of having done so.

Solemn words this week, I can’t deny. While not glossing over such concerns, we mustn’t become too dejected regarding what is essentially the inevitable. Let’s once again cherry-pick another track from B.B. King’s eponymous Xmas album (a self-confessed favourite of mine) from several years ago. This week, the situation calls for the playful “Back Door Santa”. XX

Sunday 5th December 2021

All caught up with my Diary entries – as long as I finish this entry before midnight, that is!

The majority of my time, this week, has been focused on finishing, checking, and packaging all components of the various aspects of my JLS tour accounting: in fact, today, I completed the most laborious section of it – and I now have a visit to my local Post Office in my sights within the next forty-eight hours, to send the bulk of the physical documentation down to London.

The mention of forty-eight hours has particular significance, as I am on the cusp of snatching a ten-day holiday between now and Christmas – preferably somewhere with a more-than-probable chance of sunshine and warmth – but very aware of the latest Covid developments.

The afore-mentioned workload would probably have been on its way to London already, had it not been for a fairly heavy cold that (typical to the completion of a strenuous tour, such as this recent one) took an almost immediate hold of me, within mere hours of arriving home.

However, as I said, I’m over the worst (definitely with the accounting clear-up – hopefully also in respect of shaking this cold bug) and feeling fairly confident of reclaiming my dining table for it’s prime use. My office desk is a reasonable size, however when it comes to needing to spread out a little, the dining table – with its extendable “leafs” – provides more flat space.

My visit to the Post Office will signal the point when I can then re-locate back upstairs with all office-related material, thereby confining all business work to the room that was designed for it. It will signal the time for me that – apart from responding to the occasional JLS orientated e-mail, while we endeavour to make the final tweaks to the now diminishing accounting processes – I can “remove my foot from anywhere in the vicinity of the gas pedal”.

I cannot deny that I look forward to reaching that juncture, as it enables me to shed my work skin and move forward with my personal life - many aspects of which need some thoughtful attention, i.e., do I spend Christmas within or without the UK (can I use the word “without” in that particular context?!); do I try to squeeze the already mentioned short break in before the 25th of this month? Hence the reason I need to clear my head of business matters, to believe that I am then in the right frame of mind to correctly assess where to go from here.

Since unceremoniously going right over on my backside on the ice, only yards from the front of my house – around this time, last year – I’m now significantly wary of winter weather conditions and consequently have no intention of being “anchored” here in Scotland, for the next two months. However, events around me – specifically Coronavirus events - may conspire to dictate that I require to re-think my travel plans: no help whatsoever, for my itchy feet!

Where will I be located when I pen the next edition of my Diary? Folks, I can’t specifically advise you of the answer to that. Let’s change the subject to this week’s accompanying track. Having been patient to await the beginning of this month, to be able to do so, I’m more than happy to now proffer the iconic Mr B.B. King with “Christmas Celebration” – and it should be!

Sunday 28th November 2021

As of last night, my first serious tour (and earnings!) in almost two years, has drawn to a close!

It has been a most enjoyable experience, as I had no doubt it would be - based upon my experience of working with those lads over the last ten years (albeit with an eight-year hiatus in between). Worthwhile and memorable touring requires both a great crew and a great band.

There has been no small sense of relief, nevertheless, throughout the entire touring entourage, that the probing tentacles of Coronavirus did not manage to take a grip of us as – unfortunately – it has managed to do on two other recent UK arena tours. “Thankfully”, the Covid positive cases on each tour (namely Genesis and Steps) did not manifest themselves until the final days of each outing. If I’m totally correct here, Genesis had no choice but to cancel the last three dates of their tour and Steps, their last two. JLS were “doubly” lucky in that our tour – I believe – featured more shows than either of the afore-mentioned two.

Having said the above, our total touring entourage stuck to a strict daily routine of “Lateral Flow” testing and – on the few odd occasions where “third party” individuals, with even tenuous links to our touring operation, were diagnosed as Covid-positive - the LFT procedures were stepped up to twice daily. The longer we stayed “uninfected”, the more we believed we could see the tour through without the debilitating prospect of having to cancel any of the shows.

On the travel home side of things today, I chose a routing (Sheffield to Doncaster to my hometown of Dunbar) that offered me the least amount of personal hassle, being that I was dragging my typically copious amounts of end-of-tour luggage/documentation/office items back on the train with me. Typical to the dispersement of a sizeable touring crew, following the last show, the (in this case) three crew sleeper buses will drop off in three distinct geographical locations to aid the crew members with their most onward “direct” route home.

Our Production Manager, Karen, had already given me the nod that one of the three buses would be dropping at just outside Sheffield station at 0900 this morning, subsequent to which I booked the above-mentioned train journey, with an initial 10.25 am train out of Sheffield.

So, there I was, in plenty of time, enjoying a leisurely Starbucks at around 09.45 this morning, within the station concourse, when my phone (fairly impressively, I have to say) pings me, via my “Trainline” application, to inform me that no trains would be running north from Newcastle (directly on my route home, of course) - probably for the rest of the day. Time for a Plan B!

To cut a long story short (but certainly not to cut a long journey short), my only solution was Sheffield to Manchester Piccadilly, switch to Manchester Victoria and from there – directly, thankfully – to Edinburgh, from where my sister collected me and drove me down to Dunbar.

Now that I am back within my own four walls, I have much clearing of tour documentation to be accomplished – followed by much clearing of the mind! This week I leave you with a classic wee tune from my main man Otis Redding. Feel free to read into it what you will! Love y’all. X

Sunday 21st November 2021

Still in Manchester folks - desperately treading water, bringing my Diary entries up to date.

Can’t say I’m not looking forward to enjoying these two consecutive days off (today and tomorrow) with no show on either day. With only one week of the tour remaining, this is an ideal opportunity for me to drag a few reams of show-settlement paperwork into my room (as I have done) and collate much of what I have just been pitching into envelopes all of last week.

Most hotel rooms now features a reasonable working surface (a queen size bed makes for a great temporary – albeit soft – work area for spreading and re-organising said paperwork around: the incentive being that if you don’t clear up the work, then you can’t get into bed!

Since returning from Dublin after Monday night’s show there - on the overnight ferry to Holyhead, and then into an evening off in Nottingham – we have played an additional four shows this week: the afore-mentioned Nottingham (Motorpoint Arena, to be specific) on Wednesday and Thursday nights, followed by a third and fourth show at London’s O2 Arena.

That finished up last night (again, one of the quietest after-show backstage areas I’ve ever experienced in the O2: for me, definitely one of the “positive” aspects of the Coronavirus).

We are undoubtedly on the “home run” here, with only two Manchester and two Birmingham shows to be played (albeit with a Matinee show added in Birmingham on Saturday afternoon coming – the last day of the tour – as a “benefit” performance for the for the NHS workers).

With a free-ticketed show, there is no guarantee how many of the ticket holders will actually make it to the show: between the time one secures tickets for such a show and the time the show actually rolls around, many peoples’ arrangements may have changed – especially, of course, if your normal work schedule includes shift work, which many of the NHS staff have.

However, knowing these four lads in JLS as well as I do, the quality of the band’s performance will be of the same level whether there is an audience of 12,000 (the capacity of the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham) or 1,200: undeniably, these boys are consummate professionals. It has been something of a pity that the band members have had to remain in their own “dressing room bubble” - with the Assistant Tour Manager ferrying their food from catering.

I can’t be sure that many other bands would display such professional discipline, in keeping that necessary “distance” from their touring crew: buy, hey, guess what? With only four shows of the tour remaining, we are looking good to make it all the way through with no Covid incident. A quick search on the internet will point to some other Artists who’s “luck ran out”.

Being that we are nearing the finishing line – but not relenting on our Covid discipline – we foresee the opportunity for a minor celebration (some might refer to it as a Crew Party!) this coming Friday, with yours truly tasked with providing the music. Definitely on that playlist will be this appropriate track from Kiss to kick things off: “Crazy, Crazy Nights”. It will be!!

Sunday 14th November 2021

Here I am in Manchester, on the 21st November, penning the 14th November Diary entry!

It has been well-documented (by me, mainly) how one’s personal time can totally disappear into the void of daily arena touring: the last two weeks have definitely borne out that belief.

However, being that we now don’t have another show - here in Manchester - until Tuesday coming (23rd) I can make no excuses for falling any further behind with my Diary entries: the idea being that I start with this “overdue” entry this afternoon, sat here in the lounge area of our Manchester hotel: the current time being 3.52 pm - with the daylight dimming fast.

After which I am going to discipline myself to leave the confines of my hotel in the hope, somewhat later in the day than is ideal, of picking up a copy of the “Sunday Times” newspaper.

At this juncture I need to “back up a week” and narrate as if this truly was Sunday 14th …..

It is rare (and fairly expensive) for any arena-level tour to feature a break of three consecutive days – such as we experienced this past week - with no show on any of the three days. The routing of tours of this magnitude is a complex enough operation, without the added encumberment of having to allow for ferry travel to and from “The Emerald Isle”, which has happened this past week with a show in Belfast this evening – followed by Dublin tomorrow.

In respect of shows that we played earlier last week, those were Brighton Centre (Monday, 8th), back-to-back with Bournemouth, Tuesday, and then Hull Bonus Arena on Wednesday – following which all three buses headed towards Cairnryan in south-west Scotland to catch the ferry to Larne. In my particular case, having already postponed the appointment for my “Covid booster jab” on one previous occasion, I headed back up to Scotland on Thursday morning. My (by now “double jab”) appointment – to include my winter flu inoculation - was scheduled for Friday afternoon, in a small town called Gorebridge, about 30 minutes’ drive from my house.

This entailed me hooking up with my sister, with whom (for very practical – and financial – reasons) I currently “share” a car - as Gorebridge is somewhat “cross country” from where I am based, in my li’l old fishing port of Dunbar. Having completed that procedure – and then subsequently taking the opportunity to meet up with my daughter Jade, and her Mum Stella, at a Starbucks just off the Edinburgh ring-road, I dropped the car back off at my sister’s house – fortuitously on the way back down the coast to Dunbar (I had previously collected the car the night before after Sue and I had made the long-awaited trip to finally catch “No Time to Die” on the wide screen, at a retail park within fifteen minutes of where my sister lives.

Sue had kept Daniel Craig waiting for weeks; therefore, it was therapeutic for the both of them that I – just a bystander at that point – was able to facilitate them coming together.

Should I now appropriately finish this week’s entry with a Bond-themed tune? Why Not? Let’s head all the way back to 1997 with the iconic Carly Simon song “Nobody Does it Better”. XX

Sunday 7th November 2021

It seems like only yesterday that I was penning an edition of my Diary – and, actually, it was!

I now come to you again, this fine Sunday evening, from The Mercure Hotel on Brighton’s seafront, sat in a glassed-in lounge that runs the length of the hotel frontage: you could argue that this is the wrong time of year (with darkness setting in just after 6.00 pm) to enjoy such a location although, upon waking up on the bus late morning today outside the venue – with no show tonight – I took the opportunity to wander along the seafront in search of some eats. Within two hundred yards of the venue, I was able to sit out in the sunshine at a pavement café and leisurely polish off a vegetarian breakfast. All day offs should ideally take this form!

However, I have to tell you that this hotel is hosting a Gay Arts Film Festival (we are in Brighton, after all) and the bar area is fast filling up with exuberant – and I sense, excitable – individuals. I shall not endeavour to elaborate any further on this - essentially public - forum.

Brighton, as I may have made mention of in a previous Diary edition many years ago, holds cherished memories for me - as myself and my sister were brought here as part of a family holiday two excitable youngsters - on at least three occasions, during our formative years.

Back then, we stayed with my granny on my mother’s side as she owned a rather expansive apartment, not far from where I sit right now, in Brighton’s sister town of Hove. Both towns butt right alongside each other - and I recall all those years ago, with my sister in tow, trying to find the “dividing line” between the two settlements. An unreliable (hazy) memory possibly recalls that there actually is a “Welcome to Brighton” sign, as you walk eastwards from Hove.

As I may have mentioned, when catching up with last week’s entry (345 miles distant from here) yesterday in Newcastle – our second visit to the north-east on this tour – marked show number fifteen (out of twenty-eight) on this current “jaunt”, meaning we have – just – turned the corner on this particular journey meaning we are now “heading back in on the home strait”.

We were finally given access to our hotel rooms just before 2.00 pm today: after rigorously housekeeping my suitcase, followed by a long hot shower, I made the fatal – but very tempting - mistake of just laying down on the bed for a few minutes. Next thing I know - it’s - 5.30 pm!

I shouldn’t be surprised at my body’s temporary surrender on such occasions: our tour itinerary to date has encompassed five shows this week and six shows last week, as part of the afore mentioned fifteen shows to date. Glasgow (20th/21st October) seems distant now.

I’m with a great bunch of crew out here (and let’s not forget four very professional guys, comprising the Artists, in JLS) however, as my extensive touring experience continues to motor along, the opportunity for me personally to be in the company of my peers is, noticeably, waning. Nevertheless, it is a comfortable and respectful – and vibrant - environment and with that in mind (allied to the fact that I’m running out of space here!) I will leave you, this week, with a lovely rendition of “Seminole Wind” by the legendary James Taylor. Time for a walk!

Sunday 31st October 2021

A show on a Sunday does not auger well for the completion of a Diary entry, the same day.

Last week in particular, with six shows in seven days, leaves little time to deal with any of one’s personal arrangements, never mind trying to find a clear hour to give my Diary the time it respectfully deserves. So (honestly?) where do I sit at this very moment and – indeed – why? The answer to that question is “in the bowels of Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena, at (precisely!) 00.59 am on, technically, Thursday morning 4th November”. Stand by for a break!

I now have to further “come clean” and admit that I have just picked up the thread of the Diary on Saturday evening 6th November (now) as the load-out is in full swing out of Newcastle’s Utilita Arena, en-route to Brighton but with the pleasing realisation there is no show tomorrow night. Not a moment too soon, indeed, as we have just completed a run of five consecutive shows – and no ordinary five-show run either; this one included two London shows.

As you may recall from past Diary musings, I am no great fan of having an involvement with these particular capital-city shows, with the “pomp and circumstance” generated around playing such an iconic venue (although I certainly don’t rate the place in such glowing terms). The main thing to consider here, however, is the attraction – and subsequent buzz – for the Artists involved: to play at least one show there on a UK arena tour speaks highly of one’s touring status. What an opportune time to mention JLS’s 4 nights in the venue, on this tour!

In fairness to my (normal) views relating to that particular establishment, these first two (of the four) shows that we just played at the O2 - Thursday and Friday, 4th & 5th November – probably rate as the two most tranquil days I have spent in the place, over all the shows I have been involved with there, and that cannot be far off numbering a total of fifty occasions.

The time now sits currently at 11.30 pm and through the window of my accounting office, facing the backstage yard, here at the Utilita Arena, I can see that probably four of nine trucks have been loaded and have pulled out onto the adjacent roadway – while others pull in.

My benchmark for believing I have my s**t together on a weekly basis is generally always to ensure that my Diary entries are completed on time, by the Sunday of each week. However, as my regular readers will easily recall, once I’m out on the road on an intense tour such as this, my personal life no longer has any say in allowing time to undertake anything but work.

I therefore trust that you will forgive me for the rather hurried composition of this (actually last) week’s, seven-days-overdue edition; I don’t want to find myself with two entries to complete tomorrow! Checking into hotels on a Sunday – especially a vibrant town such as Brighton (although we should be thankful we are now in the low season, tourist wise) – will, I suspect, be far from an expedient operation. No one’s in a hurry to leave on a Sunday morning.

Talk about being tight to the line, which immediately throws up a thought for an accompanying track: my man Ray Charles, with “The Night Time is The Right Time”. There you go: 23.49 pm!!

Sunday 24th October 2021

A warm welcome this (reasonably) fine Sunday evening - from the Welsh city of Cardiff.

