Merry Christmas to one and all! How did this iconic day manage to roll around so quickly?
This morning I enjoyed Christmas brunch with my sister and her daughter, then motored down to the Scottish Borders, having graciously accepted a surprise invitation from my good friend Rebecca (also a Tour Manager, to trade) to join she and her family for a wee Christmas lunch.
Unfortunately, no “White Christmas” to report – in either locale - although I did hear on the radio, on the drive back to Dunbar this early evening, that we may actually experience a late snowfall prior to midnight tonight. Personally, I doubt that will happen in the few hours left.
Earlier this week, around Tuesday/Wednesday we suffered a fairly heavy overnight frost, resulting in several treacherous patches of black ice within the 26-house cul-de-sac where I reside. It turns out that our fairly “vicious” speedbump at the entrance to the cul-de-sac cannot be negotiated by the standard council “gritter” (it’s low under-chassis “grounds out”).
When my fellow residents warn me, via our dedicated Facebook group - that conditions are treacherous underfoot – then I just take a few steps towards my car, and don’t walk any further. You may recall me suffering a fairly heavy fall, a few years back, within forty feet of my front door – which, consequently, has led to my decision to spend more time out of the country during the UK winter (which I view as the months of November through February).
Having said the above, I returned from Cyprus on 7th December this year, being that there were several Christmas lunch/event gatherings – linked to several local (social) organisations, with which I have become involved since relocating to Dunbar a good few years ago. I can see that practice (“returning” in December) continuing, although it will probably be closer to mid-December when I arrive back into Scotland, in the future. That possibly allows me a “2-week credit” against my currently planned four months out of the country, over the calendar year.
As far as the afore mentioned plan is concerned, it is still very much a work in progress: oddly enough, I need to spend more time out of the country (in relatively short spells) before I am in a position to ascertain whether that will work for me, in the years ahead. As I sit here today (confession: it’s Saturday 31st, but Christmas activities decreed that it’s taken until today to finish last week’s entry) gazing out the office window, it could easily represent a late October day. However, when I venture outside later, it won’t be late October temperatures!
You’ve heard me lay claim to this before: I just want to sit outside in a t-shirt, reading my favourite book of the moment – or wander into “local uncharted” surroundings somewhere, similarly adorned. That, idealistically, pretty much (at an absolute minimum) takes the months of November through February, in the UK, right out of the equation. Therein lies my dilemma.
As you leave me wrestling with that little challenge, I cannot resist the opportunity to leave you with yet another corker BB King version of a Christmas song. For this year of 2022 – careering to an imminent close – I leave you with “Christmas Comes But Once A Year”. XXX
Exactly one week to go until Christmas: no snow on the ground today - yet still severely cold!
This date is also significant in the world of football - being that, at 3.00 pm today, football will witness the first World Cup final in the month of December. Qatar actually pulled it off!
However, when I say “pulled it off” I refer mainly to that country’s mastery of the infinite complexity of the logistics involved, not the least of which were the huge climatical challenges.
In terms of the myriad of other “dark” shenanigans that initiated the (successful) bidding process: well, folks, that is – and will remain for years – a whole other political maelstrom.
That surreptitious “corruption” (to even elevate Qatar onto the short-list of the bidding process) was inextricably weaved into the fabric is without question. There should someday be an attempt to make a movie about this. Personally, I’ve little doubt that the likes of Netflix – if only based upon their recent excellent four-part series investigating the financial mismanagement at FIFA, over the last decade – could produce an intense investigative study.
Once again (as on many previous, notable, occasions) the indisputable bedrock – the fans – of world football have had a veil drawn over the eyes, with the undoubted splendour and carnival of this world cup campaign. Such a multi-coloured blur of light did not reach the dark corners.
Back to life – back to reality (which just happens to be the title of last week’s accompanying track): how do I see 2023 unfolding for me personally? Well, I can’t yet say with any concrete certainty. For the time being, I will try and seek additional refuge from this biting Winter by disappearing to the likes of Tenerife during January. Most of the mornings I’ve experienced back here, since returning from Cyprus, have featured temperatures averaging below 0 degrees
Regular readers of this Diary will recall the occasion of me upending myself, two years ago this month, on “disguised” black ice covering the mono-block at the head of my driveway. On that occasion my left shoulder took the brunt of the fall, saving any damage to the likes of my hip. That occurrence continues to make me very wary, while out and about in this weather.
I can be thankful, with my hometown of Dunbar being located on the East Lothian coastline of Scotland, that we are not plagued by the regularity of snow and ice – such as many of our “inland” neighbouring towns suffer. However, on the occasions when such weather visits upon us it can render local road and pavement surfaces treacherous. That’s definitely not for me!
Referring back to the gist of my opening paragraphs this week, I am planning to plonk myself down in front of the television, in just over ninety minutes time, to take in the final game of The World cup, contested this time around by Argentina and France. I sense Argentina emerging as the victors (for no particular reason!). In closing up this week, as next week also, it is only fitting to choose a Xmas-themed track. From an era which I would have loved as my “heyday”: I give you Ella Fitzgerald (& Louis Jordan): “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” – which it is! X
This week I have certainly been reminded what a (huge!) difference 20 degrees Centigrade can make!
The above was brought home to me as they opened the plane’s doors at Edinburgh airport, just after 10.00 pm on Wednesday past, following a five-hour flight from Paphos. I knew what to expect, having checked the UK weather forecast on Wednesday morning (while sat on the little balcony of my guest house, clad in only vest ad shorts!) before preparing to leave for the airport: in fact, I even had a quick peek at the possibilities of flying home at a later date!
Unsurprisingly, attempting to switch flights at short notice in December (with a view to staying another week or so) from such a popular tourist destination, was always going to prove expensive: hence the reason I’m back in Dunbar, on the scheduled flight I originally booked!
Realistically, there are various things I need to attend to back here, having been away from Scotland for a month. Additionally – and more importantly – with the impending Christmas holiday period, it gives me the opportunity to catch up with a bunch of people – particularly my close family (although, in my son’s case, that will be “limited” to an extended Zoom call).
Having just experienced a full month of mostly pleasant weater, it was always going to be difficult to acclimatise to a Scottish winter (current temperature 0 degrees) – and, even in the days I have been back here, I can’t report that said acclimatisation is exactly going swimmingly!
Seriously: provided you have the wherewithal to action it, who chooses to remain – over the UK Winter - in a dark and cold environment of virtually sub-zero temperatures when hours of daily sunshine are on offer? In reality, such opportunity is the preserve of a lucky minority.
I need to push on through the remainder of December – dealing with these winter weather conditions – before making any informed decision towards the “master plan” of how many (and which) months I will ultimately spend out of the UK in future, in any given calendar year. My initial feelings, in the early stages of this “experiment”, is that - apart from the “obvious” months of January and February spent in warmer climes – certainly November will join that list. That leaves – in terms of “Jake’s Life Budget” – two additional months to be nominated, provided I can keep those monthly costs down when I am out of the country. Currently, the record will show that I’ve managed that, over the last four weeks in Cyprus. So far, so good.
My gut feeling is that I won’t spend more than two weeks of December in the country in the years ahead, so maybe I add those two weeks to the “established” months of January and February, then add another two weeks for the first half of March: leaving me a month in the middle of the year as a “wild card” to break up the, then elongated, March – October period.
I am unlikely to be any less clear on the above plan, by the time of next week’s Diary entry: I just need a little more time to apply some logical, calm, reasoning. In the meantime, with the acclimatisation theme leading this week’s ramblings, I vote we look to “Soul 11 Soul” for this week’s accompanying track, with “Back to Life – Back to Reality”. Will I ever get there?! XX
Today finds me still sunning myself in Cyprus – and yet wrestling with something of a quandary.
Let’s deal with the “sunning” aspect first: this is not to rub it in, where my UK readers are concerned (said readers who are enduring temperatures in the region of 6/7 degrees) while I sashay along to the local supermarket, clad only in shorts and a vest, basking in a comfortable 20 degrees
When I fly back to Scotland this coming Wednesday, it will be the culmination of twenty-eight consecutive days spent on the island here (in a variety of contrasting locations). I had to “invest” in such an extensive stay, in an attempt to ascertain whether this is the “way to go” for me in the years ahead. Consequently, on this finer point, I’m going to hold off until this time next week, back in the UK, before embarking on an overall “detached” view of things.
As for the mention of the “quandary” on the opening line of this weekend’s entry, well ……….
There is a very real possibility of me having the opportunity to jump onto a major Artist’s tour, commencing in just over five weeks from now but (keeping in mind the impending holiday period) this represents little more than four “working weeks”. Aside from my minor bipolar state of mind – that can occasionally develop a tendency bounce around like a ping-pong ball – I also have to be wary of my willingness to go charging into a situation where I know I can effect positive change, but which allows me precious little time to introduce those changes.
It's surely often a question that successful businesspeople are confronted with in the autumnal years of their careers: if they believe they are “safely solvent” for the foreseeable future – and, therefore, have no pressing need of the money – why invite unnecessary stress?
That, folks, is the crossroads at where I currently find myself, stymied, at this particular junction of my career. Yes, undeniably, the nature of the touring business in which I am involved promises a tangible – almost palatable – “buzz”, however that buzz requires the application of sixteen-hour days and a relentless work ethic. Money aside, is it “worth” it? Particularly where (aging) health considerations are concerned? Common sense says what?
On the flip side of that coin (hypothetically projecting myself into a situation where I consciously decide to veer away from going out on the road again) – what are the possibilities I can re-create that “buzz”, within another field of – even unpaid – “employment”? The odds are against it, but maybe there is a sense of fulfilment out there that I have yet to stumble upon: some possible aspect of altruistic involvement, that promises meaningful inspiration?
As is often the case with my regular Diary entries, I have taken this opportunity to allow my present thoughts just to tumble into type, before I possibly lose track of these myriad of threads that – often, very temporarily – weave themselves into my random thought patterns.
If nothing else, I can always refer back to entries such as these, to ascertain “where my head was at”! My thought patterns give rise to this iconic Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes tune! X
Honestly, folks: you couldn’t make it up – and welcome to Cyprus! Shall I endeavour to explain?
On Wednesday past, 23rd of this month, I made my third locational move within Cyprus – in this case, an old coastal haunt of mine (around 18 miles east of Paphos, called Pissouri Bay) of which I have definitely made mention at some point in the past. Serenity personified, indeed.
Looking forward to snatching an extra hour of sleep this morning (it’s a Sunday after all), I was rudely awakened, around 07.30 am, by the ear-splitting sound of the revving of some obviously highly-tuned automobile engine. Believing this to surely only be the inconsiderate disturbance of some local “racer-boy”, I dragged the covers securely back over my head.
No such luck: the cacophony just proceeded to increase with the awakening of the day, driving me prematurely out of my bed to investigate the source of this ungodly automotive clamour: initially, within the depths of my subconscious mind, it honestly felt as if my bed had been somehow whisked away from its cosy little corner of my “Kotzias Apartments” room and summarily dropped into the pit area at Silverstone (the premium British car racing circuit).
A quick glance outside the apartment revealed a host of - what I would have termed in my youth - “Hot Rod” cars: finely tuned versions of small to medium sized family cars, in this instance being piloted by seriously-intense looking – and crash helmeted – determined drivers.
I knew the internet would at least go part ways to revealing what was actually going on here, in what I always perceived to be a sleepy little village conveniently nestled on a cool little bay.
Turns out this annual event is known as the “Pissouri Hill Climb Challenge”. It is therefore more than relevant that I now mention the fact that there is also a Pissouri village, in addition to Pissouri Bay, where I am currently billeted. Both these settlements – as well as being able to be reached independently from the B6 highway (the original road running from Paphos to Limassol) are also connected by a back road that runs down from the village’s exalted position on a prominent outcrop, all the way – three kilometres – down here, right to the coastline.
By now you have probably started to deduce that the “Uphill Challenge” is actually the afore-mentioned three-kilometre ascent, apparently closed off to local traffic for the best part of the day while these “boys with their toys” go tear-assing, gung-ho, up the hill to the village.
My guess is that the locals (and certainly the local businesses) tolerate the brain-numbing racket on account that it unquestionably livens the place up while pulling in a fair crowd – but, if its “not your bag” – and it’s really not mine – you would be grateful for the early sunset!
The contrast as to how eerily quiet it has now become outside, is hard to fathom. However, it will undoubtedly go down as one of the most clamorous Sundays I have ever had to live through – meaning it’s only fair that this week’s accompanying track must bear witness to what I have had to endure throughout this day, with some well-intended (Beatles) advice: “Slow Down”! X
I’m still out in Cyprus, I can report today: right now, it’s a very easy country to “warm to”.
Having spent various times of the year out here – over the several times I’ve visited in the past six or seven years – my growing impression is that November has much to commend itself for: decently-priced flights; “comfortable” temperatures – and inexpensive hotel prices.
Ideally, given free rein to choose the best time of the year, I would probably go for mid-October through mid-November, to additionally benefit from the “extra hour” of daylight.
You may recall, last week, that I made mention of having been the only guest in the small hotel that I utilised in Polis. Now, having re-located three kilometres west to the neighbouring town of Latchi (and the “Souli Beach Hotel” to be exact) I now find myself one of only – maybe – twelve resident guests in this hotel. I make this assumption based upon the numbers of my fellow guests appearing at breakfast: right next to the waterside, so not to be missed out on!
Like many of the more “off-the-beaten” track hotels out in Cyprus (i.e., not located in the cities of Paphos, Limassol or Larnaka) the off-season period when they completely shut up shop approximately encompasses 1st December through until 1st March. In defence of this fairly widespread, off-season, approach in the outlying areas, my initial research points to the average monthly temperatures – during the afore-mentioned time – to be dipping below 20 degrees.
Being that, during that specific period, I note that the Canary Islands (arguably the most popular “winter” holiday location for British tourists) can boast average daily temperatures of around 23 degrees – and more days of uninterrupted sunshine – Cyprus tends to “lose out” during that time. Personally, I see that as rather unfortunate - where Cyprus is concerned - as there certainly exists a much more “historical feel” for this island, than compared to (say) Tenerife.
You may (may) be wondering what “Billy-No-Mates” (that’s me) here, does to fill in his time. Surprisingly, I rarely find myself at a loose end. When you vector into the mix that I’m an avid reader (and even the smallest of these hotels in Cyprus tend to have a limited “rolling library” of English paperbacks shelved somewhere in the proximity of the reception area) – coupled to so many pleasant, sunny, walks which are generally right on one’s hotel doorstep, then that’s a most enjoyable half of the day spoken for. Throw into that mix the leisurely breakfast and dinner mealtimes (what’s the hurry?); the “travel days” between the four, different, chosen locations where I’ll reside; the occasional day of rental car usage & the fact that nearly all hotel bathrooms out here actually have a bath: it’s fair to say, I’m well sorted!
On Wednesday coming I will re-locate to a favourite “seaside” location of mine, on the south-west coast of the island (which I’ve definitely made mention of, in the past), namely Pissouri Bay. The apartment is a self-catering set-up, so I may even cook my own dinner one night.
I leave you this week with Donavon (a Scottish lad!) who is giving his take of how I may possibly be viewing myself at this time of year, in this location. Could I be a “Sunshine Superman”?! X
Well, I did say a wee trip to sunnier climes was on the cards? So here I am - back in Cyprus!
Admittedly, something of a last-minute decision - which I alluded to in last week’s entry.
There is some minor building work requiring to be carried out at the house in the upcoming week, so what better time to have impulsively jumped on a plane (having dug up a reasonably inexpensive “Easyjet” return flight, at short notice – surprisingly, I have to say) and landed myself out here, Wednesday evening past. Currently, I am based in the northerly Polis/Latchi area although – invariably – if I mention I’m billeted on the north of the island, it is generally assumed that I have elected to stay in the “Turkish” sector. So, now, I always say north-west!
During the now multiple times (must be coming up to fifteen separate occasions) I have visited this island, I have never once ventured into the Turkish sector. My opinion may do that part of the island a disservice, however I have the feeling – not really based on much of my own empirical evidence – that the (south) Greek-Cypriot area of the island is more “cosmopolitan”.
When Alice was based out here with the UK Military (calm down, Whitehall, this is hardly the stuff of state secrets) she, and some of her military-contractor colleagues, did venture into the northern part of the island and – I believe – drove all the way to the tip of the “panhandle”.
I’m currently staying at a small hotel (30+ bedroom capacity) about 600 metres west of the town centre, on the “main” road linking Polis to its neighbouring town of Latchi, where I’m sure I’m made mention of having stayed, a few times in the past (at the “Souli Beach” hotel).
Of course, it’s not The Hilton here (I never pick up the bills when the hotel-stays reach that sort of level!) but I have an apartment room (cooking facilities; fridge; toaster) with air-conditioning and a bath as well as a shower and – beat into this Paris Hilton – I’m paying 35 Euros a night (approx. £32.00) for the room. But wait – continental breakfast is also included!
Sure, it is approaching the off-season here in Cyprus whereby my small hotel – along with many others, located outwith the cities of Paphos, Limassol and Larnaka – will soon close for said off (winter) season. I was still surprised to learn that many will not re-open until March.
As part of my ongoing “Euro Winter Sun” research, I have further learned (and also recalled from certain past occasions, when I visited Alice out here) that December through March can generally boast temperatures “only” averaging 17-18 degrees – being noticeably chillier at night.
If I’m impulsively going to hi-tail out of Scotland again, over the afore-mentioned three months, then The Canary Islands may find themselves favoured over Cyprus. We shall see!
So – what track can I leave you with to somehow reflect my first four days back on the island? How’s about we take an “opposites” tack (properly referred to the anti-thesis?!) and give you The Eagles and “Life in the Fast Lane” – which I couldn’t be any further away from right now!
Darkness now falling by 5.00 pm in the afternoon: not an ideal state of affairs for me, folks!
Surely, the majority of the UK population – more or less – must feel the same way: these nights that commence almost before the afternoon is over, obviously curtails so many aspects of evening activity. Technically speaking, you can still go running; you can still go out on the bike – providing considerable care is vectored into such procedures. However, I would argue that the “fun” element of such pursuits becomes drastically reduced, in such circumstances.
Without seeming to over-dramatize the situation, the majority of us are now essentially “housebound” in the evening – at the mercy of the dark and the cold – are we not? And this state of affairs will – for the foreseeable future – remain in place (I would think) until at least the end of January, after which we can enjoy extra minutes of light, each ongoing day.
Nevertheless, in spite of a fairly crisp and bright October – and even making allowance for the incremental changes that global warming will herald in, over the coming years – the months of November through February will be far from “t-shirt weather”: there’s no way round that.
How did I “breeze” through the afore mentioned, four-month, Winter period in years gone by? Part of the answer lies in the fact that, simply, I was younger then! One’s attitude towards – and tolerance of – the Winter months was less critical when one’s life was busier: in my particular situation, in many cases, I was out on tour at this time of year and – although not ideal, health wise – because we spend so much of our touring days in the bowels of arena venues, we have little time to ponder – or indeed witness – these shortened, shivery, days.
In fact, it is invariably the case that, on such show days (during the November through February period), you are tumbling off the crew bus, into the venue, before dawn – and (with the exception of the arena production offices that feature a window into the wide world – only four out of twelve at the last count!) trudging back out to the crew bus in the wee, wee, hours of the morning: I had to pause for a moment, at the end of that last sentence, to reflect upon just how many days of my life have succumbed to such a punishing, 16-hour, existence.
How many more times in my life will I find myself immersed back in such an environment? Really hard to say, at the moment. I’m here if Artist Management (most of whom who are half my age) want me: however – and of course being reasonably solvent at this time in my life, allows me to proclaim the following – I have no pressing need to actively go soliciting for work.
All in all, maybe time to steal away again for a cheapo break in Europe somewhere (and, as alluded to last week, there will certainly be some savings to be made on home energy costs!), no doubt to a fairly familiar location – into which category firmly comes Cyprus and Tenerife.
Admittedly, I’m very fortunate to be able to skip off at (almost) a moment’s notice – although the resources to allow me to do so, were hard earned. With that in mind I leave you this week with a “going away” sort of song, as the iconic Bob Seger decides it’s time to visit “Katmandu”!
Weather, eh? Less unpredictable than it once was, but nevertheless – subject to change.
I only wade in, this week, with the above subject as – just glancing back at last week’s entry – I note that I mentioned it being somewhat “chilly”, on arriving back at Edinburgh in the wee hours of that week’s Thursday morning, and also the couple of days following on from that.
However, come the start of this week, we have enjoyed unusually mild temperatures for late October (averaging 15 degrees) – an undeniable, gratefully-accepted, bonus for this time of year.
As alluded to in last week’s entry, I’m feeling quietly confident about the prospect of knocking October off my, ever-evolving, “months spent out of the UK” list (now at a maximum of five).
On the community front, this weekend was nicely rounded off with our local team, Dunbar United FC, securing a (late!) 1–0 result against “Dunipace Juniors” yesterday, at “home”. Our team currently sit TOP of the East of Scotland First Division, in the (fairly realistic, as time goes on) hope of being promoted back to the East of Scotland Premier League, from where we were “relegated” last season. After that, it’s all about “staying up” in the Premier division!