Tomorrow we play the first of three shows in the city although – unfortunately (and mainly as the result of the re-scheduling of the tour, on two separate occasions) these three shows will not run consecutively; after tomorrow and Tuesday, we return back here one week today.

The end of this week sees us having completed the first four shows of the tour: specifically, Glasgow on Wednesday and Thursday; Newcastle (where we will revisit on 6th November) and finally, last night, Birmingham Resorts World Arena – where we also return at the end of the tour, for the last two shows. Currently, the end of November is still twenty-four shows away!

It has been reasonably tough on a body (mine) to have gone from a fairly relaxed state – back to sixteen-hour days once again: however, typically, I’ve scarcely had time to think about it.

Additional levels of complexity have been introduced into my “normal” working procedure, due to the fact that the sale period for this particular tour has “straddled” three different VAT rates (apologies if, as I suspect, I have already drawn your attention to this fact in past weeks: you may observe instances of this happening increasingly, as time goes on with me!).

I am privileged to be touring with a great bunch of guys and gals comprising the technical crew, many of whom I have toured with on countless occasions – and on a variety of projects.

Not forgetting, of course, the extreme satisfaction of working with a group of supremely professional Artists, namely the lads of JLS themselves. Sadly – but, realistically in these restrictive times – the crew are not having the regular interaction with the band, which we have all enjoyed on past tours. However, such protocols are required to see this tour through.

The reaction to the lads’ performances has taken me somewhat by surprise, I would have to admit. When they first took to the stage at the Hydro, on Tuesday night past, I was back in my accounting office, in the production corridor – dealing with our VAT nightmare - and was taken aback by the level of (well, there’s no other word for it) screaming. I’m thinking “surely the majority of fans must be in their early thirties – wouldn’t they have mellowed out since last seeing the band eight years ago?”. I need to take a closer look at the current audiences!

Although we were unable to check into the Cardiff hotel until 2.00 pm today (no one’s in a hurry to depart their hotel rooms on a Sunday morning) it was worth waiting for as – which is not normally the case – I was pleasantly surprised to find a bath, AND a shower, in my room.

Not only that: how about this for “spooky” – which has possibly only occurred twice previously in my career: my hotel room number was the exact same on two consecutive nights! Anyway, enough of this touring chit-chat. This week’s accompanying track is dedicated to my patient, harangued (by me), neighbour Sue, who monitors things back home. What better – for many reasons – than something by a firm favourite of hers: James Taylor and “You’ve Got a Friend”.

Sunday 17th October 2021

Back on track! That is, provided this edition is completed before the stroke of midnight!

So here we are at 8.30 pm this very evening, Sunday 17th, heading towards another fairly late night at Production Rehearsals: the JLS lads are just as fastidious in preparing for this imminent tour, as they always were with any previous tours on which I have worked with them.However, even though there is a fair sound pressure level emanating from the main rehearsal studio, it’s rather chilled here in the adjacent production offices, thanks to insulated doors.

I am sharing an office with the Assistant Tour Manager, while next door houses the Production Manager and her assistant; all three are ladies, which is fairly unusual in this somewhat (and just saying how it is here) male dominated environment. Department wise, our tour catering team are generally more female – than male – populated, but you will rarely find that “majority” in any other rock ‘n roll touring department( the principal ones of those which are: Sound / Lighting / Video / Carpentry / Rigging /Trucking and bussing – all of whom are involved daily with manoeuvring and lifting fairly heavy equipment. Hence the “domination”.

Today, I stuck with part of my daily Sunday routine, dispatching our Production “Runner” to the nearest newsagent outlet, to pick me up a copy of the Sunday Times: alas, coming up for 9.00 pm, it is still sat on my flight case next to me, with not even one page having been turned.

Such is this “charged” atmosphere that exists at an Artists’ Production Rehearsals, one rarely has any time to oneself for such luxuries as reading a newspaper - but that won’t prevent me from carting it with me on the sleeper bus tomorrow night, en-route to Glasgow (with no show on Tuesday night – hurrah!) to catch up on my Sunday reading in a much more relaxed setting.

There will be a great vibe on the crew bus that I’m travelling on tomorrow night (one of three crew buses on this tour) with a few cheeky wee glasses of wine or gin making an appearance, to toast five long and rigorous days: average attendance time 14 hours. A marathon indeed.

Then, into the Glasgow OVO Hydro (until recently – and for several years formerly – known as the SSE Hydro) first thing on Wednesday morning, for the first of two consecutive shows.

Then directly overnight to Newcastle for a Friday show, back-to-back again with Birmingham on Saturday night, before a welcome night off in Cardiff, prior to another double-header.

Would “relentless” be too strong a word? I don’t believe so: having said that, it draws upon every ounce of stamina you can muster to tread the touring boards, doing 5/6 shows a week.

So, there you have it, on the eve of my journey that will encompass 28 shows: 19 separate load-ins – and 15 different cities. In celebration of the fact that (hopefully!) I’m still able to cope with such an arduous schedule, let’s play out this week with one of my all-time favourites, Ms Bonnie Raitt with “Time Of Our Lives”: which I’m probably (secretly) having. Let’s roll! XX

Sunday 10th October 2021

Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that when my Diary entries slip this far behind (and, right now, it is Saturday 16th October at 7.30 pm!) this usually signifies I’m about to commence a touring project and, I cannot lie - that is exactly the state of play this very week!

The touring project in question is JLS’s imminent UK and Ireland Arena Tour, for which we are secreted in a rehearsal studio in deepest West Yorkshire. As of today – and with the exception of my five days involvement with “Gorillaz” in late August – it is nigh on two years since I have been involved with a full-on touring project. Naturally, it’s cathartic to be back!

I certainly perceive some subtle (and some not-so-subtle!) signals emanating from my body, along the lines of “not those 16-hour days again – you’re not as young as you used to be!”. I can’t constructively dispute that: with the adrenalin reserves depleted a long time ago, it’s certainly a case of “mind over matter”: at least experience has prepared me for what is ahead.

People (“outsiders” from my business) often enquire of my mantra for being able to forge my way through these interminable touring days. My response is usually “Work until it’s done – Sleep when you can”. This is not to say that there were not the days (in fact, there were many) when – as a young whippersnapper of a road dog – I was able to stay out half the night, after a show, lasting on a mere few hours’ sleep: I remain in awe of pulling off such stunts!

Skip forward forty years and you now find me trying to maintain regular sleeping hours (12 midnight through 07.00 am) with the remaining hours in any given touring day being applied almost exclusively to the task of producing the show - or travelling forward to the next city.

Having stepped away now (involuntarily), for almost two years, from the line of work that I naturally aspire to, I will be interested to monitor myself as we gear up for this tour: will I just fall straight back into the typically gruelling touring schedule that almost came as second nature to me? Or will the recent time I have spent, essentially in my own company, cause me to challenge what is actually going to be more representative to where I want to be in future?

Such ponderings – once out on the tour and rolling – thankfully will cause no aberration of my professional application: I have always strived to give of my best, whatever job I was involved with, right back from when I worked part-time as a “butcher’s boy” until this present day. My head and my heart remain committed to the task at hand: the challenge is in ensuring that my body can follow in step – and you couldn’t blame that body coming knocking for some payback!

We have two more days of Production Rehearsals remaining and then we are Glasgow bound for the first two (consecutive) shows of the tour. I’ll definitely keep you posted of progress.

Now, what might be an appropriate accompanying track for this week’s edition, with these weeks of such an arduous schedule ahead of me? I’m going to plump for the very relevant “On The Road Again” by the iconic “Canned Heat”. I’m convinced I have previously utilised this track however it is once again fittingly timed as I prepare to head out there. Loving y’all! XX.

Sunday 3rd October 2021

Sadly, my adventures on the island of Tenerife will draw to a close, as of tomorrow evening.

Since moving on from Icod de las Vinos (the last place I wrote to you from, Sunday evening past) on Tuesday morning, I then “set up camp” in an altogether more touristy region of the island – on the eastern side this time – called Torviscas, bang in the centre of Coste Adeje.

One of the main reasons to make a stop there – apart from it being a notably vibrant area of the island (I was keen to make some comparisons of the various areas I’m visiting) was that an old friend of mine – in conjunction with his partner Karen - runs a small restaurant operation in the heart of the tourist part of Torviscas. However, there only really is the “tourist part”!

Many of the good people I met, mainly while having dinner and drinks at “Sinatras”, the afore mentioned hostelry (conveniently located, by the way, right next to my chosen hotel in Coste Adeje, The Sunset Bay Club), have regularly visited the area, over a period of many years.

I’m fairly sure, already, that a “heavily touristed” town is not going to fit the bill for me, as I research the possibilities of finding somewhere abroad from the UK where, in years to come, I can escape Scotland’s winter months: I’m talking mainly November through February.

When you add into the mix that I’m not really (never have been) a “lie and fry” type of guy, then the breakfast-beach-lunch-beach-dinner-drinks scenario, befitting of most tourists’ two-week schedule, is not a viable option – particularly when applied to a four-month period.

However, if not such a “routine”, then what are the alternatives? Well, that answer awaits a definitive, finely-tuned, solution which – of course – I’m still working on! This much (I believe) I know: my “comfort zone” – be it within the boundaries of here in Tenerife, or Cyprus, or Turkey or (even say) the likes of Crete, will most likely see me “settled” in an Ex-pat locality.

Certainly Cyprus (for reasons of “repeated familiarity”) continues to currently lead the race: so much so that, since last writing to you – and only today, in fact – I have booked an Easyjet flight for December to go re-familiarise myself with the island as, mainly down to reasons attributable to the Pandemic, I have not been back there for over two years now. I miss it.

Anyway (totally unlike myself!) I’ve wittered on a bit tonight. I also wanted to briefly mention the area I am in now, where I have spent the last three days, prior to flying back to “blighty”, tomorrow evening. I had already decided, several days ago, to finish up my holiday here in the small southern coastal town of El Medano: then, once Kevin heard where I was headed, he immediately endorsed my choice of location, even going as far as to give me a lift down here.

The place (almost as windy as Dunbar at times) definitely exudes a palpable laid-back vibe, much of that down to the fact that it fosters a very lively windsurfing and kitesurfing culture.

Hopefully you will indulge me next week (like every week?) as I expound further on these past days. For the moment, keeping Kevin and Karen’s restaurant in mind, it’s ‘Ol Blue Eyes folks!X

Sunday 26th September 2021

Well, how far away from Dunbar could I possibly be, this week? The answer is: Tenerife!

All very short notice planning, you may rightly surmise, but that – dear readers – is how I roll!

I’ve been juggling various travel scenarios over the last eighteen months and all I have to show for it (save for a “recent” short trip to The Channel Islands) is my current little jaunt out here in The Canary Islands – arriving back in the UK this coming Friday October 1st. Whilst it may have taken close on five hours to fly here, from Edinburgh, it has all been worth it, to enable me to wander about this engaging island, in 25C, adorned only in a t-shirt and shorts.

Initially, I spent the first five days of last week based in the northern city of Puerto de la Cruz (moving to a second hotel, after the first two days, to be able to secure myself a hotel room with a balcony - I don’t want for much on my travels: only that, and a decent shower).

Yesterday (Saturday) I elected to move further north-east and now find myself billeted in a small town called Icod de los Vinos. Ideally, I had looked to secure a hotel reservation at the next small, coastal, town (Garachico) going west, however hotel room prices were at a premium.

Thankfully, all has worked out well – and the little (almost “Air B’nB” ) property – into which I am booked until Tuesday morning has almost everything going for it, even though the room is bereft of a TV set (not really missing it) with the exception of it being located on a steep hill.

Although the beach is a “mere” six hundred yards downhill all the way, that six hundred yards (at what I’ve gauged as approximately a “1 in 6” gradient) is a fair challenge on the way back!

So much so that (when you vector in that it’s five hundred yards the other way, uphill, to get back into the centre of the town) my calves and upper thighs were more than a little stiff when I made my way to breakfast this morning: however I believe that I will be able to walk that stiffness off, over the next few days – provided I find a level surface on which to do so!

On Tuesday I will head down the western side of the island (once again as a courtesy of “Titsa” buses, the island’s very impressive national bus service) heading towards Costa Adeje, where an old friend of mine has owned a small bar/restaurant venture for several years now. To do so, he and his partner “upped sticks” many moons ago, from Scotland, to take their chances in the hospitality business out here and have worked hard to have a very successful operation.

Essentially, this small break is twofold: initially to prepare myself for a fairly strenuous touring project that commences mid-October - but also to give me the opportunity to see how the island “stacks up” alongside Cyprus (another firm favourite of mine) from the point of view of future, anticipated, longer spells spent abroad - rather than endure the UK winters.

With the focus of this week’s meanderings being associated with islands (and surely – knowing me – being about to repeat myself, from some point in the past) I leave you this week, as regulars readers will be well aware, with one of my favourite bands and “I’m on an Island”! X

Sunday 19th September 2021

Well, from one pleasing football result to another - and all in the space of only six days!

You are, of course aware from last week’s edition (aren’t you?!) that Edinburgh’s “senior” team, Hearts, achieved a credible draw against their city rivals Hibs. Yesterday it was the turn of my local team, Dunbar United – seven divisions below Hearts! – to make further progress in the Scottish FA cup: albeit the competition is still very much in the elementary stages as yet.

A hard-fought 2-0 victory (both “cracking” goals) sees Dunbar United line up another “Junior” team – and a home tie at that – in the next round. If the club can continue the progress beyond this subsequent game, then there’s a very good chance they would then draw a “Senior” club.

As for life in general (in the rest of Dunbar) the weather has proved to be generally pleasant throughout September, so far – and of course long may this continue. My own recollections of the last four months – weather wise – have been of a fairly intermittent period: sure, we’ve witnessed some fabulous days, however these have been peppered throughout the said period.

A little consistency (i.e. – say – a week at a time) on the blue-skies front might have contributed to a more memorable summer, during a time with many unmemorable facets. Still, we would appear to be easing our way away from the fairly restrictive world that we have inhabited for the last eighteen months. Let’s just hope we are not being “misled” by Boris!

I sincerely hope I am (dramatically) wrong - however my own cynical suspicions lead me to believe that we are extricating ourselves from the whole range of Covid restrictions, arguably sooner than we should be. If our populist Prime Minister is shown, in future, to have got it badly wrong then that will surely be the final nail is his opaque coffin – surely deservedly so.

In the end, probably more so founded on his buffoonery – rather than, preferably, his “brilliance” - Boris Johnson will typically not be short on offers for speaking tours (a perfect opportunity for him to play away from home!), non-executive directorships and shadowy business associations. Past PM’s (Blair & Cameron in particular) have “shown us the money”.

The above will not come as any surprise to those in the UK corridors of power, as well-versed as they are in how such processes operate. I’m convinced that even as Boris (within the past week) has overseen some notable “hiring and firing”, there are still those within his closest ranks that are not convinced on the subject of his inability to effectively govern the country.

Having said that, if Dominic Cummings’ startling revelations did not prove to be the sweeping arm that scattered Boris’s house of cards, then you have to wonder what will bring him down?!

As continually (increasingly) guarded as I am, in relation to my precious time, I’m well aware that the politics of change are – surely – mainly influenced only by politicians changing them.

Enough: I call upon “Ashford & Simpson” for this week’s accompanying track – and, to a certain degree, to summarise the PM’s current belief in his own administration: “Solid”. So far, Bo Jo!

Sunday 12th September 2021

I can indeed report having had a most enjoyable day – and a football game underlined this.

Being that “my” team Hearts (Heart of Midlothian) have now returned to the Scottish Premier League, we can now celebrate the return of the “Edinburgh Derby” - meaning that we have the opportunity to match ourselves against our city rivals Hibs (Hibernian) city, at least three times this season. There were no goals today, however it still proved an entertaining game.

So as not to give both sets of fans too much opportunity to spend long hours in the local bars, prior to the commencement of the game, a 12.00 noon kick-off time was the order of the day!