On the work front, I continue to do ……. nothing! I’ve personally mapped out the next two months, to accomplish a plethora of domestic tasks, in time for Santa showing up. That time period also includes a good few weeks based in either Cyprus or Tenerife, in defence of my Winter tan! Although, think of the money I will be saving on my own domestic (UK) utility bills.
By way of a minor confession, I actually laid today’s entry aside earlier this afternoon, with only a few paragraphs penned, subsequent to my sister calling to enquire if I fancied motoring over to the neighbouring coastal town of North Berwick to join her for coffee - to which I succumbed. Driving back from there, late afternoon, I suddenly found myself in darkness by just after five, forgetting that our clocks had “gone back” one hour, as of 02.00 this morning. Regular readers of my waffling will be aware of my (lack of) relationship with the dark!
This situation is only going to decrease, incrementally, through December 21st (reputedly the shortest day of the year) by which time we’ll be lucky to be enjoying any daylight after 4.00 pm in the afternoon. It would be most gratifying if these mild temperatures were to extend into November – but then I really have to remind myself I’m a Northern Hemisphere resident.
In just over five days from now, my daughter Jade reaches the responsible age of 33. Thirty-three?!! Even committing that fact to print, as I sit here, remains difficult to comprehend. We actually had dinner together last night, a short walk from her recent house purchase - at one of the toughest periods in recent modern times, to attempt to clamber onto the property ladder: but clamber on, she and her partner have managed to do, so the “worst” is behind her.
In recognition of this momentous step they have taken, this week’s chosen track pays homage to their commitment. I leave you with McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”!
Back at base in Dunbar again, having arrived in to (a chilly!) Edinburgh, early Thursday morning.
In fairness to the city of my birth, I was hardly going to encounter balmy temperatures, stepping off a plane - at that time in the morning – in the Northern Hemisphere, especially when November beckons, only one week away. “Is it that time of year already” they say. It is!
Bearing some relation to the above, I’ll keep this next (first of the day?) moan to an appreciable minimum: please, please, please - is there any way to pass a law against Xmas advertising commencing in October?! However, as well we are aware, big business and greed-fuelled commerce cares (really) not a jot for the impending austere plight in which the vast majority of our population will find themselves, before this festive season draws to an end.
This is not to say most of those afore-mentioned people were not (technically) living beyond their means, anyway – in keeping with the situation with where their country’s government now finds itself – however to place further seasonal temptations firmly on their doorsteps, borders on the immoral. Sadly, at least for this year, the damage is already done: the Christmas monster is coming down the line at speed – and the only thing that slow its thundering charge, is the onset of January 2023. Everyone has no choice now, but to hang on.
Yesterday was a memorable one, community wise, for our small town of Dunbar as we faced up to the University of Stirling, in the second round of the Scottish Cup. Alas, it was not to be, as we were fairly soundly beaten 3 – 1, all the harder to bear since we opened the scoring in the first five minutes! This did not detract however from the obvious community spirit in evidence, with what I would estimate to be a near-300 paid attendance. Dunbar United are nevertheless still involved in two lesser cup competitions (and riding high in their East of Scotland league table) so I have to believe there are a few more memorable footballing occasions to be enjoyed before the current season draws to a close. C’mon The Seasiders!
As far as the World of Jake Duncan continues to evolve (and fairly convinced now that October will not require to be a “stay away from the UK” month) I continue to fine-tune the afore-mentioned “stay away” plan which – governed by budget, as much as any other factor – looks to be settling into a framework where I’ll be abroad from November through February.
As if to endorse my thinking, above, today’s Sunday sun is now streaming through the substantially glassed Dunbar Garden Centre coffee shop, almost seeming to be saying “you’ll be fine back here in Dunbar for the duration of October”. I tend to agree, subsequent to which I can already feel a wee “Life Budget” spreadsheet-tweaking, before the day is done!
I’m off to pay my daughter Jade a late afternoon visit, at her new house, only around thirty minutes’ drive from me: such occasions falling firmly into the “quality time” bracket. This is going to prompt me into choosing an accompanying track from my “Jade Playlist” on my laptop. This particular track is not making its first appearance, but (for me) it’s a cracker, by one of my long-term favourite blues musicians: none other than Buddy Guy with “She’s A Superstar”.
A (literally) warm good afternoon from the quintessential coastal village of Los Abrigos.
I arrived down here, from Edinburgh, Wednesday past, for the start of a seven-day break.
I’m not sure whether, in this particular case, that “break” is necessarily the most apt word – as that usually (to my mind, anyway) signifies the interruption of a fairly intense period of work and, let’s be honest, that hardly describes what I’ve been up to, for the past few months!
Shall we look upon it as one of several “credit breaks” that I’ve banked over the course of my working life: a forlorn attempt to now correct the skewed life/work balance that I’ve lived.
Still: never too late though to introduce some form or regimen than eases things onto a more even keel. While I remain “out of work” (I’m hardly going looking for anything) these little European jaunts will continue to feature regularly over the course of the Scottish winter – the latter currently, personally, re-defined as the months of November through February.
In comparison to the likes of Cyprus, sundown in the Canary Islands is a good hour and a half later – happening at around 7.45 pm: the UK is currently “shaming” itself with an approximate sundown time of 6.53 pm (I just checked). Even so, retaining Tenerife as the example, with its 7.45 pm sundown time, it is still a most memorably pleasurable experience to be able to spend the remainder of the evening wandering, clad only in t-shirt, shorts and light trainers.
Unfortunately, I awoke in the Guest House here (“Estorile de Mar”) on the morning after my arrival to discover the onset of a streaming cold, the likes of which I have not experienced since a “Little Mix” UK tour in late 2019. Now, on tour – when you’re receiving little change from a sixteen-hour working day, with all its attendant strains and stresses, it can take severable miserable days to shake off such an ailment. From such past experiences, I’ve learned that if you are able to just “rest-up” your body – calling upon it only to service the basic functions of existence – it will then turn its attentions, and (now) reserves of inherent energy, to the business of cell repair and infection. To that end, I came up with a cunning plan!
“Cunning” might be over-egging the pudding somewhat: I essentially plumped for laying down on my room bed, with not much movement incurred at all, on any ancillary activities. This enforced period was punctuated by a wee walk up the hill to the “Farmacia” to lay my hands on a bottle of (what appeared to be) the equivalent of the proprietary UK “Night Nurse”.
Initiating the medicine’s “three times a day, after meals” regime from Thursday dinner onwards, I was pleased to awake yesterday morning with my cold symptoms appreciably abated. What happened next requires the space of next week’s Diary entry to further detail!
In the meantime, with another three days of my mini-break to go, I’ll nominate a great wee track to accompany this week’s edition as I sit here (as I may have omitted to mention earlier) on the wee balcony attached to the room: none other than The Kinks with “Sunny Afternoon”!
I’m making an early start to today’s Diary entry, because of a family gathering this afternoon.
I should possibly define “family” more accurately in this particular context: apart from my daughter being present, I haven’t met any of the other family members who will be present – so these are actually “distant” family members, from England, who are visiting the grave (in the Liberton district of Edinburgh) of a grandparent. This has come about as a result of my daughter Jade’s recent family-tree research – and the subsequent contacts she has made.
I’m sure that once I’ve hooked up with those folks later today, other family-tree lines will disentangle themselves. My brief involvement with Jade’s past research has certainly left me with the impression that tracing family-tree history can evolve into a very passionate cause!
Undoubtedly, there is often mesmerising intrigue follows, once you attempt to unravel the tentacles of one’s family tree: maybe I’ll drift back towards having a future involvement in it.
On a more personal level, in terms of my own situation, I continue to work towards a way of life that determines being based in Dunbar most of the time. Having said that, there’s a good chance – to which I’ve alluded in recent times – if the winter months do not produce any work for me, then I’m very likely going to sneak away to warmer climes: who could really blame me?
In the above case, I’m fairly resigned – based upon my experience of the two territories – to the fact that I’ll end up in either Cyprus or Tenerife. Both have a favourable winter climate; a relatively inexpensive laidback lifestyle – and a welcome smattering of “ex-pat” residents.
For future reference, based upon its first nine days so far, October certainly appears to be a month that I could comfortably spend at “homebase”. However, I have the sneaking suspicion that November will not slot into that same category. To be more precise in respect of October: the days have been bright and occasionally warm, but not without notable, concentrated periods of rainfall. However, the late to mid evening temperatures are dropping.
Consequently, in the years to come, I’m growing more confident (and less wimpish?!) that I can handle spending the complete month of October based back here in Scotland – but have no intention of attempting to amend my current “annual budgetary” plan, before January 2023.
Overall, I can have no complaints with the way my winter travel plans are shaping up: all that would possibly interfere with said planning, would be an imminent offer of work! The way I feel at the moment, I’m comfortably resigned to no such work offers transpiring before the end of this current year. I surprise myself that this situation is no great concern to me!
I must mention, however, that I’m aware of the probable offer of three different tours next year (more details, when the contracts are signed at a later date!) so this, of course, enables me the luxury of not having to concern myself, regarding the rest of this year. With that relief in mind, I leave you this week with an iconic Free song - none other than “Alright Now”!
Hail the first day of October – and subsequently: prepare for a change in the UK weather!
For those readers beyond the shores of the UK, I come to you this week at a time when my country seems to be on a course towards (hopefully only ) temporary financial “stagnation”. The manifestations of the position into which our newly-elected Prime Minister’s Chancellor’s office have apparently placed us, is beyond the full understanding of simple folks, like me.
This much I can confirm, from a very personal viewpoint of the situation: my private (lifetime) pension has had over £4,000+ wiped off its current value, in a matter of ten days! While I am aware (and every pension company is – legally - at pains to point out) the values of one’s (any) investments runs the risk of decreasing as well as increasing. We are however aware that – for the most part, and in reasonably buoyant economic times - the latter is more likely the case: otherwise, long term, who would risk continual, lifetime, investment in such “products”?
As I may have mentioned in recent editions of The Diary, many, many, people are now facing the prospect of an almost-unprecedented (certainly within the last twenty years) austere Christmas period. In contrast to that, a fair portion of people within my demographic are now in a mortgage-free situation, with some savings put aside and – even though their investments may be stuck in “park” at the moment – their state pension gives them some form of safeguard.
The UK economic situation will very probably become worse, before it becomes better – meaning the majority of the working population, in (say) the 18 – 40 age group, are again facing difficult financial times, progressively worse, in the coming sixth months. Things are always tight, money-wise, for families, following the festive period - at least throughout January.
Of course, even if you know only a little of my own “chequered” history, you’ll be aware that I once experienced a particularly extreme period of hardship, around twenty-five years ago – from which I was very fortunate to extricate myself, albeit by way of insane working hours.