Yesterday was also something of a monumental day for me personally, as I purchased a car for the first time in over ten years. Long-time readers of this Diary may recall that I reluctantly parted with my old Jaguar, soon after moving here to Dunbar, with a few busy touring years ahead of me – in conjunction with calculating that, for the same cost as running a vehicle myself, I could rent for seven days a month for almost the same financial outlay.

However, with the obvious slowdown in the concert-touring business over the last eighteen months – and my inability to jump on a flight and take off to the likes of Cyprus (as was my wont, in past years) – has deemed that the rental option was starting to prove expensive: so, I’ve taken the plunge. I haven’t gone over the top, but I think I may have landed a good deal.

As my next music-business project is due to start mid-October, there is an imminent decision to be made as to whether I head out to Europe for 10 – 14 days, prior to that. On my short list would certainly be Cyprus or The Canary Islands, if only because A) they can both demonstrate current temperatures in “the 20’s” and B) neither of them requires evidence of a PCR covid test, if you have received both doses of a recognised vaccine (and, yes, I have!).

Based upon my familiarity with Cyprus, with Alice having been based there for almost two and a half years, I think the likes of Tenerife would have a lot “to live up to” to tempt me in that direction: by the same token, however, there’s an argument says I should at least look at an alternative holiday location - being that the plan (which I’m possibly only mentioning to you now) is to take a long look at European locations where I can spend the winter months, in the years to come. Turkey was also on that short-list; however, it is currently “red” – both ways!

Come this time, one week from now, I will have the answer to the above: I was about to share my deliberations with you, within these remaining lines of this week’s edition, but I fear I would probably require a few additional paragraphs to accomplish that! So, until next week …

In the meantime, I continue to marvel at how the year appears to be rushing onwards, with the middle of September nigh. Darkness is now also upon us, just after 8.00 pm, and we are losing a few additional minutes every subsequent day. All the more reason to keep our spirits up, while at this same time – in this particular week – giving a nod to my long-overdue vehicle acquisition. Another opportunity therefore presents itself to offer up a Bob Seger track (“Travelin’ Man”) now that I’m back behind the wheel of my own car again – and it feels good!X

Sunday 5th September 2021

I’m going to tentatively report that there may be hope of an extended summer, weather wise!

What might be the reason for such an assertion, keeping in mind the vagaries of our good old (especially, east coast of Scotland) unpredictable weather? Nothing short of today turning out to be a “cracker” – with blues skies all round. More good news? It may be with us all week!

While days like these work wonders for the human spirit, you can magnify that effect, substantially, when it comes to your erstwhile author. Upon reflection – just dawning upon me now, even as I write this piece – it may just be that days like today save me having to deal with the more-prevalent “monochrome” days, that just seem to invite melancholic reflections.

Ironically, my mind – and my sense of purpose – is noticeably more focused when “the warmth of the sun is on my back”: I’m lifted, transported to a place where I believe no obstacle to be insurmountable; nothing unachievable. Nevertheless, I have painstakingly learned (maybe not quite as succinctly as I might, yet) to carefully measure and steady such “highs”, otherwise it can foster a potentially “dangerous” situation where you can tumble into a mental “tail-spin”.

BTW (by the way) you will – or I will ask that you will – hopefully make some form of allowance for me only getting around to penning this week’s edition of the Diary, when the clock has slipped a few minutes beyond midnight: “in the wee, wee, hours” as Chuck Berry once sang.

Such stillness (no TV on in the background, folks) invites its own strain of melancholy: a state of mind that, although we should all be prepared to be visited by every so often, is not a place where you would necessarily want to linger – well, certainly so, in my case – for too long a time.

However, we should be thankful that – even having to deal with the stillness of the night and the occasionally recurring shadows of memory that can accompany such tranquillity – at least we still exist upon this mortal coil, to be able to do so! Let’s not take such liberty for granted.

With my head up, and my eyeline straight ahead, I must look to what inspiring opportunities may await me in that vast void, commonly referred to as the future, be that near or far – and I don’t draw attention to this purely from a work point of view: it’s more complex than that.

Was I to take a blank sheet of lined A4 paper and comprehensively list all the things that I would like to accomplish going forward (we are now talking on a far more personal level) I fear I would undoubtedly soon be turning over that sheet of paper, to continue the “List of a Lifetime” – but, innately, being aware that a judicious prioritising exercise is surely required.

As such, I sincerely believe that – even fairly subconsciously, to date - that such an exercise is definitely underway aided, of course, by my “freedom” time, over the last eighteen months.

In closing this week’s entry – and endeavouring to select an accompanying track that bears even a tenuous link to my ramblings herein, here comes an iconic track from the movie “True Lies”: I love the images recalled by John Hiatt’s “Alone In The Dark”. Jamie, you’re some girl!!

Sunday 29th August 2021

Evening all (and, yes, it is indeed Sunday evening, as I return to writing “live” Diary editions!).

Now: while we have enjoyed some excellent weather this past week (easily three days out of the seven) I nevertheless – personally – believe the end of Summer to be nigh, with only two days of August remaining. While I have to believe - accompanied by a sidelong glance towards this evening’s TV weather forecast, covering the earlier part of next week – that the warmth of the sun has not quite deserted us yet, September – for me – counts as an Autumn month.

There’s no way I can deny that I’m not itching to be on my travels again: that recent 5-day trip to Jersey has only added fuel to those glowing embers. Trouble is, with the “Delta” variant of Covid still producing thousands of new cases each day, there are very few countries one can visit outside the UK borders, without incurring a fair degree of mandatory restrictions.

As of three days ago, the government have revised the “traffic light” travel-advisory system, with the result that seven new countries have made it onto the “green” list: however, viewed on a practical level (and, undoubtedly, a sun-seeking level as well – for most of us would-be holidaymakers), there is probably only two from the afore-mentioned seven countries – being Canada and The Azores – that I would consider to take the trouble to travel to, at this time.

In spite of the organisational and medical requirements to be able to do so, I feel myself ever more leaning towards making a beeline for Cyprus, from some point in mid-September. To be added to the general hassle involved with travelling to and from the island, there is of course the five-hour flight to be vectored into the planning of such a trip. Conversely, average September temperatures in most of Cyprus are never too far from the, welcoming, 25 degrees mark.

It also just so happens that, off the back of several flight re-arrangements over the (almost!) past eighteen months, I still have a redeemable “Easyjet” voucher that currently could be applied to either return flights alone or to some form of Easyjet package holiday, therefore I’ll be taking a closer look at both those options, from the beginning of next week onwards.

There has been a notable absence of natural Vitamin D being imbibed by my aging body, over the course of the last year and a half and I intend to reverse that state of affairs at the earliest opportunity: in seeking guaranteed warmth, I think it’s fair to say that the further East and the further South (ideally a combination of both) that you venture from this increasingly colder UK of ours, the more likely you will encounter warmer and sunnier weather.

All going well, I would like to see myself on my way, come the weekend of 12th September, which will allow me time to turn my attention to the (never decreasing, as always) plethora of minor domestic tasks/repairs that are not going to magically disappear – unless with my help.

I will set myself a target of this time next week to be able to announce my location of “choice”, during which time my daughter will have temporarily relocated here, while she undertakes temporary work, within the East Lothian vicinity, through the end of the year. As far as an appropriate accompanying track goes this week, it can only be The Kinks with “I Gotta Move”!

Sunday 22nd August 2021

Well, this particular (past) week heralds the first one when I have left the British mainland, since returning from Vietnam – to the UK - in February of last year. Hard to believe, eh?

During that interim time, I must have arranged (and subsequently moved – several times in the case of Cyprus and Turkey) three or four holiday destinations, that have yet to transpire.

The final decision, over the last five days (arriving back at Edinburgh on Friday evening past) – in looking to keep things simple, from the point of view of airport/country entry - took me to The Channel Islands and, on this particular occasion, the “memorable” island of Jersey.

Those memories are poignant family ones, as I visited there with my children – as best I can recall – in the summer of 2002 (just thinking about it: I can probably check back through my archived Diary entries, as – at a rough guess – I have been keeping this Diary for nigh on twenty years now). I’ve often wondered if there’s a “publishable” book of my Diary entries.

This time, sadly, it was just me on my lonesome: but I’ve learned (at least, I half-heartedly convince myself, at times) that I’ve grown into the role of “Billy No Mates” while taking such holidays. However, you have to make the best of your personal situation: I was about to mention that you have to do so, in relation to be able to go on “solo” holidays/breaks but, in fact, that could be a general mantra for life. I now consider myself a student of that mantra.

Even in my own company, I enjoyed a most laid-back five days down there: the first few mornings taken up with straightening out several administrational tasks that had backed up in the weeks previously (although you could question how some of those tasks had fallen behind, when – during the past year – I have had substantially more time on my hands, that would otherwise be available to me, in a “normal” year): I’ll certainly give that careful thought!

Otherwise, I just unfolded my free airport street map each late morning and made my day’s plans from there. For an island that measures approximately only nine miles by five, miles at its widest point, there is a wealth of discoveries to make. My most “rewarding” day was in fact the day I left, Friday past: for the fair sum of £20 I enjoyed a seven-hour excursion around the island, as a “guest” of Waverley Coach Tours, as we squeezed through the lanes.

Why does it take so much time – I may hear you enquire - to circumvent an island so “small”? Well, when you vector in several stops around the island (coffee, lunch, afternoon tea) - along with several additional “photo-scenic” opportunities and an average island speed limit of under 30mph – you can see why the day can be stretched out to the seven hours of the coach trip.

However, most definitely the best value £20 I’ve spent, for as long as I can remember - and with little effort expended on my behalf. Our driver/guide didn’t let up for a minute with his continually running commentary, although I could only marvel at his wealth of local knowledge.

Having finally escaped the UK mainland, if only for under a week, this week’s song choice is taken with Tony (our guide/driver) firmly in mind: it could only be the iconic “Day Tripper”. X

Sunday 15th August 2021

Well, as I alluded to in last week’s edition, “That Was” – undoubtedly - “The Week That Was”.

I would estimate that only a marginal proportion of (even) my regular readership will relate to the significance of the above words, in quotes. They hail from a TV programme in the (late?) sixties called “That Was The Week That Was”: as best I can remember, a weekly satirical take on the newsworthy events of the previous seven days, featuring certainly one Millicent Martin and – additionally from the fog of my aging memory – possibly the iconic David Frost?

Funny – is it not – how such names can materialise from the ether, from over forty years ago, yet (personally) I’m struggling to recall where I’ve secreted the spare key to my neighbour’s car, convinced that it would never be discovered, were the house to be ransacked in my absence. Now, of course, I must awkwardly admit, I too may never discover its location ……

It’s a worry indeed but – guess what – like many things that proved to be of unsubstantiated concern in one’s younger years, it becomes less of a distraction with the passage of time, as one’s focus and energy is put to far greater use (i.e., prolonging our stay on this mortal coil).

Anyway, back to the past seven days: three of which (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) rendered themselves down to a fifty-hour whirlwind of, stamina-sapping, frenetic – and occasionally fractious – “mayhem”. Damon Albarn, I’ve since learned, does little by halves. Yes, most arena shows feature an “Opener” (in this case, a DJ – which always vastly reduces the amount of equipment to be cleared away) prior to the headliner taking the stage. Easy, so far.

Once Damon has taken to the stage to commence what could fairly be described as a musical extravaganza (“concert” hardly does such an appearance due justification) and prior to the house lights being illuminated, just this side of the O2’s “curfew”, the show somehow manages to feature the inclusion of no less than eighteen (18!) guest Artists which, in the pursuit of keeping a tally of, could easily induce a dizzy spell. But - they somehow pulled it off. And how!

As I noted in last week’s entry, there was a free show staged for NHS staff and Key Workers, on the Tuesday night, before doing it all again on Wednesday night, for a packed (paid) house.

For me personally, it was most heartening to have an (all too brief) involvement with the event, my first such project in eighteen months and - although my body was quick to emit some subliminal, plaintive, signals (along the lines of “please don’t put me through this [again] when I’m obviously a little ring-rusty!”) - I valiantly dragged myself through those long three days.

Make no mistake: such a charged atmosphere and adrenaline-fuelled environment can produce a considerable “high” (that expensive drugs might struggle to match): however, there’s no denying the further punishment to which you are subjecting your body, at such a tender age!

Nevertheless, in conjunction with a committed team (and some of them should be!!) we pulled it off: however, I, personally, needed another day to recover. With all of this in mind, I leave you this week with a fairly appropriate track: Michael Jackson’s “Working Day and Night”! XX

Sunday 8th August 2021

Almost as perplexing – in regards of the timing and location of last week’s (August 1st) Diary entry - this week finds me in St Helier in Jersey, frantically penning the 8th August edition!

However, before I get into attempting to document the state of both my physical and mental well-being, after a punishingly intense three days working with “The Gorillaz” let’s rewind….

Here we are, back at Sunday 8th August, with me having travelled south “today” to take up station in The Mercure Hotel, in London’s Greenwich district – and only 25 minutes distant from the O2 arena, by “runner” mini-bus transport. Most convenient, with sixteen-hour days.

Although it’s a while since I’ve boarded a London-bound train, I have actually done so twice this week: initially, on Wednesday past (5th) to attend an on-site meeting at the afore-mentioned O2 arena, with all Gorillaz touring production “heads of department” in attendance.

Such a prestigious, and technically complex, venue – relating to such an important show (the first time in almost eighteen months that they have hosted a full-blown music concert) unquestionably required an advance site meeting: come the day of the show, the production office tends to find itself - as competently staffed as it is - fielding a whole bunch of, often inane, enquiries indirectly relating to the smooth running of the evening’s show (i.e. guest list / VIP parking / after-show festivities) therefore the more up-front preparation that can be decided, prior to “The Big Rock Show” - the more of an enjoyable experience for the paying public, because – trust me – the majority of the disruptive freeloaders will not paid! zilch!

Over the next three days, Monday through Wednesday, the schedule is set, as follows: Monday 9th -production load-in, equipment checking and overnight programming, Tuesday 10th - Free show for the NHS staff and associated key workers, Wednesday 11th - “Show day” performance with Gorillaz and full touring production

The O2 Arena itself has most kindly given the Gorillaz management a most generous deal for the three-day period, as far as the rental of the facility goes. Of course, professional discretion prevents me from divulging any specific detail as regards the cost in question: let me just say that said deal is probably a once-in-a-lifetime price, reflecting the circumstances.

Undoubtedly, we have three tough days ahead of us – each easily perpetuating 16 hours: nothing us road dogs are unaccustomed to, of course. However, with this being the first Arena show that the majority of the production crew will have been involved with, in nigh over a year and a half, there is sure to be some “ring-rustiness in evidence” as we grind through the gears.

With everything that is about to come at us from 9.00 am tomorrow morning (going in later than we normally would, to avoid any overtime charges) then I may be but a shadow of myself, when next we are in communication. With that sentiment in mind, this week’s accompanying track shouldn’t be too taxing to unearth (just give me a moment). Got it! My man Joe Cocker once again comes to the rescue with an old “Lovin’ Spoonful” tune: “Summer in the City”! XX

Sunday 1st August 2021

Oh boy, have I let my Diary entries slip – it’s invariably when touring activity comes along!

I can explain more of what I am currently involved with, essentially from “now” (the 1st August), through Thursday 12th August. I’ll only say (can only say, at this time) that it is a fairly innovative, one-off, event. Suddenly, I find myself shaking off 18 months of cobwebs!

To be honest, I believe myself to be in two minds as to the extent to which I want to become re-involved with my vocation. Now, I say this from “standing on the outside”, looking in: give me a few days until the project really kicks into gear, when the adrenalin flow is switched back on – and I’m backstage in the thick of it. There’s unquestionable doubt that it’s a buzz.

However, after countless years of pushing oneself (more physically than mentally, in my experience) with little change from a sixteen-hour day, on any given touring day, you become increasingly aware of the realisation that it has left its mark – these signs should be heeded.

The reserves of adrenaline are not limitless. Therefore what – latterly – is willing us on? In my case – right back to the age of sixteen when I was undertaking two part-time jobs a week, while still at school, I was hell-bent on carrying out my work to the best of my ability. Now, I wonder, was there an element of trying to please others more so than pleasing myself?

That work ethic, undoubtedly, came from my mother’s side. Now that I come to think of it, with my father experiencing several work-shy periods in his life, I possibly – subconsciously – wanted to excel with any aspect of paid work that I was involved in, especially as my mother was a pillar of reliability with an impressive work ethic – not so with my father, on occasions.

Anyway, while you will note that I’ve wandered down an strewn track there, this is a subject that invites deeper reflection. As parents, we must endeavour to leave that path clearer as our children come to tread – more or less (genetically) – the same route as we have already.

For the moment, sat in the hotel in London – with three long exhausting days ahead of me – I must firmly re-locate my work hat onto those musing head. Being a consummate professional (not necessarily my boast – but the general view of many within my business) I know that once I’m into that backstage area, I return to my element – almost defined as my “natural habitat”.

Going forward, there’s an argument that I must combat this (well paid, however) attraction of such an adrenalin-charged atmosphere: I can’t just brush off the pummelling that my body could (apparently) once endure over the course of, say, a three-month North American tour.

I’ve just had a thought: maybe I should apportion far greater swathes of time to recalling the poignant moments of many of those tours - maybe go and track down some of the people that I immensely enjoyed touring with, in the seventies and eighties. Food for much thought.

So – to tie up this entry – peppered with many diverse thought patterns this week, let’s stick with the “head in the right place” realisation – and allow Joe Cocker to take it from here. XX

Sunday 25th July 2021

For me to be sat in a coffee shop in Musselburgh in East Lothian, on a Tuesday morning, composing “this week’s” Diary entry, almost 48 hours late, is admittedly an unusual occurrence.

What can possibly be the reason for this, you (maybe) are racking your brains, to understand?

Here’s a few clues: female; 31 years old; has increased DPD’s share price; makes a mean Vietnamese curry. Yes, my daughter Jade has returned “home”, after three years in SE Asia!

As a result, I’ve enjoyed a most relaxing ten days having her around the house. Additionally, she has actually spurred me on to make substantial inroads into my domestic “to do” list, most notably finishing off a handful of tasks relating to the (relatively new) small summer house.

I don’t need to belabour the point of the large swathes of time spent away from the children, during my “heavy” touring years: I have (more than) occasionally bemoaned those times within past editions of these – twenty years plus, I believe – weekly Diary entries. Sadly, the list of “unchangeable” events in this life arguably tends to run in parallel with one’s increasing years.

All the more reason to make the best of such times – and I have, over the last ten days. Jade is now officially “self-isolation” free, as of today, therefore she has pursued a course of action similar to many women who have found themselves able to throw off such shackles: she has made a beeline for the hairdressers! There are many who have endured much longer waits.

Tomorrow, Jade will go to her partner’s house (he has similarly been self-isolating at his place) and they are undeniably relishing being back together again: actually, that note has just given me an idea for this week’s accompanying track, if I can dig it out- but more about that later.

As for me? Just trundling on during these restrictive times – but now making plans to stretch my wings, almost initially just for the sake of it, but also on the hunt for some southern sun. Right now, the Channel Islands probably represent the least hassle-free option, in respect of any hoops to be jumped through - both in entering, and returning from, that particular region.

Surprisingly, accommodation costs in the likes of Jersey – during August anyway – have not proved to be prohibitive. Having said that (being extremely fortunate, during my time, to have experienced some of the world’s grandest hotels) I need “little more” than a decent shower and a functioning bedside lamp to be available, within holidaying accommodation that I book.

I can confidently reiterate (having sensed it again this morning, after leaving the house fairly early, to head towards Edinburgh with a formidable errand list) that I’m never as contented as when I’m on the move – and that statement is not necessarily always distance-linked, folks.

Any serious work prospects continue to be at least two months away: however, having signed a talented young football player to a small – yet, dependable - Scottish club in the past few weeks, I have stumbled upon a temporary “hobby”. Now, to the track that I mentioned earlier, with Jade’s return in mind: “Let’s Get Together Again” by The Glitter Band. Loving you & life!!

Sunday 18th July 2021

Today has been my most relaxed and enjoyable Sunday for ages – and with good reason …….

Our daughter Jade has returned (“permanently”) from over three years working in Vietnam – and is currently self-isolating in my house, as I believe I made mention of last week. For me, it is so energising – almost inspiring – to have Jade back under the same roof: it almost feels like she has never been away - yet I only visited her on three occasions during all that time.

Witness the fact that here I am, sat at the kitchen table at 9.24 pm today (Sunday), only making a start to this week’s Diary entry. We (Jade, Stella and I) haven’t stopped talking together since she landed at Edinburgh Airport: there has been much catching-up to be done.

Specifically, Jade touched down mid-morning Friday past, off the back of a travel itinerary that had taken her (originally) from Ho Chi Minh City, via Singapore and Amsterdam – and finally into Edinburgh. Within the last few days, Ho Chi Minh City has severely locked down certain districts of the city, in which positive “Delta” cases have shown a sharp rise - and in Vietnam when they lockdown, they LOCKDOWN. Our government could certainly have learned a few lessons from the Vietnamese government, in respect of strict, decisive, and unilateral regulation-adherence. A populist government (ours) is just not cut out for such expediency.

According to UK government regulations, Jade will spend at least the next ten days self-isolating here – during which time she must register two self-administered “lateral flow” Covid tests, the first of which she duly carried out yesterday morning and posted away at lunchtime.

A few minutes before midday today – and most impressed I was, by this development – Jade received an e-mailed confirmation that said first test had returned a negative result. That’s certainly a good start, with the follow-up procedure due to be undertaken six days from now.

I’ve assured Jade that she need not worry about finding herself at a loose end during her “term of internment” while she is here: not while there is an unloved garden area such as mine; not while my kitchen cupboards are crying out for serious re-organisation; not while my office shelves probably need such attention as could only be successfully implemented with a flame-thrower – and certainly not while my laptop/iPad/iPhone require a comprehensive software tune-up. Yes, the girl will not find herself in a position to take any great advantage of this current spate (finally) of consistent summer weather: apart from her lunch break of course!!

Joking aside, it follows that I need to maximise the opportunity of such quality time: just in life generally, Jade and I have so much catching-up to do, having spent long periods apart as a result of my main line of work, over the past thirty-one years of her life: I will be giving that particular line of thought much searching deliberation in the days and months to come.

This week’s accompanying track is one that always brings to mind enjoyable times spent with both children – with them in full voice on the chorus, from the back seat of the car: a thumping classic from Mr Stevie Wonder: none other than “Signed, Sealed, Delivered – I’m Yours”. Over the next few days I fully intend to wind it up on the stereo, with Jade in close attendance. X

Sunday 11th July 2021

Well, there went another possible holiday (this time to Cyprus) – as of 2.00 pm yesterday.

Being that the originally booked return flight had only cost me £110, I made an executive decision not to – once again, as I had done on previous occasions – rebook for a later date. Although, to be honest, that is only part of the real reason for the cancellation of the (outgoing leg) flight: I was actually absorbed in a previous passion yesterday afternoon: observing a young player on trial at a small Scottish club, when it suddenly dawned on me that I had omitted to re-schedule the flight - or exchanging that journey for an Easyjet flight voucher.

At that point, keeping in mind that I was not a huge amount out of pocket (and I should hopefully still be able to re-schedule the return leg of the flight) and not forgetting that I’ve gone through that same process on several other occasions to date, I just surrendered to the school of thought that sometimes you just have to, inevitability, “let go” of things like that.

Only within the last few days, the UK government has revised their “traffic light system” which governs the opportunity for British people to travel abroad: there are now an additional fourteen countries on the “green” list however – in keeping with when the first green list was issued – at least half of those fourteen countries are effectively “beyond reach” for the majority of potential UK holidaymakers. Add to this the fact that one or two of the remainder of the “accessible” countries are actively considering closing their borders to incoming Brits.

Therefore, in summary, relating to the above paragraphs, I’m not heading anywhere just yet!

Revisiting the subject of the young player that I watched yesterday, playing in the trial game: that’s the first time I have done so, in over eighteen months now – something in which I used to regularly immerse myself! The UK’s exit from The European Union has heralded an almost complete stop to such proceedings: the “free movement of labour” between this island and the majority of continental Europe is no more. This development is not restricted to sportspersons either: the hospitality industry (previously peopled by a considerable percentage of European workers) now faces unprecedented shortages of “casual” employees.

In the case of the young eighteen-year-old lad that I was assisting yesterday, his parentage is that of an African state however he is young enough to have been born in the UK – to the extent of now holding a UK passport: but there are very few “foreign” players who can boast such an advantageous position. The fact that the lad has future potential, is an added bonus!

The particular club that he played the trial game with yesterday has asked him to return next weekend for a more stringent test of both his ability and his physical fitness – which involves two games in two days, versus stronger opposition than yesterday. This has the added advantage for me, personally, of knowing that I’ll be involved in some (basic) form of travel!

Having something to look forward to, in such times as these, is surely no bad thing. Why not utilise that sentiment to choose this week’s accompanying track? On that note, I leave you with the iconic Staple Singers and a funky little tune called “I’ll Take You There”. They will!!

Sunday 4th July 2021

Wow, this is the latest (11.21 pm!) I have composed the weekly Diary issue, for quite a while.

In mitigation of this, I must confess that I became totally wrapped up – this past week - with trying to (initially) secure a small deal for the young football player I recently mentioned.

In the current Covid climate, not every scheduled pre-season “friendly” game has come to fruition, therefore I have had to change tack three or four times, over the last seven days, in order to unearth any available friendly games: and without any great success, I have to say.

Only today, the midday kick-off of a game in the Scottish Highlands was “pulled” at three hours’ notice - when it was discovered that one of the players from the opposing team (that is, opposing the team in which my lad would have featured) tested positive, only this morning.

So that was the end of that: resulting in me having to drive back south to Aberdeen to collect the player from the team hotel – and to head back into the Central Lowlands of Scotland, where it makes sense to now base him over the next few days, awaiting further opportunity.

That said opportunity should present itself again tomorrow night (I’ll know for sure, within twelve hours from now) as my player’s “host” team chases down several alternative options to stage a last-minute friendly tomorrow night – more than likely in the Dundee area of Scotland

This recent flurry of footballing activity immediately brings into sharp focus the poignant memories of the amount of time I committed to such activities for many years, during the time my football interests were consuming large chunks of my available time: as enjoyable as I generally recall these times to have been (but, not all of the time!), I now have no compunction to re-visit such frenetic periods. My time is far too precious to me, these days.

Therefore, because I believe this particular lad has serious untapped talent, I intend to concentrate my energies in the exclusive pursuit of easing his fledgling career “onto the first step of the ladder”. Additionally, because of this abundance of his underdeveloped talent that I suspect may be awaiting discovery, I now have a revised benchmark from which to judge any prospective young players, going forward: but I won’t find too many more as good as this lad.

There was a time (as regular readers can probably hark back to) when I became submerged in the unwitting crusade to assist a plethora of young hopeful players, spreading myself far too thin in the process: “thin” is an equally expressive term, where my decreasingly ailing bank account was concerned, back in those times. I won’t be spending like that again – no Siree!!

By this time next week, I am hopeful of being in a position to report having secured the lad his first professional deal and to then have him reasonably settled with the one club – able to subsequently channel his energies to acclimatise to the frantic nature of the game in Scotland.

What accompanying track could bear some relation to my efforts of the last week? Let’s go with The Doobie Brothers and “Rockin’ Down The Highway” – as I most certainly have been! X

Sunday 27th June 2021

Well, there went another possible holiday (this time to Cyprus) – as of 2.00 pm yesterday.

Being that the originally booked return flight had only cost me £110, I made an executive decision not to – once again, as I had done on previous occasions – rebook for a later date. Although, to be honest, that is only part of the real reason for the cancellation of the (outgoing leg) flight: I was actually absorbed in a previous passion yesterday afternoon: observing a young player on trial at a small Scottish club, when it suddenly dawned I had omitted to re-schedule the flight - or exchanging that journey for an Easyjet flight voucher.

At that point, keeping in mind that I was not a huge amount out of pocket (and I should hopefully still be able to re-schedule the return leg of the flight) and not forgetting that I’ve gone through that same process on several other occasions to date, I just surrendered to the school of thought that sometimes you just have to, inevitability, “let go” of things like that.

Only within the last few days, the UK government has revised their “traffic light system” which governs the opportunity for British people to travel abroad: there are now an additional fourteen countries on the “green” list however – in keeping with when the first green list was issued – at least half of those fourteen countries are effectively “beyond reach” for the majority of potential UK holidaymakers. Add to this the fact that one or two of the remainder of the “accessible” countries are actively considering closing their borders to incoming Brits.

Therefore, in summary, relating to the above paragraphs, I’m not heading anywhere just yet!

Revisiting the subject of the young player that I watched yesterday, playing in the trial game: that’s the first time I have done so, in over eighteen months now – something in which I used to regularly immerse myself! The UK’s exit from The European Union has heralded an almost complete stop to such proceedings: the “free movement of labour” between this island and the majority of continental Europe is no more. This development is not restricted to sportspersons either: the hospitality industry (previously peopled by a considerable percentage of European workers) now faces unprecedented shortages of “casual” employees.

In the case of the young eighteen-year-old lad that I was assisting yesterday, his parentage is that of an African state however he is young enough to have been born in the UK – to the extent of now holding a UK passport: but there are very few “foreign” players who can boast such an advantageous position. The fact that the lad has future potential, is an added bonus!

The particular club that he played the trial game with yesterday has asked him to return next weekend for a more stringent test of both his ability and his physical fitness – which involves two games in two days, versus stronger opposition than yesterday. This has the added advantage for me, personally, of knowing that I’ll be involved in some (basic) form of travel!

Having something to look forward to, in such times as these, is surely no bad thing. Why not utilise that sentiment to choose this week’s accompanying track? On that note, I leave you with the iconic Staple Singers and a funky little tune called “I’ll Take You There”. They will!!

Sunday 20th June 2021

Just when I thought consistent (warm) summer weather was on the way ……. hold that page!

It’s hardly been pitiful this past seven days: yet describing conditions as inclement would not see you fall foul of the Trade Descriptions Act. Next week surely heralds some improvement.

As regards the ongoing (at times, complex) ramifications of the Covid pandemic – in particular, of course, the recent “Delta” variant – the opportunties for foreign travel show no signs of improving, although the UK government will revise the current “traffic light” system in 5 days.

Nevertheless, I hold out no great hope that my currently booked trip to Cyprus will come to fruition. I’m presently playing something of a waiting game, in that my flight is scheduled for two days after the aforementioned announcement. If Cyprus shows no signs of being “promoted” to green – from amber – status (which is very, very, likely the case) then it may follow that Easyjet cancels my flight in the subsequent twenty-four hours: that being the case, it will allow me a no-cost switch of flight date, and possible location, within Europe. If that scenario does not transpire, it will be yours truly who will be footing the cost of changes

Clear change of subject – although bearing some relation to the introductory paragraphs: tomorrow, 21st June, will be the “longest” day of the year, so it’s all downhill, daylight-wise, from here! However it will be incrementally, day-by-day, meaning a considerable while before we return to darker nights: all the more reason for the Summer to get its act together, sharpish. Balmy warm weather (generally) for July and August will go a long way to appease, for the fairly disappointing May and June, so far. I need to stock up on my Vitamin D levels!

For my part, domestically, I continue to ply my way through a plethora of minor cosmetic repairs around the house: when I finally manage to make it abroad for a break, I will probably be leaving the house in better “nick” than on any previous occasion – and there have been many of those. Hard to believe that it’s approaching eighteen months since I last visited an airport!