By the same token, when survival is the name of the game, I’m convinced the majority of fathers and mothers – facing the afore-mentioned difficult times – would take all the work that God could give them, if that situation presented itself: but to most, that’s not possible.
In (some form of) summary, I sincerely hope that my country’s government can somehow circumnavigate our nation away from the edge of this impending patch of “quicksand”, but – as alluded to at the beginning of this week’s entry – that situation’s may be a while away yet.
For my own part, I am very fortunate to be able to consider spending a few winter weeks abroad, with Cyprus currently leading the way – with Tenerife possibly considered an option.
Although the September weather has been generally pleasant, here in the UK, I am in little doubt that things are soon to change – with inclement times heading our way. In keeping with that “forecast” I leave you with Bob Seger’s take on how things may pan out in Dunbar …… X
Back in Scotland - but I think I’m missing something (15 degrees centigrade of heat, to be specific!).
However, the sun is currently streaming through the windows of the Starbucks outlet – located just off the Edinburgh ring road – where I have chosen to undertaker this week’s edition of The Diary. Why here, of all places? This has come about as I’m returning from saying goodbye (having only said “hello” a short while before that!) to the two ladies that oversee the stateside “Bay City Rollers” Fan Events website. Suz and Laura have actually been in the UK for almost two weeks already: however, with me only returning to Scotland early Thursday morning (and afflicted by a wee touch of “jelly belly”) this was the first opportunity we had to meet up. Somehow, “Last Minute.com” seems to have become a way of life for me!
Therefore, I just spent a very enjoyable ninety minutes catching up with them (face-to-face, for the first time) and swopping a few “BCR-related” stories, prior to their flight to Toronto.
Otherwise, that’s me back here for at least the next month, off the back of a very relaxed two weeks in Cyprus (3 days in Paphos / 9 days in Latchi / 2 days in Pissouri) essentially – as I probably alluded to last week – “scoping out” areas of the island where I could comfortably – yet economically – hole up for a good few weeks over the upcoming winter period. Next up, early to mid-November, will be a seven-day visit to Tenerife, with the same purpose in mind.
My (unsteady, at the moment?!) gut feeling, for a few specific reasons, is that Cyprus, initially, will “win the day”: I’m certainly very familiar with the country and it’s varied geographical layouts and in fairness to Tenerife - keeping in mind the amount of time I’ve spent in the former over the last five years, Cyprus is a fairly hard act to follow. You heard it here first!
In the coming weeks, more cosmetic attention requires to be accorded to my house, in addition to a (thankfully, now reducing) queue of long-lost friends/acquaintances that I continue to make the time to catch up with. The latter can only increase my sense of personal well-being.
As I’m still sat here, bathed in the bright, mid-morning, Edinburgh sunshine I’m further convinced that – with but a few paragraphs remaining to complete this week’s Diary entry – warm sunshine does way more for my spirits than (“over”) hot daily temperatures, the latter which I experienced, too repeatedly, during this last fortnight in Cyprus. Mental note to oneself for the future: wait until October before planning two consecutive weeks in Cyprus!The slightly-upset-stomach complaint, that I referred to earlier, has yet to take leave of my system entirely, so hopefully that is but a memory twenty-four hours from now. The name of the game, at my “tender” age must surely be to immediately focus one’s attention – almost to the exclusion of everything else going on in one’s life at that particular time – on any noticeable, even temporary, ailment - with a view to chasing it down; researching any possible cause(s) – and consciously working to eradicate it. Unquestionably, your health is your wealth.
On an upbeat (yet poignant) finishing “note” I leave you with the iconic Mr Chuck Berry. XX
As per last week’s entry, again I come to you from the north-west coast of Cyprus (NOT the north-east, as I stated last week – must be the sun sizzling my brain) – and all remains well.
Away from one’s own domestic situation at home, there’s a whole bunch of (shall we call them) minor, nagging, household concerns that tend – given a couple of days, settling into one’s new, albeit temporary, environment – to slide themselves onto the “back burner”. That can only be a good thing, huh? We surely (or should!) realise that there is little point in concerning ourselves with things, over which we can influence no control? A form of temporary freedom?
Let’s not forget the unavoidable long years of domestic and familial responsibility, common to all but the most privileged households. Enjoyable as those times invariably should have been – and hoping that (probably as a result of these times moving on, with children “leaving the nest” and mortgages finally paid off) we’ve managed to gather some form of “retiral savings”- the time then comes to swivel the spotlight back around, onto the remainder of our own lives.
The above paragraph reads “deeper” than I actually intended, but – I hope - you get my drift. You will (may!) recall, from a past version of this almost-twenty-years-old Diary, that I once likened my lifestyle to a glass (“reversable”) egg-timer. The inference being that I’ve rarely had the benefit of allowing the sand to completely drain from the upper section, before some work or home-life event has necessitated flipping it over again, to kick-start the process all over again. However, I do sincerely believe that I’m now closer to that “achievement” as I have ever been – which surely bears some relation to my current, reflective, state of mind.
I will head back to the UK this coming Wednesday: a shift of location is on the cards tomorrow, Monday, when I will re-locate to the area of Pissouri Bay – about twelve miles east of Paphos airport, yet an almost three-hour/three-bus journey to cover a distance that is probably less than fifty miles, from here in Latchi, “as the crow flies”. I grew fond of the Pissouri Bay area, during the time Alice was stationed out here with the Military – being that we could easily venture down there, from Episkopi, with the benefit of Alice’s “split-shifts”.
Much as though the Pissouri Bay area is the epitome of tranquillity, I suspect that tranquillity is best enjoyed over occasional visits, than it is for any extended period of time: however, I saw no harm in spending a couple of days there, before heading back to God’s country, just to see how it compares with where I am now, in Latchi - with a possible, longer, stay in mind.
Actually, one rather encouraging piece of news, more so on the “home” front, is that my local team, Dunbar United FC (The “Seasiders”) won their, first-round, Scottish Cup tie yesterday, beating the Highland League team “Inverness Clachnucuddin” (try saying that ten times, in a hurry!) by three goals to two – and will therefore go “into the hat” at 6.00 pm UK time this evening, for the official third round draw of the competition, to be played on October 22nd.
It is therefore only fitting, surely, that this week’s accompanying track celebrates – and reflects - The Seasiders progress! I leave you with The Kinks and a reminder of such “Days”!
Something of a change of location folks: I bid you a (very) warm good afternoon from Cyprus!
Leaving my daughter to “steer the ship at home”, I have ventured out here for ten days - ostensibly for a wee break from the declining temperatures back in “Blighty” but with the underlying intention of sussing out certain areas of the island, with a view to where I may billet myself, during one or two of the UK Winter months, namely November and December.
You will be aware of my familiarity with this Mediterranean island (well, you should be, if you’ve been keeping up!) based upon several visits over the past five years, mainly when Alice was stationed here with the Military at Episkopi. This no longer classified as a State Secret!
Temperature wise (and maybe I should have thoroughly researched this before booking the flights!) it has been a strength-sapping 30C, during my first two days here (Thursday and Friday past) in the city of Paphos. Latterly, I have relocated to the North-eastern coast of the island to one of Cyprus’s favourite seaside towns, called Latchi: here, as well as the daily temperature being a couple of (welcome) degrees lower than Paphos, there is also the gentle breeze wafting off the Mediterranean shore, adjacent to my hotel, to be most thankful for.
A more relaxing/idyllic location would be hard to come by, especially at the rate I was able to negotiate - as a result of being in direct contact with the hotel (the equivalent of £43.68 for “bed and breakfast”!) and also having stayed here on two previous occasions, over the years.
In terms of unbridled luxury? That is certainly not the case here, however - the shower has admirable pressure; the air-conditioning works (at no extra cost); there is a private balcony adjoining my room (where I now sit, composing) and the outdoor breakfast/dinner area sits right alongside “The Med”, into which I could pitch a slice of toast, without leaving my chair.
How much better would it be if I was indeed coming to you today from the likes of The Seychelles or The Maldives? Sure, those locations are unquestionably more exclusive – and, consequently, unquestionably (far) more expensive: however, us Scottish folks – in the main - are known to be particularly careful how we spread our pennies around. Pennies lead to pounds!
Switching subjects now (as a British subject!) I was sincerely saddened to learn of the death of our Queen Elizabeth, within a day of me arriving on the island. For all but fourteen months, she has been the only reigning British monarch during my entire life. Her dedication to her people – and a plethora of those peoples’ causes – during (just under) a 70-year reign is unchallengeable, even on a worldwide scale. We will never see the likes of her again - ever.
Countless hundreds of thousands of British citizens have also keenly felt the loss, even though their day-to-day lifestyles could not be more diametrically unaligned to that of a member of royalty. Charles, trust him as I do, has an astonishingly remarkable legacy to follow. I feel the need to choose a track this week to reflect our great loss. The lyrics are of course not too relevant, but the title certainly is. Let’s leave it to “Badfinger” and “Without You”. XX
Here in the UK we will finally have the news tomorrow, of the name of our new Prime Minister.
I actually have the TV on in the background, with the country’s recognised top politically orientated programme (and a “newly polished” version of it, anchored by the revered political journalist Laura Kuenssberg) featuring both leadership candidates appearing live on the show.
Liz Trust – who, if the recent polls are to be believed, will be the country’s new Prime Minister within twenty-four hours – fills me with no confidence: she talks like she is reading from a “tele-prompter”. Why wouldn’t those Members of Parliament, responsible for voting in Boris Johnson’s successor, not hand the job to the candidate with the greatest fiscal experience – he being Rishi Sunak. The man just sounds convincingly more plausible, to me, than Liz Trust.
I’m going to leave my political observations there for the moment: I won’t bore you further.
And what of my life, in these times? Well – I would like to believe everything is “going to plan” (more or less), the main challenge being to reverse the long-standing habits of a lifetime: to find a very contrasting “schedule footing”, upon which I can re-organise the rest of my life.
I may have previously mentioned that in any annual 12-month period I would be intending that six of those months would be spent out of the country. Of late, and with the benefit of having spent, approximately, two months out of the country in 2022 so far (not forgetting, in fairness to this argument, my touring work commitments swallowed up another six weeks of this eight-month year, to date) I am now of the opinion that I could comfortably shift the 6/6 plan to 5/7: that is a maximum of five months spent out of the country, in any given year.
Realistically, which five months would I, ideally, spend out of the country? Certainly, November through February – too cold, too dark, too “inhibiting” - would represent four of those five months, albeit I would probably “pop back”, in respect of family involvements, for different weeks at a time, Christmas/New Year probably being the best example of that.