This enforced hiatus has done absolutely no harm for my social life, my self-education (there remains noticeably fewer unread books on my office shelves, nowadays) and my regular sleeping patterns, the latter which has largely eluded me – after over forty years on the road.

As yet another week in this long and “debilitating” Covid saga beckons, I (we) have to believe that – here in the UK – we finally have a handle on the situation and that (come 19th July – originally 21st June) our country will soon be able to look forward to the final arrival of “Freedom Day”. Hell – I may even have a chance of returning to work before the year is out!

Actually, with the mention of “Freedom Day”, a reasonably appropriate tune now comes to mind for this week’s accompanying track: something of a throwback to my young and irresponsible days of convincing myself that I was something of a minor celebrity on the local DJ circuit in the east of Edinburgh (back almost fifty years now!). You may have sussed that I’m about to leave you in the company of the Fortunes with “Freedom Come – Freedom Go”. I could possibly offer a retitling of the song: “Freedom Come Soon – Freedom Never Go”! XX

Sunday 13th June 2021

Word is – here in the UK – that we may be heading for the hottest day of the year, so far. Certainly, as I may have indicated in the body of one of my Diary entries last month, May was a palpable disappointment. June made a promising start, stuttered a little after the first week, but thankfully is gathering speed (and temperature) as we now move through the month.

Having said that, with your “author” continually casting a (long?) glance towards continental Europe – and my flight reservations threatening to soon back-up – I overhear on “The Andrew Marr Show” this morning that the previously-heralded “UK Covid exit” date of 21 st June could be pushed away as far as one month hence. Cyprus, for me, continues to hover in the distance!

Consequently, going forward, it’s about making the best of what we have here – which actually isn’t too bad, weather wise, based on recent evidence. I now find myself, invariably, heading outside (be it into the garden, cycling into town – or driving down to the harbour) after dinner, each evening. There’s worse philosophies than “Awake with the light and asleep with the dark”.

I’ve come to the realisation (well before now – if the truth be known) that I’ll probably never be “totally up to date” with the care and maintenance of the house: the fact that it’s my regular abode, dictates that it will always require a reasonable amount of cosmetic attention.

While my character dictates that I prefer everything to be shipshape and up to date, I remind myself that such an outlook requires to be countered with avoiding a situation where I find myself at “a standstill”. Although, realistically, there’s probably no possibility of such a situation transpiring as houses being houses – regular maintenance is just part of the game.

Thankfully, one’s main residence is probably one’s most significant investment in life – one that invariably continues to accrue, rendering a decent financial return down the years. This – as my dear old friend Gavin Kennedy always reminded me (when the “renting versus purchasing property” conversation came up) – effectively decreeing that being a property owner, with the said financial gain somewhere down the line, you are almost living “rent free”.

Although, several years ago, I managed to finally reach mortgage-free status – I won’t belabour the point that it should have transpired several years before that! Utilising one of my most oft-used expressions, it nevertheless “is what it is”. Considering the fairly convoluted list of (personal) transgressions that I presided over, during the previous fifty years, “what it is“ pales into significance when stacked up against “what it could have been”. Unquestionably.

Within the last few paragraphs, I have relocated to the front of the (south facing) house to allow myself to be bathed in warm sunlight, while finishing up this week’s entry. I would be unable to have the laptop in the direct sunlight for much longer, as my Macbook Pro – in keeping with all laptops, no doubt – very quickly heats up, almost to “egg frying” capabilities.

The track to accompany this week’s entry has to Angela Strehli’s very appropriate “The Sun is Shining” - without attaching any connection to the lyrical body of the song. Stay safe! XX

Sunday 6th June 2021

Well, now, here’s a first (for this year, anyway): I’m sat out in the garden, penning my Diary!

This past week has unquestionably been the best of the year so far, weather wise – which (if it continues – please!) goes a long way to make up for a most disappointing, and inclement, May.

Although, the promise of sunnier days here in the homeland couldn’t have come quick enough, when aligned with the breaking news that, within the last 72 hours, foreign travel is now the subject of even more restrictive regulations. Case in point: Portugal (the most “accessible” of a very limited list of countries on offer, holiday-wise) which had been accorded “Green light” status as part of the UK government’s travel “traffic-light” system – barely three weeks ago – now finds itself demoted to Amber level, in the wake of the spread of the “Indian” variant.

This recent turnaround by the UK government has seen countless of (already holidaying) couples and families scrambling to be back within their home shores by midnight this coming Tuesday, 8 th June – lest they find themselves subject to restrictive self-isolating regulations.

Have a thought for the majority of the UK professional travel industry. Just as they experienced a glimmer of hope over Portugal’s recent accessibility (most definitely one of the top ten preferred holiday destinations, for UK nationals), within the space of less than three weeks a line has been drawn under that source of income. I fear for travel agents’ businesses.

Personally, I have little doubt that – as indicated a while back by our esteemed, womanizing, Prime Minister – the country will now not “fully open” on Monday 21 st June. Between now and then, I suspect – deep within the cabinet office – a surreptitious plan is now afoot to let the British public down gently, before the announcement the restrictions will not be fully relaxed.

Harking back to the travel “traffic-light” system, an update is also scheduled for three weeks from now: however, it’s my contention that said update will probably be tacked on to the planned 21 st June announcement, regarding where we stand – generally – on Covid restrictions.

As I identified, way earlier – nearer the start of the original lockdown (and relating very much to my own situation) it continues to be about the management of one’s “downtime”. The easy road to take is that of just sitting it out, gorging on every Netflix boxset that has ever been released - lazing around, bereft of any planned direction, until this all (finally?) blows over.

Alternatively, as I continually strive to achieve, the way forward is to stay focussed on what CAN be accomplished within these ongoing, Covic-related, limitations: hovering in the starting blocks, if you like – poised to spring forward as soon as a realistic opportunity presents itself.

Undoubtedly, the latter approach requires concentration and (in several instances) mental steel, to command such a state of readiness that, when the time comes – in my case, say – you can jump straight back into work – or straight out on a plane (at the fourth time of asking!) to Cyprus. With that in mind, and in closing this week, let’s hand over the stage to a classic Beatles track, “Ticket to Ride”: when I’ll be able to use that “Ticket” is another matter!! XX

Sunday 30th May 2021

Could this Sunday’s (initial) news – more or less, to some degree - be construed as some indication of progress, in this “world of Covid” which we all currently inhabit? That news is that I’m once again “broadcasting” from the local McDonalds, as their restaurant is now open.

Albeit the current time is coming up for 9.00 pm: this is down to the fact that I slipped away from Dunbar, Thursday afternoon past, to spend a few days on the Northumberland coast, at a little seaside town called Newbiggin-on-Sea (which I may have made mention off in the past, as it’s not the first time I have ventured to that area), around 20 miles north of Newcastle.

‘Tis a charming wee place - with a fair stretch of sand, an enchanting promenade walk and a most laid-back vibe (man). It was originally my plan to travel “further south”, to the likes of Whitely Bay or Tynemouth however (displaying admirable self-discipline) I elected against such a plan, at the last minute – being that the North Tyneside area is one of eight council areas of the UK that has particularly been affected by the recently incoming “Indian” variant.

Even though, to date (reflective of my statesmanlike maturity), I have received both of my vaccinations, it makes little sense in tempting providence, particularly at such a “late date”.

Finally, finally, the weather – in the wake of an inexcusably disappointing May – looks to be on the upturn, with today’s 21C surely allowing an insight as to what should (generally) be heading our way in June. Such pleasing temperatures can certainly not come quick enough: let’s not forget that the year’s longest date (if I recollect correctly) falls around the 21 st June, after which the available light gently decreases daily, towards the Autumn months. It’s a worry, eh?

Such pleasant sunny, warm, evenings – typical to that which I am currently sat here experiencing – just kick-start my hankering to be holed up in warmer climes. As it happens, the UK government are due to undertake a review of their “travel traffic light” system tomorrow, 31 st May. All prospective foreign travellers are poised to see whether the likes of Malta, Spain and Cyprus will be “promoted” from Amber to Green status – thereby minimising the additional costs (PCR tests & self-isolation upon return) currently associated with Amber.

Based upon news reports from the last forty-eight hours, it would appear that France will definitely NOT make it to the Green list, as a result of a sudden, national, rise in reported Covid cases. Indeed, they may find themselves relegated to the “severely unfancied” Red list.

Again, over this past weekend, I have good reason to question myself as to A) how I’ve remained reasonably sane, over those last – unemployed – fourteen months and B) what I have actually achieved, of any real substance, during that time? I may yet find myself reviewing the Diary entries from said “dormant” period, just to reflect upon how I occupied all my time!

I continue to reflect upon how extremely fortunate I am that, in spite of such a considerable “lay off”, I’ve managed to remain sane(?), solvent and scheduled. We must believe that better times are on the way. Taking a cue from that assertion, this week’s choice of an accompanying track features the iconic Everly Brothers with “All I Have To Do Is Dream” – and, yes, I will!

Sunday 23rd May 2021

“Your Health is Your Wealth”. Well said, Nicky Byrne and, of course - never a truer word.

I particularly cite that observation, not only to gently remind those countless legions of my fellow men and women who are (more or less) lodged in my demographic – but as much to make note that tomorrow, Monday, I will be undertaking my biennial health assessment. I say “biennial” however, to be honest, that has not been the case to date – with possibly four such assessments carried out over the last ten years. From here on in (approaching my seventieth year – ouch) any health assessment should religiously be carried out, annually – no question.

Much like last week’s Diary entry, I can once again report a week of variable (disappointing) weather over the last seven days. I did however catch an earlier weather forecast on the BBC this morning, indicating that the UK temperatures are going to creep up over the coming week.

Until such time that it doesn’t cost me more in “before and after” Covid tests, than it does the cost of the return flight to travel there, I am holding off with confirming any travel outwith the UK. I remain hopeful that I can utilise my current reservation to Cyprus on 28 th June: there are positive indicators – from the UK government – that the country is indeed heading back to relative normality, by the originally predicted date of June 21 st . We’ll see!

Subsequently, with my foreign travel possibilities realistically on hold for the time being(and with my “holiday money” reservoir notably increasing) I suspect I am falling into a routine of treating myself to a fortnightly, weekend, mini break. This plan initiated itself with my trip to Crianlarich earlier this month and (being that I certainly returned from that little jaunt, energised and re-enthused) I was almost tempted to do the very same again, the next week.

Common sense has, however, prevailed (well, sort of) and – although I was of a mind to plan a follow-up escape, to another charming area of Scotland, within two weeks of the Crianlarich trip – I am now in the throes of making arrangements to quietly slip away again next weekend.

Surprisingly (having just checked) almost a full month will have elapsed between the two afore-mentioned trips whereas, at some point a few weeks back, I had almost convinced myself that my increasingly itchy feet would determine that I have to partake of those weekend getaways fortnightly – until such time that I can “cheaply” travel further afield. Where to this time? I would still feel a tad uneasy travelling too far south, within the British Isles, from here in Dunbar (although, surely, having had both Covid jabs, I’m a fairly “safe bet” by now?) therefore I see my southerly limit as the likes of Newcastle. Conversely, here north of the border – with the current exception of the greater Glasgow area, where infection rates are still of a concern – Scotland is my oyster! With many options up for consideration.

Onwards and upwards, dear readers, is the philosophy I intend to continue to covet - during which time keeping a careful eye on the state of one’s mental health. This week’s accompanying track can therefore only be of an uplifting nature – for which there are thankfully many contenders. Taking to the stage is my man Chuck Berry with “No Particular Place To Go”! XX

Sunday 16th May 2021

As the sun sets on one of the better days (so far) in May, let this week’s Diary entry begin.

I have to confess to having snuck away for the night, last night, to spend the evening in a charming little Bed & Breakfast, in the small town of Leven – located on the north shore of the River Forth estuary and only just over a ninety-minute drive from my hometown of Dunbar.

So relaxing and “detached” was the place, that I contemplated staying on, one further night: however, I feel that, during these unemployed times, one (me) should be practising some measure of fiscal restraint, in spite of the fact that my feet are becoming itchier by the day.

You know, I’ve only been away less than thirty-six hours but – for some strange reason, that I am in the midst of grappling with – it seems like easily twice that amount of time since Ieft home: continuing the long-held assertion that a change is invariably as good as a rest.

This is not to say that I’m not comfortable while ensconced in my home environment (on the contrary, for the majority of time I spend there). Having said that, the past 40+ years of my life have been mainly spent on the move: comprehensively and worldwide. Contrast that with the last, almost, eighteen months which have been quite the opposite. Cabin fever beckons!

Currently, my next trip abroad is scheduled for 28 th June (out to Cyprus) and I (have to) remain upbeat in regards to the realistic possibility to make it out of here – and a return to an environment in which I am most comfortable, relaxed – and warm! Soberingly, that time frame is nevertheless six weeks distant from now – at a time when there undoubtedly exists an undercurrent of public belief (anger?) that the Indian variant is on the increase in the UK.

Upon reflection, this is now unquestionably the first year in the previous “forty plus” that I have remained in the UK throughout. Understandably, I am most keen to reverse that state of affairs, at the earliest opportunity – and get the f**k out of here! A welcome upturn in temperatures, while I’ve been away in the last thirty-six hours, has only served to increase my yearning to head for the sun (young man) – avoiding this current bout of inclement weather.

I admire certain friends of mine who can accurately recall that the May weather (so far) this year, is not up to the standards on that of last year. Although I am unable to summon such focus from the downwardly-spiralling recesses of my memory, I selfishly care only that – surely by the commencement of June – soon we will experience consistently warmer weather.

Time to take a deep breath and face another oncoming week, with a realistically-scheduled plan in mind – and convince myself that we can soon draw a line under this lamentable state of affairs and return to some representation of normality: the “loss” of one year hurts enough.

In closing, I now realise that to attempt to compose a Diary entry in the late evening – as against utilising the normal mid-morning slot – leaves me open to a dip in concentration. Bear with me and I’ll thankfully be back on track by next week: on the subject of “tracks”, allow me to attempt to redeem myself with a classic Four Tops offering: “Baby I Need Your Lovin’”.

Sunday 9th May 2021

Back at home base again, in Dunbar, this week - a week of, disappointingly, inclement weather.

Two days ago, the British government announced their “traffic light” system, relative to the possibility of foreign travel. Of greatest interest to the British holidaymakers are the countries that have made it into the “Green” category: which currently consists of ten countries – although two of them (Australia and New Zealand) have indicated closed borders to all non-nationals. Effectively, the only realistic option for us Brits – from this initial Green list, in “attractiveness” order, are Portugal (including Madeira & The Azores), Gibraltar and Iceland. The only other “available” possibilities are in far-flung – quite impractical – locations.

The afore-mentioned system is to be reviewed, going forward, at regular three-week intervals which, in an ideal world, will expand the options on the Green list (having been “promoted” from the “Amber” list). Of course, there also exists the very realistic possibility that – for example – due to a particular country experiencing an unforeseen spike in reported positive cases or a hiccup with their vaccination programme, said country could find themselves demoted from Green to Amber – even Amber “down” to Red. The UK government have already stressed that they will not hesitate to take that evasive action if such circumstances prevail.

I should also add that last Friday’s “traffic light system” announcements are not due to come into operation until one week tomorrow (17 th May) and, more than likely, even later in Scotland!

In respect of my own situation (i.e., I’m gagging to go travelling, outwith the UK) the only realistic options I would consider from this initial Green list would be either mainland Portugal (which, surely, is going to be the similar choice for the majority of UK holidaymakers right now) or – also sharing Portugal’s sovereignty – the island of Madeira: where, you may recall, I was planning to visit a while back, before they experienced a belated increase in Covid cases.

Even though – such as in my case – having received both Covid vaccinations to date, it would appear that (while negating the requirement of being placed into quarantine upon one’s return to the UK, from Europe) a Covid-PCR test will nevertheless be required to be taken, within 48 hours prior to one’s departure from the European mainland. Hopefully, which tests negative!