Having comfortably spent the June to August summer period based back here in the UK, it follows that, in future years, I need to “tag on” another four months spent back in Scotland: right now, I will have to go with March through May (with the benefit of the increasingly lighter nights, during said period) and September. That buts October right up against the already-stated November through February period, to make up the five months spent away: therein lies the dilemma that - following my current line of thinking - the five months spent outwith the UK would run consecutively, therefore I’m not sure that’s the definitive answer.
Of course, such “forward 12-month planning” makes no allowance for any upcoming work commitments (of which, intentionally, there are none at the moment!) which – in the years ahead - ideally would be the likes of November/December, to break up the winter period away.
To finish this week’s musings, Ray Charles affords you an idea of my current state of mind! X
There (within the next seventy-two hours) goes another month of 2022. What’s the hurry?
For me, the end of August signals the end of Summer - and the probable end of +20 degree temperatures (well, certainly so in Scotland, surely). Not to say that anything below that stated threshold is “cold” but I’m not sure there will be many September days that will see me walking into town in T-shirt and shorts – although we still have (receding) daylight until 9.
It’s possibly worth pausing at this juncture of this week’s entry (in respect of how I concluded the last paragraph) to own up – in case any of my faithful readerships had often wondered - to the near-inevitable “justification” of my Diary paragraphs in the majority of my entries.
Certainly (as my daughter Jade would surely confirm) that points to one (one!) aspect of my OCD tendencies. I don’t mind being (say) three of four “character spaces” short at the end of any given paragraph - however any more than that and some “literary engineering” kicks in!
Having said the above, my record of “paragraph justification” – all things considered (I have now been making these weekly Diary entries for almost twenty years!) – is fairly impressive.
You won’t of course be aware of this, but my daughter was just passing by the dining room (where I now sit “composing”) on the way to make her breakfast. I had to stop writing for about ten minutes there, as I was suddenly struck with the thought of the amount of days - or, rather, nights – numbering hundreds, that I must have spent away from her, in my time.
Such thoughts can only be banished by countering them with the very real evidence as to how she has turned out “today”. Furthermore, I realise that (with respect to Jade) she may not be as worldly accomplished and “career established” – as she now is – had I not been in a position to offer her some financial assistance throughout her journey. Of course, I’m well aware that money isn’t everything, but many times it’s the only way to reach “the next level”.
By the way: I just looked deep into my “Website” sub-directory on my current laptop’s hard drive, to find an entry that dates back to 18th July 2004, although - in examining its contents – it does not appear to be an “introductory” entry, therefore I may dig a little deeper, tonight.
I’m confident that you will once again excuse a full A4 page of, arguably, inconsistent ramblings (hardly the first time, eh?) as I stumble towards the ultimate “answer”. Significant changes have taken place in my life this year if only, so far, the fact that I am not – and, at long last, don’t need to be – scouting around for work. In fairness, that sentiment is underpinned by my knowledge that two of my current clients will take to the road next year.
While it is well documented (if only within certain Diary entries!) that I spectacularly hit the skids at one point in my career, I fear for countless swathes of the population who are facing an arduous six months ahead, with the various economic factors that are currently playing out. As such, this week’s song choice is The Animals, with “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”.
I come to you this morning, from the small village of Birgham - in the Scottish Borders.
What brings me down here you (may) enquire? The simple answer is – of course – football.
This particular aspect of football represents no potential commercial gain for me, at any time: this was just my local team, Dunbar United FC (“The Seasiders”) who were matched up against a team located just outside Berwick-upon-Tweed, namely Tweedmouth Rangers, in the “South of Scotland” cup. I have to say that the Dunbar lads made heavy weather of running out eventual 3-2 winners in the game – not helped by blustery winds, swirling in every direction.
Nevertheless, that’s the team through to the next round of said South of Scotland cup and – as always – as teams proceed forward through the early rounds of local cup competitions – there is a fair interest in seeing who Dunbar will be drawn against in the following round.
Being that my daughter’s partner was visiting her at my house this weekend, I acceded to the gentlemanly option and made myself scarce for a couple of nights – hence having spent Friday and Saturday nights at an “Air BnB” location here in Birgham, specifically in the “Old Schoolhouse” (a building which dates back to 1851, as ascribed over the old school door). This is an extremely quiet village (no retail outlets whatsoever – and only one licensed premises to serve the locals, namely “The Fisherman’s Arms”: but a most hospitable and quirky hostelry!
Just in case you ever want to seek this place (Birgham) out, it is approximately halfway between the border towns of Coldstream and Kelso – on the A698 – the latter town coincidentally where my daughter was based with her NHS job, for 18 months - back in 2016.
Once this here Diary entry is completed, I’ll be heading back to Dunbar, via the town of Innerleithen and the hamlet of Heriot, through a region known as “The Granites” (possibly named after the low hills that border the single-track road that snakes between them?). It’s a lovely, uplifting, run in the car – first traversed with my grandparents, many moons ago.
On the work front, I continue to stave off any approaches for projects over the next couple of months: I’m far more concerned with the impressive (by my standards, anyway) progress I am achieving on a personal front, particularly with the current domestic “refurbishment”.
I sincerely wish I could report more glamourous details of this past week’s movements, but the lack of glamour – for the foreseeable future at least –suits me perfectly for the moment.
So, yes: something of a “flat” week, when measured against the countless frantic weeks I have endured over my almost fifty-years-now career. Will those types of weeks ever return in earnest? Now there’s a question – to which I currently have no form of a concrete answer!
While I’m (still) figuring it all out, I will leave you this week with a wee - sort of relevant - tune – brought to you by Mr Don Covay (reflective of my current state?) called “Seesaw”! X
Arguably, the best week - weather wise - this year so far, here in my hometown of Dunbar.
As a testament to that, here I am - sat outside in the garden – this fine Sunday morning: the “App” on my phone is showing 16 degrees for 9.00 am. However right now I’m bathed in warm morning sunshine, and it feels - to my old, over-travelled self - to be a few more degrees than that.
Like most people I guess, good mornings like this only lead to promising days: for me, it invariably invokes memories of my time spent in Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam and Thailand. Oddly enough, there is a little “cloud” icon alongside the temperature number, on my phone App but, as I gaze upwards, I see nothing else but limitless blue skies. Yesterday, the “harr” coming up off the sea never really dissipated, and blue sky was only seen in patches.
Even at this early stage of the day, I know I will fare well today, as some essential components have already shown their hand: light, warmth, and natural sounds (birdsong, in this case) are sure to have me believing this to be a potential day of accomplishment. Anyone afflicted such as myself (I’ve always suspected myself to be hovering around the fringes of “bi-polar two” – and on more than one occasion have “passed” a reputed magazine/newspaper questionnaire, to that extent) will recognise that the good days – such as I can already tell today is shaping up to be – will take care of themselves. Conversely, the management of the bad days is crucial.
Metaphorically speaking, currently I’m half crawling, half stumbling forwards in pretty much the correct direction and can see the very real possibility of getting to my feet, in the months ahead. Even someone blessed with way-more impressive powers of articulation, than your humble author, would – I’m sure – confirm the challenge of having to order such a myriad of thoughts and feelings (that, at times, rage around my head) into some form of cohesive study.
Anyway – to differing degrees, on differing days – the measurement of progress is in a forward direction: the top half of the egg-timer (referencing a past analogy) has yet to empty and the real discipline here is not to be tempted to flip it over before it reaches that point.
Along the way I am constantly reminded (mostly, by myself!) that I am indeed fortunate to – literally – be sat where I am today: unpressured to seek future work projects, while in the meantime, provided I keep a careful eye on my “life budget”, having sufficient funds for the next few years. Therefore, the key is to make efficient use of this “free” time at hand.
In the coming weeks, at the risk of possibly boring the pants off you, I may take a stab at ordering some of the (incrementally reducing) clutter in my head. One thing for sure: for a combination of reasons, I may never have a better opportunity to do so – and, possibly from something of a selfish viewpoint, seeing (some of) those thoughts committed to “print” can surely only aid the “ordering process” further. See? There might just be a plan hatching there!
Deftly extricating myself from this week’s jumble of observations I leave you with an uplifting track for an uplifting day: my “saviour” Bob Seger tells it like it is - with “Travelin’ Man”. XX
Belief and Balance: possibly, arguably, are the two key elements as I stride forward in life.
Belief in the path that I have progressively hewn out, as some sort of lifestyle template for the years ahead: still very much in the experimental stages I have to say, however, there are early – encouraging – signs that the various component strands can yet be braided together.
Again – and definitely to repeat myself here – the focus now has to be on Health and House: the former of those two being essential, the latter obviously more practical. Heeding one’s health, particularly at my time of life, is – really – without option. Practically improving my domestic situation (i.e., bringing my living space “up to spec”) has underlying benefits, in enabling me to feel more comfortable in an environment in which I will be spending extending periods, as time progresses. Every day I tidy and I “tweak” that environment, to my benefit.
Time out, folks, if you can excuse me?! Today, in the Edinburgh and Lothians region, marks a significant point on the football calendar: specifically, Hibernian are playing against Heart of Midlothian, in the first Derby game of the professional football season – and they are showing the game, with a noon kick-off today, on the “big screens” at the local sports centre. Being that – as only an occasional attendee at “Hearts” games over the past few years – I did not qualify to subscribe for match tickets, then this is the next best alternative: watching the game in the company of (bound to be) raucous fans – supporters of both teams, I have to say.
Allow me to beg off the Diary right now: hopefully back later, to share some triumphant news!
I’m back! The current time is now 8.33 pm, this Sunday 7th August - but the news is anything but “triumphant”! Sure, Hearts did not suffer a defeat: however, after going in at half-time 1-0 ahead – and, having enjoyed the balance of the play during the first forty-five minutes, Hibernian (“Hibs”) scored in the fifth minute of “injury” time – what an absolute sickener!!
Our earliest chance to make amends – specifically against Hibs again – does not now present itself until the 3rd of January next year (the “New Year Derby”). That’s a fairly long wait!
Proving once again that football, indeed, mirrors life itself – with the invariable ups and downs.
Back to (said) life: back to reality. As much as I am passionate about several aspects of football, it does not represent the fulcrum of my existence. Back to looking after myself.
I’m currently battling the situation of “three steps forward – two steps back”: in other words, one step at a time – but unquestionably heading in the right direction. Of that, I’m convinced.
Although, incrementally, we are losing the daylight, I am still feeding off the “late” nights to push me on with my quest of clearing up/editing several aspects of my life, going forward. With those thoughts in mind - and not a million miles away from where your intrepid author often finds himself, I leave you with Gary Wright and “Dream Weaver”. Yes, could be me. XX
There is a certain significance related to the end of this particular week. Allow me to explain.
Although, admittedly, my “last’ gig was The Latitude Festival, with Freya Ridings, exactly one week ago today, I nevertheless needed to finalise a few loose ends relating to my run of one-off shows with Freya, over the past couple of months. Short of physically handing my completed accounts to the Tour Manager, whom I was “covering” for, that’s me done folks!
Done for ever? That question just sprung into my mind there! I sincerely don’t believe so. However, for the time being, I have no wish to commit to any future projects. Two reasons for this: initially, I want to allow this feeling of a new-found freedom to envelop and surround me – and consequently see where it “takes me”. Secondly, I need to (carefully) revisit my “life budgeting” spreadsheet and apply some realistic projections, keeping my current age in mind.
I’ve rarely been in such a position, over the last forty-nine years, where I either did not have any work prospects for the foreseeable future (but still had bills to pay) or could , literally, afford to step away from my work life for an extended period of time, such as in this case.
Financially, at this time, there is no pressing need for me, whatsoever, to be scouting around for future work prospects: if I allow myself to be induced into that frame of mind, I will blinker myself to the possibilities of other routes forward, at this time in my life. It’s back to the “egg-timer” scenario (not the first time I’ve referred to this!): every single grain of sand has to be allowed to settle in the lower half of the glass and then the temptation resisted to immediate flip it over and initiate the “meter running” again. A lot easier said than done ……
Fact is such an opportunity is unlikely to present itself again to me – without sounding over dramatic – in my life. It has indeed involved a circuitous – and often “dangerous” – route that has led me to where I am now: a point in life, age wise, unattained by several (as many as ten, at the last count) of the entertainers I have worked for – not forgetting fellow colleagues.
I have to say, sitting here at 09.50 on this Sunday morning (back on track!), that I can’t recollect the last time I paused so many times during a weekly Diary entry, to reflect upon – and digest – what I am actually writing in “real time”. I stand here at the crossroads of change, directionless for the time being, gazing headlong down each of the four roads (only four?!) on offer. To flesh out this analogy even more, I cannot – as far as I can see at this very moment - perceive any “approaching vehicle” heading my way. But, soon, a distant dust trail will appear.
Right now, I’m recalling the closing scene in Tom Hank’s “Castaway” film. Do you remember it?
Starting tomorrow (1st August – it was meant to be!) the process of clearing away – for ever – much of the quicksand of detail that I have been trudging through for the best part of my professional life, begins in earnest. Let’s see how far I’ve progressed by this time next week.In the meantime – bearing little relation to this week’s musings – I leave you with Bonnie Raitt.
Well, it had to happen, didn’t it? Along comes a gig – and “South” goes the Diary entry!
Essentially meaning that (you would have to agree) for the first time in a while, I’ve fallen behind with the weekly edition. Initially, let’s set the record straight: as I sit here (in Reading town centre – the reason for which will become apparent) I can tell you it is approaching 12.30 pm on Wednesday afternoon, 27th July. Now, to attempt to make amends for myself, below …
The recent days have managed to tumble into a maelstrom of activity, as of Saturday past, as I headed down to Putney in London, to join Freya’s (Freya Ridings – there’s only one Freya Ridings!) rehearsals, prior to her main-stage appearance at “Latitude” festival on Sunday past.
Myself and a couple of the other non-London-based crew were billeted in the Wandsworth Holiday Inn Express for Saturday and Sunday nights, calling for a commute – on Sunday – up to the festival site in Suffolk, and back: long days are par for the course on outdoor events.
Rather a hot day up there, with the tented dressing room area struggling to deal with the 27/28 degree heat in spite of the strategic placement throughout, of several serious industrial fans.
Freya’s allocated slot was 6.30 – 7.30 pm, with – in ascending order – only the “Manic Street Preachers” and “Snow Patrol” to follow on after her. By the time the crew had packed away all the gear into our truck, and we had subsequently managed to grab some late(ish) dinner on the way off-site, it was almost 9.00 pm by the time we started back towards Wandsworth.
I would be misleading you, good readers, if I were to record any other summation of the day, other than “mildly tedious”. Absolutely no reflection on Freya and her touring operation, whatsoever: indeed, several acts come to mind – all of whom I have had a past association with – who would have necessitated the word “mildly” being substituted by the word “agonisingly”.
You have to keep in mind (and it’s no more seared into anyone’s brain, than it is mine!) that I have attended countless such festivals, with countless acts, and with a few particularly memorable exceptions – “Live Aid” being right at the front of the exclusive queue – I usually spend the best part of a 12-hour day running from “pillar to post”: a forlorn, highly-paid lackey.
While down here in the south of England I took the opportunity to swing by a corner of Surrey to spend a couple of days in the company of my dear (one and only) cousin, Michelle. The plan was then to have today (Wednesday) in the company of a dear musician friend of mind, however said friend called me on Monday morning to announce his partner was down with Covid.
Hence, I’m killing time in Reading today, before travelling back home from London tomorrow (current London hotel prices are astronomical, off the back of today’s national rail strike). So, there you have it gang – where has this weeks’ time gone? I leave you the iconic Chuck Berry, summing up my situation in Reading today, with “No Particular Place to Go”! Love Y’all.
They can say what they like about Scottish weather – but it’s heading for 23 degrees today!
I should just add that we are talking degrees Celsius here – as I cannot disagree that it (still) does get cold here, in the darker winter months. At this very moment – 0955 on this Sunday morning – my iPhone weather App is showing 18 degrees, however promising 23 degrees by mid-afternoon. We shall see - because the sky is currently, predominately, overcast. However, that’s how things were also looking at this time yesterday – accompanied by an hour of significant rainfall – and, lo and behold, we were basking in blue-skied, mid-twenties, temperatures four hours later.
In general, I’ve had no real complaints about the “Summer weather” (let’s further define Summer, for this discussion, as June through August) and can definitely see myself based here during that “quarter”. Subsequently, I need to find another three months, when I am also comfortable spending time here in Scotland. From the “remaining” nine months, April is definitely a contender (don’t want to miss out on all those birthday presents!) as is September, during which month the cooler Autumn weather should still enable much time spent outdoors.
This now gives me a total of five “confirmed” months that I will spend in the country in the future (my personal budget forecasting – for the years ahead - allows for six months spent outwith the UK) – leaving me just one more to add. I’m pausing for some careful thought here.
At this time, I’m feeling that March could (after a couple of years of “trial-running” this planned travel schedule) feasibly be another month to be included in a – revised- “seven months in the UK” list. Certainly, keeping in mind the dark nights (which you know I’m not good with!) that – more or less - accompany the months of November through February, I have no intention of spending that period back here in the UK, with the exception of any work projects that may come my way, during that time – and also maybe with a brief Christmas visit home.
Spending only five months out of the country would certainly give me something of a “budget cushion” as – let’s face it – I won’t know just how reliable said budgeting actually is, until I’ve experienced the first twelve-month “run”. It may also transpire that – although the weather will no doubt continue to be pleasant during the UK summers, in the years to come – a six-month consecutive UK run will ultimately prove too much for my itchy feet. Consequently, I could find myself “reclaiming” (say) June, to slip abroad, to break up that six-month period.
How fortunate I am to be facing such a “dilemma” although – if I hadn’t allowed my career to be severely side-tracked, on two particularly specific occasions during my time – I could very realistically be pondering these decisions, ten years ago. Further pondering stops right now!!
On the health and house front, things are coming along quite nicely: there is still much to do, but the light at the end of the tunnel increases by the day. These processes will however see me through to at least the end of August, possibly stretching until mid-September. With that in mind, I leave you this week (not for the first time, I suspect) with “Morcheeba” and “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”. I’m now off to reclaim more of my overworked life. Until next week! X
Back on track! Meaning that my MacBook Pro laptop is now proudly sporting a new screen.
Turns out the cause of the “punctured” screen was entirely mine, so you’ll understand when I say that I have no wish to linger on the details of how that transpired. However, as (my) luck would have it, there appears to be sufficient grounds for making a claim on my home-insurance policy, albeit with a £350 “deductible” – but I’ll happily take whatever contribution is on offer!
And what of the great personal catchup of my personal life, that continues apace – and to which I am committed for at least the next two months? I can report all is chugging along quite nicely as I clearly recognise the need to place my health at the front of that queue.
At this very moment, having enjoyed absolutely wonderful weather here in Dunbar today (and throughout Scotland, from what I have heard via media reports) I am sat out at the garden table, in the relative cool of the evening, knowing full well this represents my ideal climate.
As mentioned above, I have no intention of temporarily departing these shores before the end of August, at the very earliest, so let’s hope we will experience many more days like this, in Bonnie Scotland. Apologies that I stepped away from penning this entry, to prepare dinner for Jade and myself: I’m now back at the garden table at 10.10 pm, it is not cold whatsoever - and there still remains a fair amount of light in the sky. Best day of the year so far, for me.
Trouble is, weather wise – here in Scotland – such long summer days such as these tend to be in the minority: sure, technically, all summer days (let’s say from the beginning of June through until the end of August, in this example) are “long”, with around eighteen hours of daylight. However, we will (another piece of guesswork by me, here) probably see no more than thirty such glorious days, weather wise, throughout the afore-mentioned three months.
Having said the above (as I carefully budget the years ahead) – and with my current plan to spend six months in the UK and six months abroad – it is my future intention to spend the months of April through September, generally based within the UK’s borders. Which essentially means in and around Dunbar. I have yet to put that specific theory to the test, having only been back at home since mid-May on this “stretch” – and possibly not aided by my curious online search earlier today – looking at where I might take myself in early September!
If that were to be the case, then I would only have “lasted” three and a half months back here, consecutively – so this “6/6” theory of mine needs some further road-testing. Of course, what I have not included within such a personal location schedule is the very realistic possibility of a few months’ work, annually, (still) coming my way in the years ahead. That being the case, I would prefer that any such work found its way into the October – March period.
Things (definitely) to work on. In the meantime, a wee song to see out this week’s entry – in the shape of The Temptations with my “signature tune” (possibly?): “Just My Imagination”. X
Here goes my second week of penning my Diary entry from my temporary new friend, the iPad.
As we speak, the laptop is sat in the technical department of Edinburgh’s Apple store awaiting its replacement screen – of which there is currently a shortage of supply. My gut feeling, having spoken with a member of the store staff, when I handed the machine in last week, is that I will certainly be formulating at least one more Diary entry from this iPad, possibly two.
In the life of Jake, I spent two very enjoyable days - Wednesday and Thursday past - motoring around the Scottish highlands with Jade and Stella, ostensibly on the “hunt for dolphins” (no luck there), taking full advantage of this pleasant summer weather. Our first night was spent in a small place called Delny, in the Invergorden area of the “Black Isle”, not far north of Inverness. The next day we re-located to the small town of Spean Bridge, which is located just six miles north-east of Fort William: again, a delightful area of the country.