Therefore, although much easier than previously encountered - in respect of taking a European break, during these pandemic times – certain stipulations currently still remain in place, to which all travellers have to adhere. However, the overall situation is definitely easing.

Personally, I’ll be delaying any travel decision, on my part, until A) the next scheduled “traffic-light update”, due on 28 th of this month and B) I’m safely logged on the (developing) NHS App, registering the fact that I have received both vaccinations. Then we’ll take it from there. At this advanced stage of the worldwide pandemic management, it’s all about keeping oneself disciplined and engaged until such time as we can again spread our wings. On that note, this week I leave you with an old Creedence Clearwater Revival tune – alluding to the colour that will be on most holidaymakers’ minds for the coming months – called “Green River”. Let it flow!

Sunday 2nd May 2021

Following on from my Diary entry last week – at which point I noted that travel restrictions within Scotland were due to be lifted the very next day (namely Monday 26 th April) – I “left town” on Thursday past to spend a few days motoring around the western Scottish Highlands.

Having just returned this evening (it’s currently 10.30 pm – considerably later in the day than I generally pen these entries) I’m sat here ruminating over an invigorating few days away, during which time it was again brought home to me just how beautiful is my country of birth.

I may have previously mentioned that the plan was to base myself at the picturesque village of Crianlarich – also (and not by coincidence) a notable rail junction on the West Coast line. The train in question - normally four carriages long - departs Glasgow’s Queen Street station and when it reaches Crianlarich it “splits in half”: with two carriages making their way westwards, to end up – just short of 90 minutes later - at the town (and ferry port) of Oban.

From Crianlarich, the remaining two carriages wind their way north-west to the town of Fort William (located at the south-eastern of Scotland’s “Caledonian Canal” – four lochs, joined “end-to-end”, namely Lochs Dochfour, Oich, Ness and Lochy) and then onward to the “terminating” town of Mallaig – again located on the west coast and again a bustling ferry port.

The ferries, in relation to both Oban and Mallaig, have in common a selection of sailings serving Scotland’s Western Isles and Inner Hebrides: all owned by a “legendary” Scottish ferry company, nowadays branded as CalMac – formerly, as far back as 1851, Caledonian MacBrayne.

Back to my own particular itinerary of these past few days: after a two-and-a-half-hour journey from Dunbar, I arrived at the Ben More Lodge on the edge of Crianlarich, around 5.00 pm on Thursday evening. Once settled in and unpacked, I elected to drive five miles north to the village of Tyndrum (incidentally the first stop on the Crianlarich to Oban train line) and treat myself to fish and chips, from the local RoadHouse Café. Seriously good, folks!

For Friday’s activity – still based at Crianlarich – I had already booked a day trip, on the afore mentioned routing, up to Oban - for a very reasonable £12.75 return ticket! I’ve made this trip before and – as on this latest occasion – spent an enjoyable few hours wandering the harbour front, from where there’s a marvellous view of the distant islands and waterways.

Due to the inability to undertake a similar train trip on the other line out of the Crianlarich junction (that is, all the way to Mallaig and back to Crianlarich in the same day) I elected to “take the Honda by the horns” and just drive to Mallaig, via the aforementioned Fort William.

What a stunning and entertaining drive that proved to be – taking me through the infamous Glencoe - especially as I was able to take an alternative route south, for the majority of the return journey. I had clean forgotten the breath-taking scenery that my home country was able to offer up. In celebration of my mini road trip, I’m going to leave you, this week, with an iconic “Canned Heat” track – recorded many, many, moons ago – called “On The Road Again”. It was cathartic to be able to venture further afield and I’m all the better for it! Luv Y’all!!

Sunday 25th April 2021

Big day tomorrow folks, with the “opening” of the UK, travel-wise, to all of us here in Scotland.

Already – as I may have mentioned last week – I have booked a few days away on the West of Scotland, towards the end of the coming week. Having said that, I’m reliably informed that the notification of the appointment my second Covid jab will drop onto the mat any day now.

This may require a wee bit of logistical juggling: however, nothing is written in stone, on the travel side of things as - in common with all accommodation establishments – cancellation arrangements certainly favour the booker, with only twenty-four hours’ notice required in my particular case. Additionally, I’m holding off with any train arrangements for a few days yet.

Of course, it’s only a few days that I’ll be away - but the phrase “a change is as good as a rest” was never more poignantly relevant! Just leaving the county borders of East Lothian – and continuing onwards - will herald a significant accomplishment to what has been a rather mundane schedule over the last three months. I have only ventured beyond “The Lothians” once since the beginning of the year, which was a quick (legal!) journey to Glasgow Airport.

In the last twenty minutes, since starting this week’s entry, the sun has broken through to refreshingly brighten up the garden - reminding us that the days (already with the sun dipping below the horizon, just after 9.00 pm) are becoming incrementally warmer as well. Great news!

Yesterday I gave said garden it’s – now regular weekly – two hours attention (while our local handyman was painting another two six-foot sections of the fence, in a rather resplendent green – “sage” – colour) which is only part of the time that I’m currently giving the garden, as I strive to pass the halfway stage of its complete remodelling. We’re past the halfway stage!

The time has come in my life – I’m bound to admit – where I want the time that I spend looking at/sitting in my garden to far outweigh the time I spend maintaining it: and it is to this end that I’m committing a good few hours a week to “revitalising” its appearance. Already, I have the feeling that my original plan to re-turf the main area of the garden, could indeed be heading in the direction of “Astroturf”. I‘m probably never actually going to sit on that grass!

Following tomorrow’s notable “Covid Milestone”, the next significant date in that same diary is three weeks away on Monday 17 th May, when the British public eagerly await an announcement of the hopeful easing of international travel restrictions – although everyone in the UK is all too aware of how long three weeks can be, during these Covid-influenced times.

Albeit with strict adherence to whatever safety regulations are in place at the time, I must believe, before the month of June is over, that I will have set foot on the soil of one of the following: Cyprus / The Canary Islands / Turkey / Malta / The Greek Islands / Madeira.

Trust me: I will not be choosy at this point – and that goes for the “local” accommodation on offer, as well. On that note – and bearing some relation to this week’s content – I leave you with Ms Toni Lynn Washington and “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday”. It had better be!! XX

Sunday 18th April 2021

Back on track (to some degree) here in Scotland, with the news – earlier this week – that the Scottish government have “brought forward” the date by which it is now allowed to travel around Scotland without any restrictions. That date had originally been set for 26 th of April but was revised to the 16 th (Friday past) off the back of markedly reduced “Covid numbers”.

I was all ready to bring forward my own travel arrangements (currently a three-day trip to Scotland’s western Highlands) however the restriction governing the “full” opening of hospitality outlets (i.e., hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants) remains, being the 26 th April.

Nevertheless, something to look forward to – in the not-too-distant future. Small changes – and therefore renewed opportunities – increase the hope of returning to some vestige of normality in the months ahead. The date that many people are staying focused upon – from the viewpoint of foreign travel – is Monday 17 th May when the government intend to update us as to the (then) situation. If the green light is subsequently given, to be able to “freely” visit certain European countries, then surely a “scramble” will ensue. I’m poised to scramble!

The signs at this time (as much initiated by the tourism departments of the countries themselves) are that the likes of Cyprus, Malta, the Greek Islands and Turkey are very keen to benefit from “Brit Business”, albeit certain arrival, differing, restrictions will be in place. Hot on the heels of the above locations will surely come The Canary Islands, although their governmental relationship with the Spanish mainland (an area particularly struggling to avoid the onset of a third wave of the virus) has rendered that possibility somewhat more complex.

We can do little more than to wait and see: much lauded in recent entries of this Diary, is the increasing benefits of (marginally!) warmer weather and greater evening light, which are definitely proving beneficial, as we round the final bend of the current race to beat the virus.

When I refer to “final” of course, I refer mainly to the recent culmination of efforts to bring said second wave of the virus – here in the UK – under significant control. Once this milestone has been reached (say) by the end of May, we must resist the temptation to drop our guard.

For example, all the signs point to the fact that we will be living with social distancing – and the associated wearing of face masks – for a fair while yet, probably until the end of the year.

From the point of view of the concert-touring business, there’s (unfortunately) a very real risk of “losing the summer”, where large indoor gatherings are concerned. I have a vested interest in the situation returning to some degree of normality by the autumn, as the “JLS” Reunion Tour is primed and ready to roll, from late October onwards: probably my next job!

As Donald Sutherland was keen to stress in the film “Kelly’s Heroes” (younger readers are possibly now at a loss) we have to “keep with the positive waves”. Establishing that trend, this week’s accompanying track comes courtesy of the iconic 80’s rock act “Foreigner” – still going, in a “diluted” format – with “Hot Blooded”, which I hopefully will be, two months from now! X

Sunday 11th April 2021

I come to you today (although a little unsure, as to how it feels!) - now in my sixty-ninth year.

I’ve actually experienced a thought process – since the above “monumental” event of Wednesday past – that turning sixty-nine is less of a concern, than the realisation of the fact that I’m now less than a year from my seventieth birthday (but with 12 months to prepare!).

My reflective thought processes over the past few days (you’d be surprised how such an event at this time of one’s life, brings the subject of time-management sharply into focus) have centred around shaving more time from the administrative elements of my life – subsequently apportioning said time in the direction of my general health. Naturally, it goes without saying that if “administration” is linked to gainful employment then an exception will have to be made!

The above paragraph has just triggered a thought along the lines of whether one day – not incredibly distant from now – extreme time-management may decree that these weekly Diary entries are shelved? Conversely (I’m now thinking, also) penning the weekly entries may become the only administrative task of a then “quieter” week. As they say - only time will tell.

Currently, I have booked a weekend away, towards the end of this month – once “free movement” within Scotland is permitted (from 26 th April onwards) – when I’ll be heading up to the small town (village?) of Crianlarich. I will then “base” myself there which (with the benefit of the local rail junction) will allow me to enjoy a return train trip from Crianlarich to Oban one day - followed, on the second day, with a return rail trip to the town of Mallaig.

The above “event” is less than three weeks away (although it’s hardly the Venice-Simplon Express cross-continental rail adventure!) but is definitely something to look forward to, knowing I’ll be freeing myself from these domestic restraints for a few days, ideally returning refreshed: buoyed by the opportunity to plan for my next excursion – hopefully further afield.

I may have previously mentioned that all the Covid restrictions over the past year have resulted in me having three flights “backed up” with the company Easyjet, thankfully able to be re-booked at little cost - once I’m in a position to assess which locations are, then, possible.

Realistically, I could be heading out the country at some point in June – depending upon which European countries will, by that time, have been allocated “green” status by the UK FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office): apparently, countries such as Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey and Greece will probably be among the first countries to open up for us Brits.

Given the choice, ideally, I would travel to Cyprus initially – based upon my familiarity with the region, and the enjoyable times I spent on the island, during the time Alice was stationed there with the UK Military (I can say that now, without fear of imprisonment!!). Remaining confident that I shall be travelling from these shores within the next three months, I’ll add another uplifting track to this week’s entry. This is an iconic song I happened upon yesterday: the inimitable Huey Lewis & The News with “The Power of Love”. Is it not great to be alive?!

Sunday 4th April 2021

Let there be light – and, yes, there has been, of late: one extra hour of it since last Monday.

The availability to, now, walk out after dinner for an hour, or even to undertake some light gardening during that time, has ushered in a welcome re-focusing of my usual daily schedule.

As simple and straightforward as it may sound, surely a major part of this life is having things to look forward to? Be it the weekend football game; the prospect of warmer weather; the anticipation of holiday travel or even looking forward to picking up your favourite book again.

Without such promising “events” to enhance our imaginary senses, life would surely risk deteriorating into a litany of pre-programmed tasks and responsibilities. We all welcome the opportunity to interrupt the daily cycle of (without appearing to be too harsh) life’s monotony.

The extremes of possibilities, in changing one’s situation, convey the realities of life itself. Naturally, the fortunate minority can alter their circumstances at the (funded) drop of a hat. Sat astride the pinnacle – possibly painfully! – of affluence, they just wheel out the Lear jet, at a few hours notice, and whisk themselves off to a location of their inexhaustible choice.

For the vast majority of the good folk of this world, the closest they ever venture towards such a lifestyle, as above, is to view it through the obligatory “flat-screen window”. I never fail to marvel (and respect) how the rank-and-file public just responsibly get on with the struggle of life and survival when – almost within shouting distance – others exist, cosseted in the trappings of extreme wealth and privilege, in many cases the fruits of ill-gotten gains.

This is surely no more in evidence than with our country’s favourite and – normally - most well-attended and revered sport: football. Each week, countless hundreds of thousands of devoted fans part with their hard-earned cash to troop along (or, more accurately at the moment, to upkeep their satellite service subscriptions) to essentially fund the lavish lifestyles of unarguably overpaid professional football players, living in a world far removed from the very legions of those very same fans that put them there. It’s nothing short of a travesty, folks.

Although I’ve worked myself into the ground over the course of many an arduous tour, I nevertheless continue to recognise the slice of luck that existed, to have given me that opportunity in the first place, to ply what is viewed as a fairly lucrative trade – provided you can summon, and sustain, the levels of stamina to carry you through such demanding schedules.

Currently, on the work front, my next substantial project (with Little Mix’s tour having been moved into next year – and The Who recently postponed, for the time being) will be with JLS, on their long-awaited Reunion Tour, this October and November. It can’t come soon enough.

No other alternative but to remain positive and confident (increasingly more achievable, with the lighter nights having transpired). Similarly – the music choices should remain in the same vein. Consequently, I’ve dug out this charmingly uplifting track – possibly “repeating myself” here - encapsulating what we all hanker for more of: “Freedom” from The Fortunes.Luv Ya!

Sunday 28th March 2021

Well, dear readers, it’s been a long time coming – but the clocks finally went “forward” today!

Consequently, we will experience another hour of light each evening, from here on in. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t be such a big deal (just part of the annual calendar) however – within the times that we currently live – such changes can make a great difference.

I can report the sun has made an impressive showing, as of this mid-morning Sunday – here in Sunny Dunny – further endorsing my wee town’s “claim to fame” and, as anyone who knows me well knows: natural light (the sunnier the better) makes a noticeable difference to my outlook.

On days such as this, buoyed by gently recurring waves of optimism, my creative side is liable to percolate to the surface and – based on one or two rather expensive excursions – at times boil right over, manifesting itself as unfettered and (provenly) mis-directed over- confidence.

Subsequently – and arguably a lot later in my life than should have occurred – I’ve learned to calm myself when a euphoric mood pops its head over the parapet of my character. Also, tenuously linked to this subject: I’ve probably (way, way, back in a past Diary entry) mentioned that if I’d kept my trap shut on – say – six specific occasions during my professional career, I would be penning this week’s entry from my villa in St. Tropez. I did actually spend some time in a villa in St. Tropez (to be expanded upon at a later date) many moons ago, during my time with George Michael - and kindly “furnished” and paid for by the man himself. I miss him.

Maybe, if only to experiment with a slightly different format from time to time with these Diary entries, I could probably think about dedicating a particular weekly entry to a notable Artist that I have had the honour to be associated with. George, no question, heads the queue.

During days such as today – when I’m on the “up and up” – I’ve little doubt that there is some form of commercial, yet ethical, angle to the “exploitation” of my career, to date. Naturally, I am fully aware that the general public are somewhat mesmerised (right word?) by the often-perceived mysterious machinations behind the music business. Yes, I know all about those!!

For the time being, I should not allow it to escape my awareness that I remain gainfully employed in this business meaning that, for the foreseeable future, the mass of secretive experiences I’ve amassed in a far, dusty, corner of my brain is heading to the grave with me.

I have in mind (to further cushion the ongoing Coronavirus “inactivity” that we are all dealing with) to document every show I have ever played, from late mid-1973 until now: since 2000, when printed A5, detailed, tour itineraries were commonplace, this exercise will merely involve time and application. Prior to 2000, will require me scouring archaic computer files; masses of fading, basic, A4 date-sheets and – least reliable of all – the dark recesses of my memory!

Wow! Where has the time gone, today? For an accompanying track, bearing some relevance to this week’s text, I will leave you with a classic George Michael composition: “Everything She Wants”. Recorded by Wham! of course - but taking me right back to memorable times. XX

Sunday 21st March 2021

This Sunday morning, not unlike many of its predecessors, finds me penning the Diary edition, with popular current affairs programme, “The Andrew Marr Show” on the background TV set.

This Sunday morning, not unlike many of its predecessors, finds me penning the Diary edition, with popular current affairs programme, “The Andrew Marr Show” on the background TV set.

This particular morning, the general feeling about the realistic possibility of foreign holidays, this summer, is looking increasingly under threat for the majority of us expectant Brits.

Earlier this week, the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (but maybe for not much longer – watch this space, next week!) announced further information regarding the easing of the current restrictions, here in Scotland only. Subsequently, as of April 2 nd , we are “free” to move around within the limits of our council area - in my particular case, being East Lothian.

Thereafter, the next notable date will be April 26 th which will apparently allow us Scottish citizens to move around our country with absolute freedom – albeit continuing to take care to utilise only then-approved accommodations on any planned travel, in addition to the now, ever present, need to continue exercising the cautions that have now become part of our daily life.

Continuant to the above, I’m not holding out any great hope that reasonably-priced Scottish accommodations will be on offer in the immediate weeks after the “opening date” of 26 th April – however I’ll definitely be “chomping at the bit” (poised upon my doorstep, car engine already running) to get out on the road and motor reasonably far from my home base, here in Dunbar.

However, one thing at a time: it’s not even 26 th March today – and already I’m (possibly, too closely) focussed on opportunities, post 26 th April. Based upon my personal experience of dealing with the Pandemic to date (coming up for one full year of “lockdown”, two days from now!) the next month represents a fair stretch to deal with. Deep breaths to be called upon.

On the (very) positive side of things, I will be buoyantly waxing – this time next week – about our clocks “going forward” one hour, effectively giving us another hour - and increasingly so, each day - of evening light: it’s an enticing thought to now be able to walk out after dinner!

Let’s not forget, also, that as the year slowly progresses the weather does not (or it shouldn’t!) become any worse. All these little “increments” are – I believe – key to our well- being and let’s not be in any doubt here: important for the maintenance of our mental health.

As I said earlier, let’s all take a deep breath here - and make the best of our time, through April 26 th . In my own mind, I’ve set myself a list of domestic tasks to be completed by that time, meaning of course that I can take off around Scotland with my home life in good order.

This week, I (appropriately) leave you with Sam and Dave – going way back here – assuring you “Hold On, I’m Coming”. That is my message to April 26 th – and I will definitely be there! XX

Sunday 14th March 2021

After last week’s late-in-the-day publishing of The Diary, we’re back on track this Sunday.

Currently, it’s 0940 on a rather bleak and nondescript day, here in the “Kingdom of Dunbar”.

On low volume, in the background, I have the excellent “Andrew Marr Programme” – anchored by the man himself, invariably dealing with contentious news issues, from the week gone by.

Today, the focus of the programme appears to relate to the shocking murder of Sarah Everard, for which a London Metropolitan policeman has been charged with the crime. There’s a lot of furore surrounding this event, with many questions being asked about the safety of our streets, particularly in the UK’s largest cities – specifically where women are concerned.

Now, I can assure you that I will be poring over the quality reporting contained within at least two of today’s “broadsheet” Sunday newspapers, to obtain an accurate fix on all the facts surrounding this issue. However, my initial – personal - observation is that if this convicted policemen (or any man, for that matter) decides he wants to commit such a premeditated crime against a woman – particular or not – then how does all the “campaigning” in the world avoid that? Realistically, this type of crime is very unlikely to ever be fully, finally, eradicated.

My close friend Sue, and I, were yesterday reflecting (at two meters distance, in different cars!) on many unsavoury trends that appear to be developing, lately, in the world around us.

The Sarah Everard case has been staggeringly stark to comprehend and, not unexpectedly, it has nudged the subject of Misogyny to the fore of the public consciousness, again, this week. Not to belittle the existence of Misogyny, however I’m personally in little doubt that the majority of the adult men in this country are great admirers, respecters (and lovers) of the female form. Obviously, there will always exist a decisive minority, who are quite the opposite.

Our (the UK’s) streets are, in the main - and discounting certain, notable, areas of particular city urban areas – safe to walk. Conversely, a woman taking a lone walk through the late evening streets in the likes of downtown Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, or Atlanta is unquestionably inadvisable: yet those city streets are historically policed by armed officers. It still happens.

While I’m not in possession of sufficient information surrounding this tragic event of the last week, I also can’t deny my unease at certain aspects of the reporting - and the media voices.

On a brighter note – and off the back of Scotland’s continuingly successful combatting of the Coronavirus – I am looking forward to a Scottish government announcement, this coming Tuesday, which (as is being alluded) may detail a further easing of the current restrictions.

That’s definitely something to look forward to, as we struggle through the long grass of this crisis, hoping to eventually break free of its clutches. On that note, let’s plump this weekend for an accompanying track that echoes that sentiment, from a man – sadly - no longer with us, but yet instantly identifiable. Let’s share Freddie Mercury’s quest of freedom, shall we? XX

Sunday 7th March 2021

Good evening, to all you fine, upstanding, devotees of this riveting, edge-of-seat, episodic.

The key words here - so far, anyway - are “Good evening” as – probably completely throughout the Pandemic – I’ve always managed to fire through my weekly edition of the Diary to Kirstin (my trusty Website Manager – name check!) by midday, on the Sunday of its composition.

Serious deviation today, however, as I sit here at 8.04 pm in the evening – but with plausible reasoning. I may have mentioned that I have a “family WhatsApp call” each Sunday morning, being that both of our children are currently based on the other side of the world. Stella and I will always be guided by the children’s available time on these regular occasions, as we are happy to remain on the line with them, for as much time as they have available to talk with us.

Today just happened to be one of those occasions where, before we knew it, a pleasurable ninety minutes had skipped by – after which I was keen to catch an important football game in Scotland (not even my team, but a game that most bona-fide Scottish football supporters would not have wanted to miss today – with the result meaning Glasgow Rangers have won the Scottish Premier League title for the first time in ten years: a big, big, deal for their support).

Come 2.00 pm, when the game was over (and I was poignantly aware that I had not even committed one syllable to this week’s Diary entry) the weather – improving slowly by the day – was exhibiting clear blue skies and sunny interludes. Yes, it was of course futile to resist.

Then – you know how it goes – the weekly shopping needing done, after being parked down at “Whitesands” (a local, coastal, beauty spot - just south of my town) poring over the Sunday papers: the older one becomes, the more you recognise the therapeutic attraction of just “letting go” when the opportunities present themselves, although the work still needs done.

On days like these where – much as I am engaged in right now – you accept that you have to borrow from the night, to offset having kicked back in the day, then many normal evening pastimes - such as being plonked down in front of the TV – just plainly have to be sacrificed.

The above does not bother me greatly, even at the risk of having missed a programme (apart from the odd football game!) that I may have particularly button-holed for couch-surfing attention. I’ve received rigorous “training” in the “work comes first” ethos, having generally always worked evenings, in my line of work. Intense vocational focus always came easy for me.

What is not increasingly becoming easy for me (and on which I’m not so intent on focussing upon!) is this current lockdown period, rendering me little realistic chance of spreading my (“Easyjet”) wings, much before the end of May this year. Time to stop thinking about that!

The level of my mood this evening (and Sunday evening probably faring as my most “difficult” time of the week) now requires an uplifting accompanying track: thankfully, there is a vast, reliable, library to call on. This week I’m going for a track, overhead on the radio within the last hour, from legendary soul singer Jackie Wilson, called “The Sweetest Feeling”. Much Luv!

Sunday 28th February 2021

Today starts a two-month period before I’ll, personally, experience any great “Covid changes”.

Although I note “today”, it was actually from Friday 26 th , two days past, that the majority of us are facing a further two-month period – through 26 th April – of the current Coronavirus restrictions: sure, there are a few advantageous “tweaks” along the way (mainly in relation to school pupils experiencing a phased return throughout March – and the ability for two separate households to meet outdoors again). However, April 26 th shall be called The Big Day!

At this stage of the Coronavirus game, two months represents a long time and, even when that hallowed day falls, that only sees all local Scottish council areas returning to a “tiered” system. Cutting to the chase, I will be lucky to take my currently booked Easyjet flight to Paphos in Cyprus on 21 st May. The complications besetting such a trip are several fold: there is the easing of restrictions at the UK end and then the hope that Cyprus are approximately in tandem with our Government’s progress, lest I find the way “barred” upon arrival out there.

For sure, the infection/hospital admission/death rates are heading – thankfully downwards - in the right direction and long may that continue. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (although who knows for how long, as she has just – this last week – become embroiled in a legal wrangle with her predecessor, and one time mentor, Alex Salmond) is taking things slower than “Borissey”, who has predicted the end to all restrictions in England, by 21 st June.

The man is dicing with a fairly ambitious plan there which, if he gets it wrong (and, for the sake of the British public, I sincerely would not want to see that to happen) would certainly stymie any future re-election process, when that time rolls around. Maybe that’s inevitable.

Back to how I physiologically steer myself through the next two months: reasonably strict adherence to a (now) fairly well-established “lockdown” schedule, is probably the only way forward – aided by increasingly lighter days and (by slower measure) increasing daily temperatures. Both of those factors are welcome developments to assist us, in holding on to our collective sanity. Each of us must deal with the situation in a way that works best for us.

Frankly, personally, I’m not dissecting this upcoming, continued, two-month “lockdown” period with any great forensic zeal: more, I am just employing an “each-day-as-it-comes” approach – not too dissimilar to the jailed prisoner who is chalking off his sentence, on his cell wall, on a daily basis. I trust I’m not coming across here, as being too melodramatic, as I certainly don’t want to – and shouldn’t - wish my (precious) time away. I just want to spread my wings again!

I’m going to (reasonably) confidently predict that my Diary entry for (say) Sunday, May 23 rd , will be penned from beyond these shores!! In the meantime, today heralds the commencement of a two-month “stretch” which will be the sternest test yet of my constitution, during this (now) year-long Pandemic. Being that we are looking at an upcoming eight-week period that will require resolute day-to-day management, between now and 26 th April – and allowing me a little “poetic license” here – what say we elect an accompanying track that bears some tenuous relation to that. Specifically, the iconic Beatles composition “Eight Days A Weeks”. Much love.

Sunday 21st February 2021

Well: today sees something of a “milestone”, Covid-wise, in respect of your intrepid author.

Meaning? Meaning that, Thursday past, I was the recipient of my “first” Coronavirus jab!

We are told that the effectiveness of the first inoculation does not come into its own, until three weeks after it is initially administered. Essentially, for my own personal situation, I will be taking great care over the coming weeks to stick with the same schedule, and guidelines, that I’ve stuck with since the turn of the year. This is not to say that – come the middle of March – I’ll be off to Cyprus: far from it! However, it becomes another “milestone”, for me personally and, so far, that psychology has enabled me to effectively deal with this situation.

Everyone is coping with these restrictive measures in their own way - although certain factors are, undoubtedly, now easing things. Chief amongst those is – probably – the increasingly longer days (by the end of the coming week, it will still be “light” at 6.00 pm) and this will be significantly boosted by the UK clocks going forward on March 28th, meaning that by the end of next month, darkness will fall fairly close to 7.30 pm. I’m well looking “forward” to that!

Slowly – but surely – my weekly schedule to see me through these coming months is taking the sort of shape that will bode well for me, in years to come, with more time to be spent at home.

However, I’m definitely of a mind that – unless work is calling at the time – then the months of November through February is a period, on future calendars, when I won’t be sitting where I am now, penning the weekly edition of The Diary. That’s not to say I may be absent from the UK for that entire four-month period (as much because I need one or two monthly “dry runs” in areas like Cyprus, Turkey, and Madeira - to assess the actual cost of doing so). I’ve composed what I believe to be a “working” monthly budget for such “local” European locations.

Until such time as I’m in a position to make a couple of “scouting” trips to those, separate, locations, then I’m unable to fine-tune my budget calculations. However, with my experience – for example - of travelling extensively in Cyprus over the last few years, my estimate of monthly costs are based on those real experiences: the main difference being that, to considering staying for a minimum of a month- at the one time - I would need to look to rent a property locally, as one month of accumulated hotel nights would blow a hole in said budget.

I’m ready to roll with the above plan: however, of course, all bets are temporarily off until the UK’s international travel ban is lifted (I currently have three Easyjet flights “on hold”, from already-cancelled flights, to various European locations) and – painful, and realistically, as it is to admit to – I can’t see me setting foot on an airport jetway much before 1 st of June. Prior to that (hopefully!) – maybe from May onwards – “internal” UK travel could be possible.

Consequently, we all have to find the individual strength to ease ourselves through this continued lockdown – and therefore must call on every aspect of positive assistance that we can. Here, then, comes another, uplifting, accompanying track – aptly titled “Only The Strong Survive” – an unusual version from Elvis Presley! A wee bit too dramatic? Time will tell. XXX

Sunday 14th February 2021

I believe I can safely say this has been the toughest week of this “new” year, of 2021 to date.

A combination of factors, really: predominantly, the fact that we are still trudging our way through this most testing of lockdowns since the Pandemic arrived on our shores. Close on the heels of that aspect is that, since penning last week’s Diary entry, the snowfall of eight days ago is, more or less, still with us. In fairness to the weather, there has been no significant follow-up to the initial blanketing of the surrounding areas: however, off the back of almost sub-zero temperatures, any significant thawing has, therefore, been slow to materialise.

I trust I don’t come across as too much of a “killjoy”, where the snow is concerned: there is, however, a huge variation (certainly for me, but I suspect – also - for the majority of my demographic) in our levels of appreciation for snow, from when we were six years old, in contrast as to when we were sixty-six years old! Without sounding melodramatic, it has gone – for me - from delight to “danger”, over those six decades. Since upending myself last week on the thinnest, yet treacherously slick, ice that was “hiddenly” coating the Monoblock bricks on my driveway, I’m literally treading most carefully: bruising could easily have been “broken”.

“You just can’t be too careful” as my old granny used to say; how I wish she was still here to elaborate on that discussion. However, she would be very glad to know that some (it should have been more) of what I gleaned from her is still woven into my character to this very day.

Right now, I wouldn’t put my house on the fact that I will have the same opportunity to pass on the odd “life-tip” to any grandchildren of my own. In fact, I have to face up to the real possibility that the notable (my personal assertion!) Duncan lineage may “soon” grind to a halt!

This past week, I’m extremely - personally - satisfied that I’ve continued to catch up with certain folks from my past, that my formerly frantic career did not enable me to do so. I could pose the question (to myself): how can you be out of touch with people - that you (then) considered fairly close friends – for nigh on 25 years?! I am living proof that such a state of affairs can actually materialise. Pondering that “state of affairs” for a minute or two, as I am doing right now, I’m not sure I could actually rectify it greatly – given a chance of a “re-run”.

During what is, unavoidably, approaching a full year of “inactivity”, professionally (to be more succinctly articulated in a future edition of the Diary – remind me about that, folks!) I increasingly see many reasons to remain positive regarding what I have learned, personally, about myself, over that time: things that would otherwise have remained undiscovered in a work/touring environment – subsequently lying dormant for years to come. An acute thought.

It almost beggars belief that – in five weeks from now – we will have endured some form of lockdown measures for a full year. Something to compare with John Lennon’s “lost weekend”?!

On that note, let’s give the man himself the floor, in respect of this week’s accompanying track – but so much to choose from? This is surely somewhat relevant: “Starting Over”! XXX

Sunday 7th February 2021

Emboldened with our ability to have weathered January, we find ourselves charging, full speed ahead into February - this past first week being indicative of the remaining three to come.