We were back in Edinburgh by mid-afternoon on Friday, all struck by the same thought process: that our time away had seemed far longer than the almost seventy-two hours it was.
Personally, now at the start of July, I have an almost-unique opportunity to re-evaluate my life processes, going forward. I have consciously kept at bay, certain recent work offers – with the intention of putting myself in a position where I am clear of any past touring projects and have, equally, made no commitment to any future project(s). Being that it’s a considerable time since I can recall a similar state of affairs, I’m keen to take full advantage of this period: steady the ship; plot a new course but, nevertheless, with my health as the ultimate priority.
The above is much, much, easier said than done: it involves reversing lifestyle parameters that have – more or less – been in place (and, in many instances, dictated by my almost-constant involvement with my touring projects) for many long years. The temptation to jump at correcting one particular aspect – say, diet – of several current “outstanding” aspects of my lifestyle to date is palatable but, having given this measured thought over the past few days, my instinct tells me to order my thought processes, first and foremost: to cool my heels.
The very content of this week’s entry (I believe) points to my fear of acting prematurely. The “egg-timer” has to – for the first time, in a long time – be allowed to empty itself, beyond the very last grain. Then, what has to be done is ….. nothing: resist the metaphoric urge to flip the same egg-timer and allow the sand to run again, before the unquestionable need to pause.
In summary, I fully – and responsibly – recognise that I stand at the centre of a key crossroads in my life, at this crucial stage of my life. There is a gulf as wide as the Atlantic Ocean between the recognition of the need to institute a sea-change in one’s life – and the practical undertaking of that sea-change: walk, don’t run; think, don’t act; keep one’s nerve.
So, there you have it folks: a jumble of tenuously-connected thoughts and musings, pouring out of your erstwhile “author”. I can only leave with Gallagher & Lyle’s “Heart on my Sleeve”!
Folks, you will certainly have to bear with me a little today (even more than normal!).
The reason being: my five-month-old MacBook Pro – still reasonably shiny – has developed what would appear to be a fairly serious screen fault: all it is (worryingly!) currently displaying is one thin blue line down the right hand side of the screen - with everything else a solid black.
Not so good huh? Could be worse though. Utilising the “HDMI” output on the machine, I was able to connect the laptop up to my widescreen TV (a fairly common procedure, in the instance where – say – one wanted to watch a movie that was only accessible via the laptop: although, by this point, you’ve probably deduced that I’m not operating with the most modern of flat-screen TV’s!). This process at least demonstrated that all was good with the “guts” of the laptop, being that I was able to “substitute” the laptop’s screen, to access all it’s contents.
That – and the fact that I have two independent, recent, hard drive backups – enabled me a large sigh of relief. As a result of the fact that my laptop (even in the short time I’ve possessed this “new” one) is well-travelled, there’s always the distant, vaguely nagging, consideration that the machine is typically more susceptible to the occasional physical knock.
Therefore, yes, things could certainly be worse: a lot worse, probably, if this had happened on tour. I have both my hands touching wood at the moment when I honestly state that – although I can recall a couple of poignant occasions when I have experienced serious computer problems - I have been extremely fortunate never to have a laptop “fail”, while on the road.
Next step? I have a 10.35 appointment on Tuesday at Edinburgh’s Apple Store “Genius Bar” to try to resolve the screen problem: I am under no illusions that the laptop may have to spend a few days in “computer hospital” (but, thankfully, on the premises in Edinburgh) for what is essentially a Warranty repair. I am, of course, greatly relieved that I have the iPad – this very one on which I am writing at the moment, this morning, as a very dependable “stand-in”.
Having said the above (keeping in mind that I must have purchased this iPad almost a year ago, now) – I would have to honestly admit to this being the longest continuous time I have spent working with it! The ultimate plan is to switch my touring files onto here, to save me having to drag the heavier – and considerably more expensive – laptop with me when I travel abroad, for leisure pursuits only. I’m working towards a situation whereby – provided my time away is a maximum period of seven days, and I’m definitely heading towards warmer climes – I can travel with only a (well-stuffed) backpack - and an outdoors jacket with many pockets!
With a wee bit of luck I should have my laptop back before the end of next week – in time for penning next Sunday’s entry - however I’m most fortunate to also have access to the iPad.
There now requires a little trickery (and, or, the assistance of my daughter Jade!) in appending an accompanying track – when iTunes is yet to be installed on this iPad. Let’s at least nominate a very appropriate “Four Tops” track as – while I figure how to “migrate” it! X
Had all gone to plan, then I should be in the Isle of Wight right now: however, sadly, I’m not.
Unfortunately, Freya Ridings - the Artist concerned and the lady, you will recall, with whom I travelled to Berlin with ten days ago - has contracted a chest infection, within the last week.
If all had gone according to plan, I would have travelled down to Brighton yesterday – from my home base here in Dunbar – collected a rather snazzy Mercedes Vianno passenger van; met the crew at Brighton station an hour later and then be winging our way towards Southampton.
Freya was obviously holding off with such a brave decision until as “late in the day” as she could, so I was actually strenuously stuffing my backpack (it was only a three-day trip, in total) – literally hours before leaving - when the telling call came through from her manager.
Sure, I was looking forward to hooking up with quite a few music business folk, down at the Festival site – many of whom I haven’t seen for a while - as well as being part of the whole, heady, event experience: but circumstances have now deemed otherwise. Maybe next year?
This latest development now means that I have no work commitments for the next five weeks (and, only then, another “Festival weekend”). Of course, much more so for Freya’s sake than my own, I sincerely wish that today’s I.O.W. experience had taken place. However – with no work-related tasks to focus on for those five weeks (which would have been the case, anyway, come this time tomorrow!) I have a unique opportunity to now “turn the spotlight” on myself.
I have much that I can be busying myself with, over these upcoming weeks, concentrating on two particular aspects of my life: Health and House – and definitely in that particular order!
Already, yesterday afternoon, I sketched out a draft “at home” weekly schedule - in an initial effort to balance out those two, key, aspects: it’s a while since I enjoyed five consecutive weeks, back here in Dunbar, without having the ongoing “distraction” of future work projects.
I can only re-iterate that this five-week gap (being a combination of the actual length of time as well as the period – almost mid-summer – in which it has “landed”) presents – almost literally – a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to re-jig what’s left of that very lifetime. Dramatic, eh?!
I’m just thinking, at this very moment, if I started to just, even roughly, jot down a list of the various tasks (both “great” and small) that I could use this precious time to apply myself to, it would certainly consume a fair few “A4” pages: that process all starts tomorrow morning.Having now “committed” myself to this lifestyle re-jig, I am almost duty bound to document my progress, week-by-week, in the very pages of these Diary entries: no pressure, then?
In closing this week’s meanderings – and seeking some sort of relative accompanying track (but in title only – not in sentiment!) let’s opt for Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in my Life”! XX
I’m just back, yesterday, from Berlin - where I was working on a show with Freya Ridings.
A good friend of mine, a very successful Tour Manager in her own right – and Freya’s regular Tour Manager – was stuck out in the States with another of her UK clients and therefore I was asked by her if I could cover her Berlin show, as part of “Tempelhof Sounds” festival.
Had it been any other act, I would have passed on the offer as – witnessed by certain comments I have published in these very Diary pages over the last few weeks, I had every intention of keeping my Summer (i.e., June through August) clear of any work commitments, to enable me to bring my health and my house back into order - especially in the warm weather.
Although I enjoyed a very stress-free four days in the company of Freya, her manager, her band members, and their tight-knit crew (a very manageable touring party of eleven) my involvement only came about on the strength of my relationship with her usual Tour Manager.
Having said that (and keeping in mind that I’ve not really dabbled with the Tour Management side of the business for almost a decade now) it was a very enjoyable – if somewhat busy – four days: festivals, being one-off events - rarely staged in a “solid”, indoor, location, especially in situations where your Artist is not the “headliner” - invariably give rise to predictable niggling inconsistencies such as checking-in and arrival procedures, dressing-room locations, guest list collection points, etc.. However, having been involved with a multitude of festivals in my time, I am comfortably familiar with how such large events tend to unfold.
What I have omitted to mention so far (although if you have any knowledge of how things operated in “cold-war” Germany, the name “Tempelhof” may have rung a distant bell or two): is that - in years gone by – from as far back as 1935 (and boasting the largest single structure in Europe, at the time) Tempelhof was Berlin’s prime airport, also serving as a Military base.
Indeed, our dressings rooms – typical of many “green field” (or, in this case, concrete) sites – were temporarily-constructed affairs, much like how many event locations were kitted out, here in the UK, during the height of the Pandemic: little more than large furnished cubicles.
The “Tempelhof Sounds” 3-day festival actually only finished this evening, Sunday, with Freya featuring on the first night, of course. No complaints, weather wise, during our Berlin stay – with temperatures averaging 26C (while, as reports had it, back in Scotland, it would appear not have accomplished even half of that). Our Scottish summer needs to get a move on!
Having broken my “vow” that I didn’t want to work again - over the next three months at least, I couldn’t have hooked up with a nicer bunch of folks: consequently, one week today, I’ll be working with Freya’s organisation again, as she guests on the main stage at this year’s Isle of Wight Festival. Quite a few of the crew I worked with on the Little Mix tour are also involved with the IOW festival, so that’s an added bonus. In looking forward to next week, what more appropriate accompanying track could I choose, than The Beach Boys and “Do It Again”?! XX
The “New Regime” (penning my Diary on the day it’s meant to be) remains, so far, in place!
Admittedly, as I finally sit myself down at the dining table this evening, the clock is currently showing 10.42 pm: fear not – and hopefully without proffering any signs of a “rush job” - all will be done and dusted before the stroke of midnight. Deadlines? I’ve had a life of them.
This past week has seen me accomplish a wide variety of needful tasks, with my “to-do” list running to under twenty items: on the surface of things, far from insurmountable. Fact is – many of those tasks which apparently require only one short line of description on my scratchpad, invariably have the potential to mushroom-out to a plethora of secondary tasks.
That’s OK: the outcome of the exercise being that I’m making commendable inroads towards simplifying my day-to-day existence – all geared towards unearthing more time for myself.
The issue of “time” was (as appears to increasingly be the case, as I advance through my years) brought starkly home to me, earlier this week, in learning of the passing of a young (44-year-old) nephew of mine, from an incurable illness. I was already aware that the lad was, very sadly, on borrowed time - but that didn’t make the acceptance of the finality any easier.