I’ll elaborate on the above: there is no significant government Covid-update due now, until the end of February – meaning we all have to “keep at it” until then, in respect of upholding the basic preventative measures. There are encouraging signs that this belt-and-braces approach, from the public, is dovetailing with the slowdown of the country-wide confirmed Covid cases.

Personally, I continue to fine-tune my own personal lockdown regime – which I firmly believe will set me in good stead in the future: for a time when I will “naturally” be spending more time in my domestic environment. In years gone by – and for the majority of the last forty years – I could look back over any twelve-month period and summarise my annual activity, based around my touring activity: whereas I now look back to last March and find myself struggling to summarise what I have ACTUALLY accomplished over such an extended period.

As mentioned, in the body of past Diary entries, I’m certainly not staying in bed all day (although there is the odd morning – no doubt, heralded by a temporary downswing in my minor bi-polar condition – when I have certainly considered it!). I’m actually quietly thankful that there always seems to be things needing done, around the house and around the office.

We all appreciate a little R & R (Rest and Relaxation) – and its attendant benefits – however I’m sure I don’t want to reach the point where I have no practical household tasks requiring my attention. This is particularly relevant during times such as these, when current Covid regulations restrict me travelling far from my home base – or meeting up with friends socially.

At this current time, I’m pursuing the framework of a “lockdown” schedule, which will bode well for me in future times, albeit with a few ongoing tweaks. A major factor to dial into this situation – that cannot be dismissed – is the cold and wet weather at this time of year, particularly here in God’s country. What I would give to partake of my dinner outdoors this evening: however, here in Bonnie Scotland, that privilege is at least three months distant!

The key (much easier said than done on many occasions) is to rigorously retain a positive outlook: in my case, I keep memorable images of the likes of Cyprus, Vietnam – even New Zealand – stored towards the front of my imaginary file drawer, labelled “Reference”. Every so often – admittedly, on increasing occasions – I briefly slide such images out of the “file”, subsequently re-assuring myself their reality remains achievable before the end of this year.

In the meantime, I would gladly settle for being able to pitch an overnight bag into the car and scuttle off for a long weekend up in the Western Isles: however, realistically – and I sense I am already wincing as I write this – that may not come to fruition until early Summer.

Stay positive, stay positive – which means upbeat! Which in turn, allows me to give the stage over to Ms Toni Lyn Washington, for this week’s track, asking “Are You Happy Now?”. Maybe.

Sunday 31st January 2021

The “hardest” month (for as long as I can remember) finally draws to a close - in twelve hours.

Of course we, particularly those of us of advancing years, should not be tempted to wish our time away: however, for several reasons, I feel relieved that February is almost upon us.

Even climatic conditions cannot be under estimated – illustrated, close to home, by me having taken a tumble on my driveway, Tuesday past (on a “mono-block” type surface) on a very thin sheen of “black” ice, that completely escaped my gaze. I went down with a fair “clatter” – but, thankfully, nothing broken. Albeit I’m still experiencing tenderness in the area of my left hip.

Bad falls (such as the above could have been) become increasingly commonplace – particularly during periods of extreme weather – as one faces one’s advancing years: in future, I have since purchased a sturdy pair of walking boots, complete with “ice grips”. However, that little mishap was definitely a wake-up call, in respect of employing acute awareness, going forward, to guard against accidental slips and falls during wintertime. Not that I’ll be based in Scotland over future winters: as has been part of my master plan for a while (and unless work comes calling) - if only to assist in erasing the “pain” of January this year – I’ll be in sunnier climes!

On the brighter side (almost literally) of things – and within the next few days – we shall actually make it to 5.00 pm with remaining daylight on the skyline. This heralds another “mood milestone” as we gear up to tackle February. Come Tuesday (2 nd Feb.) the Scottish First Minister will announce any changes to the current lockdown system that may come into place, from the middle of February onwards: in this respect, I’m not over-confident of any significant relaxation of the current measures – this to avoid any embarrassing about-turn, by the government (i.e., returning to the current lockdown) before Spring is upon us.

Here’s one way, I believe, to view our present situation: January is (almost) behind us; the darker days – light wise - are receding; the temperatures are slowly creeping upwards – and the Covid case statistics (over the last week) are clearly showing signs of a gentle slowdown.

Beyond argument, is the unforgiveable Covid death rate here in the UK, as a whole – now up over 100,000: the fifth worst in the world. The most glaring aspect of this fact is that all of the other four countries who are currently “ahead” of us (USA/Brazil/India/Mexico) are landlocked! Compare our current figures against those of another notable island – being Japan: a country with a national population of 126 million (versus 68 million in the UK) has, to date, reported 4,935 deaths. Such a statistic brings home the UK’s woeful Pandemic management.

The accountability for this government’s handling of said Pandemic should not, way down the line (when we are again experiencing some vestige of normality) be “swept” under the carpet”: knowing our government they will conveniently fudge the findings of any future public enquiry.

In closing this week’s entry with an appropriate accompanying track (although, knowing me, this will surely be a “repeat”) there can only really only be one contender at the end such an unforgettable month (and they are – were - a Scottish band!). I give you “Pilot” with “January”!

Sunday 24th January 2021

As I sit by the window this fine morning, I can report to you: a carpet of snow lying in Dunbar!

This is only the second time this year that we have seen evidence of snow here, although on the previous occasion (three weeks back) it was here – and then gone – within the space of twenty-four hours. Conversely, this current snowfall arrived - heavily - three nights ago.

Of course, we continue to be “locked down” here in the UK in general – and Scotland in particular. The next Coronavirus update, from the First Minister of Scotland, is due on 2 nd February, however the current lockdown restrictions are likely to stay with us until the middle of next month, at the very earliest. This reinforces the need for everyone to keep the “hatches battened down”. If we require any impetus to focus on such a requirement, we need only cast a glance at the staggering UK Covid-19 death toll, to date (yesterday, sitting at 97,329), to know that – by the time I pen next week’s edition of the Diary – the figure will, sadly, have crested the 100,000 mark (meaning the fifth highest mortality rate in the world).

We just have to stay positive (and safe) in the hope that the vaccination programme continues apace and that this manifests itself in a noticeable reduction in reported Covid-19 cases. Logic would normally indicate this to be how the situation would pan out: however, particularly with (differing) “offshoot” strains of the virus having been detected in Brazil and South Africa, this virus could quite easily defy such logic. We cannot take anything for granted right now.

On a personal level, we each have to individually determine a plan to ease our way through this situation, until such times as a proven reduction in cases/hospital admissions/deaths allow our government to then feel confident, of carefully “relaxing” certain aspects of the restrictions.

Personally, I have steeled myself to the belief that the present restrictions will be with us, at least until the end of February. No way should the government allow themselves to be seduced into easing certain aspects of the current restrictions, until they are absolutely sure (a challenge in itself) that there is no possibility of the virus then gaining a fresh foothold.

It’s inconceivable that – over time – we find ourselves “yo-yoing” in and out of various levels of lockdown measures: therefore, it follows - being now at the worst stage of the Pandemic, to date - that the government have to tread extremely careful, to avoid any backward slide.

Listen to me, eh: apparently assuming a measured and sensible view of the ongoing situation – while quietly, internally, “chomping at the bit” to be on the move again. At this point, a weekend break in the Scottish Highlands (even relatively snowbound, as these areas are at the moment) seems like “worlds away”. As for being able to fly abroad, out of the country, well …………

On a further positive note, each increasing day gives us another few minutes of precious light: my next “milestone” is watching the 6.00 pm news – when I can my back fence from the window!

I’ve surely utilised this week’s accompanying track previously, however who better to succinctly summarise our situation than Mr Lenny Kravitz with “It Ain’t Over ‘til it’s Over”! X

Sunday 17th January 2021

It is indeed a sobering thought, to reflect upon the fact that we are only just over nine weeks away from when the UK first entered the Covid-19 “lockdown” on 23 rd March, last year. Where has all that time gone? Sure, I have accomplished much progress on the domestic and personal side of things: but I can recall having done extensive world tours in the same amount of time!

The Covid restrictions currently in place, when I wrote last week, have been augmented within the last seven days, mainly to control the UK borders more effectively: anyone travelling into the UK, from 04.00 am GMT tomorrow, will require to show evidence of a negative Covid PCR test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure of their flight – in addition to having to self-isolate for ten days, after their arrival int the country. Actually, now within only the last few days there have been discussions to further enhance the latter restriction, by “ordering” arriving passengers into a ten-day quarantine period, at specially nominated airport hotels.

Furthermore – and let’s see if our UK Government has the testicular fortitude to follow through on this – there has even been dialogue to the extent of having such hotel- quarantining costs covered by the incoming passengers. Sadly, this can be filed under “too little, too late”.

Of course, from my personal point of view, the action of closing all UK “Travel Corridors” has put a serious dampener on any travel plans, for the near future. I actually have a 13 th February flight booked on EasyJet, travelling out to Cyprus, however it is surely only a matter of days until I receive the ominous communication from the airline to inform me that they will have, no doubt, cancelled the flight - subsequently offering me to rebook, probably in the summer.

Believe it or not, that will then total a “credit” of three EasyJet flights: the aforementioned Cyprus trip in addition to a Turkey flight – currently rescheduled into August – and a rebooking voucher in respect of my recent decision to postpone my 22 nd December flight to Tenerife.

From a financial point of view, I am “fortunate” that I have now pre-paid those three flights (and not lost any deposits/booking fees, on associated hotels) – therefore I don’t have to save too hard, to go on my holidays! I also still have the physical Euros and Turkish Lira that I transposed from sterling, meaning that – mostly – my spending money has also been “paid for”.

“All dressed up and nowhere to go” could sum up my current situation – along with thousands of other would-be vacationers whose travel plans for 2020 never materialised. Please don’t hold me to this, but – surprisingly, as yet – no British based airline has gone out of business: sure, FlyBe “recently” declared bankruptcy, however that state of affairs had been incubating well before the end of 2019. The package-holidays company “Monarch” (who owned their own planes) and the small Scottish Highlands & Islands airline “Loganair” have also suffered as late, although both were experiencing their difficulties before Covid-19 took any serious hold.

Well, good and loyal readers, have I not spread multitudinous tidings of joy and hope in this week’s Diary entry?!! My spirits remain buoyed, my outlook positive - my bank balance reducing! In pursuit of continued positivity, there is no question this week’s accompanying track must be upbeat: let the Foo Fighters demonstrate the art of “rocking out” an old, standard, tune!

Sunday 10th January 2021

Well, well: ten days into the new year already and things remain “gloom” here in the UK, folks.

In terms of the severity of the daily reported cases of Covid-19 - and the associated, current, fatality rates, the situation is now on a par with the statistics of the original outbreak, back in March of “last” year. Worse still, these figures continue on an upwards trend, in a “race against time” - hopefully to have the approved vaccinations induce deceleration in the spread.

Ironically, for the time being anyway, the Government restrictions placed on the public are less stringent than they were, back at the beginning of the Pandemic (I won’t belabour you with the detail of the differences) however I suspect that is about to change in the coming days, with no sign of an abatement of the spread of the virus – in particular, with the latest strain, originating mainly in London and the “Home Counties”, just a few days prior to Xmas.

There is little more that can be done by each of us, as individuals: other than to stay housebound, except for time allowed outside for exercise. As regards the latter, I personally feel that the current restrictions are not tight enough (allowing people to drive to a place of exercise). This has manifested itself in far too many cars on the roads, at this present time. If exercise, for the next few weeks, comes down to just a walk around the housing estate or incorporating one’s exercise period within a visit to the food store, then so be it. If such tough measures dictate than we can slow this virus significantly, then we’ll just have to “buckle down”. This virus thrives and multiplies from the proximity of human beings: therefore, if said human beings do not come into close contact with each other, the virus can’t migrate.

Of course, the current situation is doing little for my future work prospects and – much as I’m loathed to admit it to myself – I suspect that one or two already-rescheduled tours that I was destined to have an involvement with (having already been “pushed” into 2021) may yet find themselves the subject of further re-scheduling, towards the back end of this year.

As I hi-lighted in one (possibly more) of my Diary editions, towards the end of last year, I am in a more fortunate position than most, being into the fifth decade of what has been for me – for most of the time anyway – a fairly successful career. While I have certainly “splurged” considerable amounts of money on a few notable (if only “notable”, due to the losses!) projects, down the years, that has not been the case during – at least – the last fifteen to twenty years.

What I have at the moment, I am now firmly holding onto – especially with my future work prospects being “well up in the air”. No doubt, like the majority of us, I’m having to dig into my savings to underpin my cost of living. Thankfully, with our social movement very much restricted during these times, personal expenditure is minimal: allowing those of us who are fortunate enough to be mortgage free at this time of our lives, not to be haemorrhaging money.

It sounds like a line from an old movie, but “all we can do now is wait”. I would naturally be misleading you if I did not admit to missing the lifestyle that has comprised my livelihood for almost 50 years now – as much for the camaraderie and rapport, as for the lost earnings. I have to believe everything will be back to normal, this time next year: therefore, this evening I leave you with Hurricane Smith, sending a message to my business, with “Don’t Let it Die”.

Sunday 3rd January 2021

Welcome to the year of 2021 – however, the news this morning, here in the UK, is not great.

Listening to the lunchtime news, a couple of hours ago, I have heard that the Scottish parliament have called an emergency meeting for tomorrow (Monday, 4 th ) to discuss – and endeavour to mitigate – the predicted Covid-19 increase in positive cases, which have, alarmingly, gone “through the roof”, off the back of the Xmas and New Year holidays period.

I’m back! From where, you say? From where I left off earlier, with this week’s Diary entry hardly started - at 11.00 am this morning. Reason being - my son had called from Australia just before midday and we spent quite some time catching up with each other’s situations. After which I became embroiled in the usual weekend domestic chores: thank God that houses actually, considerably, appreciate in value, as there’s an undeniable amount of work involved in keeping them up to scratch! Trust me, folks, there’s few feelings comparable to waking up one morning (more than likely, in the second half of your life, I would be the first to admit) to find out that you are suddenly mortgage free. Yes, I’m there now – however I achieved that feat a good ten years later than I should have: but I can absolutely assure you that I’m not letting go. I still pinch myself some mornings to know that I pulled through an odious situation.

On the subject of reality – and casting a nod back up to paragraph two – this Covid-19 situation (certainly here in the UK) has all the hallmarks of turning worse before it turns better, at least through the best part of January, I reckon. Only within the last thirty minutes – with the BBC-24 news service on in the background here, at home – the Scottish parliament have announced the convening of an emergency meeting in Edinburgh tomorrow, to address the ever-escalating positive cases of Covid-19: worryingly, now, an “offshoot”, strain of the virus.

I’m fully prepared for the very real possibility that we could be heading back into a, full-on, “lockdown” situation, such as we were subjected to back in March and April of “last” year. Back then (if I recall correctly – it was a while ago now!) we were allowed outside of our own homes for one hour daily, for exercising and/or dog walking – with an additional allowance to have the time to shop for household essentials (which – I think - was curtailed to once a week).

Come this time next week, I’ll certainly have a clearer picture of the situation to convey to you: however, I fear, the only “positive” thing I’ll be reporting on will be the rise in positive Covid-19 cases. We, as a nation, are going to have to be prepared to ride out this “third spike” at least until the end of this month. Once we are into the earlier part of February, we have to believe their will come a reversal in the daily cases/hospital admissions and (sadly) deaths.

With God willing, by that time, the overall Covid situation will be aided by the countrywide vaccination roll-out: a procedure – morally and priority wise by – that will take the best part of the first six months of the year, to ensure that the entire UK population are vaccinated.

Apologies that – while we must continue to fan the flames of hope – the news for the coming month is hardly encouraging. Yet, the light is discernible at the end of the tunnel: we’re just unable to accurately gauge the length of the tunnel. On that note, here comes a personal message for you all from the “Oxford” vaccine, in the form of an iconic Sam and Dave tune!

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