Let’s face it (although I haven’t checked – do I really want to?): the statistics of such a debilitating illness, such as befell my nephew, undoubtedly point to the fact of someone of my demographic being affected, more so than anyone in the 40-50 age group. A sobering thought.
I have to believe that (on the oft-quoted premise that “what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger”) – having weathered what I have during this topsy-turvy lifetime of mine – allied to the fact that, health wise, I’m in fairly decent shape – means there’s a few years in the old dog, yet. But, who’s to know? If I can continue the discipline of regularly knocking out these Diary entries, then it unarguably follows that one week, yes, they are going to cease to exist.
Anyway, on a “long-overdue” brighter note, I think I may have attracted a slight suntan over the last two days, most of which would have found its way to me, as a result of enjoying a very relaxed couple of hours, on the lawn of my friend Laura’s front garden, yesterday - enabling me the opportunity to meet with several of my cul-de-sac neighbours (some of whom I met for the first time in the nine years that I have stayed here!) in the company of Ms Prosecco!
The occasion was in no way directly connected to the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations – more just a timely co-incidence: nevertheless, Laura respectfully adorned some of her garden foliage with the likes of a Union Jack and some complimentary bunting – and a fine, convivial afternoon was had by all, certainly enhanced by some tempting confections that were on offer!
All in all, much to be thankful for, this past week, with a pleasant variety of life experiences – and long may that pattern continue. Linking this sentiment to an appropriate song, I’m going to plump for the iconic “Band” with “Life is a Carnival” – and may it continue to be, folks! XX
Finally – today - I find myself in the position where my Diary entries are back up to date.
This has not been the case, since I jumped on the recent “Little Mix” tour, eight weeks ago now. Almost from the very first weekend, in production rehearsals (not even having reached the first gig in Belfast, at that point) my regular entries soon slipped behind – initially just the one week, but soon to “settle” into a pattern of, generally, always being two weeks behind.
Now having these Diary entries back up to speed, gives me a reliable platform – and further incentive – to move on to bringing several other aspects of my life into line, and that starts tomorrow morning. I mentioned in last week’s entry that I now have a “clear run” until the end of August, save for an aggregated twelve days (spent over three short weekends) covering for a good friend of mine. I want nothing else to be interrupting the next three-month period.
What does September then hold for me, at that point? A wee trip across the sea, for sure – but which “sea”, I’m definitely not sure: go West young(!) man – or alternatively venture East?
West would only see me taking a trip Stateside, mostly likely to California, to visit some of my old haunts – and then possibly to spread my wings from there, on an Interstate road-trip: maybe I initially fly into New York and head to the West Coast, from there – returning to the Big Apple via Amtrak, something I’ve been meaning to put into place for many a long year now.
Flying West out of the UK will certainly prove more costly than heading East – which would most likely be to Thailand, Vietnam, or The Philippines: in those three countries I know how to exist on a budget, while enjoying a reasonable standard of living, without breaking the bank.
Throwing into the mix the element of “time” necessitates some careful decision making, as its most unlikely (financially) that I can spend any more than six months travelling in any given calendar year, in the years ahead: I have deduced this from a “lifetime budget” I’ve prepared.
For the time being – bringing the next three months back into focus – I will concentrate on “clearing the decks”, relating to many aspects of my life, then (say) late June I will look to slip away for a few days, within Scotland, and formulate that plan for September onwards.
With my daughter spending time with me at the moment, as she narrows down her house-hunting endeavours, this gives me another reason not to stray “too far from the nest” over the coming months. I greatly value this time that I am experiencing with Jade - and already I can sense it will leave a considerable gap in my life when the time comes for her to move on.
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy it while it is going. That, and the opportunity to re-connect with many friends and acquaintances who have, for too long, played “second fiddle” to my extensive travelling. I’ve missed the company of too many good people for too long and I’ve, now, never faced a better opportunity to reverse that situation. In the light such a revelation, this week’s accompanying track features Mille Jackson and “It’s Gonna Take Some Time, This Time”. XX
Today marks one week since I returned from my tour: how quickly that period flashed by.
It took until at least the middle of the last week for the clamour in my head to subside - the almost ear-ringing sound of frenetic daily activity, be it from load-in or load out at the venues; the high level of ambient noise on the tour-bus, when travelling between venues or – probably worst of all – the decibel-splitting wall of sound during the Artists’ 90-minute performance.
I’ve described the above as best I can, just as the words came to me, to try and not lose the essence of the experience I was attempting to relate. I don’t expect anyone reading this (unless you, too, have returned from a sold-out Arena tour in the last week or so!) to understand this “phenomenon” that I am struggling to articulate - but it definitely exists.
I’m back home now, with 50% of the tour “clear-up” process under my belt. While I’m aware of much needing done (the majority of it cosmetic, where the house is concerned) on the domestic front, I have nevertheless gently swept those tasks to one side, until the lion’s share of the afore-mentioned clean-up process is complete, by this time next week. I just can’t wait!
Of course, said processes are nothing like unfamiliar to me: they accompany the “back-end” of the vast majority of tours, with which I’m involved. However, I would be less than honest if I did not admit to a (palpable) growing “intolerance” of the procedure: a gut-sensitive unease at the thought of what else I could be doing rather than wading around, up to my ankles, in post-tour paperwork. Then the professional in me automatically kicks back in and conscientious application takes over - with a small nod to how lucrative such work is for me!!
Having said the above – and surely this is a sentiment encountered by many professionals, as the years unavoidably slide by – time is the ultimate precious commodity, not to be frittered away on “crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s”. It’s time to practice what I (invariably) preach.
As (possibly) previously mentioned, I had planned to clear my calendar of any pending work commitments through at least the end of August and – save for a couple of “long weekends”, helping out a good friend of mine, on shows that she is unable to fulfil – that remains my stoic intention. Decent outdoor weather, for me, is a major requirement to stabilise my daily outlook: you will have heard me refer, on past occasions, to the fact that I’m not a “lie and fry” type of guy – I just want (like most folk) to have the sun on my back, whenever possible.
Therefore, over the coming three months there will (surely!) be more such days than not – thereby enabling me to “stay put” in the UK during that period. After that, I’m outta here!
Today lays testament to my (general) anticipation of the weeks ahead, being that I’m sat in my wee summerhouse with – albeit, magnified – the warmth of the midday sun flooding in. So – right at this very moment – life is good. All the other moments? I can’t be too sure! Let’s take it while it’s going though, and with that in mind this week’s accompanying track hails from none other than the (once?) iconic Mungo Jerry with “In The Summertime” – and soon we are!
The great catch-up process continues – but, of course, not as quickly as I would have liked.
Sure, there is much going on in my life - although not nearly as much as when I am on tour.
A minor hiccup this past week has entailed the return of two separate business parcels (and sent from two differing locations – 350 miles apart – I might add!) that were destined for County Cork in Ireland. Further investigation, via the Internet, has uncovered information relating to this situation whereby (and could this be related to the “fallout” of Brexit?) many of the large online retailers – Amazon, Wayfair, etc., are experiencing the same difficulties.
In particular respect of my two shipments, I chose to utilise the Post Office’s “Parcel Force” service, mainly because you are able to send up to six Kilograms maximum, in any one shipment: however, with the temporary “failure” of that method (and both returned parcels currently sat, forlornly, in the corner of my office) I have opted for “third time lucky” with the “Royal Mail” service – albeit that any one shipment cannot exceed two kilograms in weight. As I write, the latter Royal Mail shipment has at least made it into Dublin (which is as far as the previous two made it, before being turned back to the UK) – as I’m able to track its movement, online.
If switching to the Royal Mail service doesn’t fix it, then I’ll be heading for Fedex’s offices.
And you thought that hanging on the “periphery of celebrity” was all gloss and glamour? Hah!
Otherwise, keep in mind (if this isn’t throwing you completely) that, as I sit outside the front of the house here, on a glorious early Saturday evening, the “Saturday evening” to which I refer (right now) is Saturday 28th May – not really consistent with a 15th May Diary entry.
The “current” state of my Diary entries (i.e. – them being penned when they are meant to be – regularly on a Sunday) is a yardstick to the status of my own personal organisation, at any given time; therefore, at this particular “given time” said organisation is somewhat lacking!
By a week on Sunday (from now – being the 5th June) that day’s entry will be formulated there and then – and I will finally be caught up. There is no reason, from that point onwards, that I shouldn’t be able to stay on track – as I plan to be based in Dunbar over the summer months.
I’ve made the conscious decision to throw myself into “my health and my home” throughout June, July and August – meaning this will probably be the first summer I will be “staying put”, in the nine and a half years I have lived here. That’s really not a very commendable boast!
Nevertheless, here we are on the cusp of a situation whereby I am (technically) – in the next ten minutes – only two entries behind. It’s doubtful I will be able to complete the outstanding entries – to bring me up to date – in the next twenty-four hours, but I fully intend to complete one of them. With that in mind, I leave you (as I sense I have before) with Lenny Kravitz, wisely advising that “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”. Ain’t that the truth with these entries?!! X
It’s the Final Countdown. This time next week, I’ll be writing to you from the train North!
Before wittering on – as I normally might - about the developments of the past week, this is probably an opportune time to own up to the occurrence of two, fairly notable, faux pas: the most irritating of the two has to be the fact that - desperate to bring these Diary entries up to date, in conjunction with burning the midnight oil within 72 hours of finishing my LM tour – I only managed to overwrite today’s entry with that of last weeks, the 1st May. Duh!!
Add to the above (laying another glaring admission on the table, right now) that I’m now three weeks behind with my Diary entries! As a timely endorsement of the above, I would have to admit to sitting – right now - in the lounge of the charming Tontine Hotel (dating back to 1808) in the High Street of the Scottish Borders town of Peebles: my daughter Jade occasionally attends a riding school on the outskirts of the town. Therefore – being way short of time spent in Jade’s company, during this manic lifetime of mine - I decided to tag along.
Furthermore, for the sake of clarity (but possibly only succeeding in muddying the waters, even a tad more) I’m now back home in Dunbar, this Sunday evening, 22nd May – doing my level best to put this 8th May edition to bed, this very evening. Aside from my laptop, sat right in front of me, the rest of the dining table – with both “leaves” extended (the “dinner party” format- don’t know when it will ever be required for that!) – is strewn with all manner of Little Mix post-tour accounting documentation and corroborating paperwork. I may yet “drown”.
I’ve assured Jade that next Sunday evening we will use this same dining table for the purpose for which it was intended – without a shred of paperwork flanking us. That “target” requires no shortage of application, on my part, over the next six days: keeping in mind that, as of today (even with this entry hopefully consigned to the ether before the stroke of midnight tonight), I still require the completion of an additional three entries by this time next week.
If you are a regular reader of these dispatches, then you will be well aware that this is certainly not the first time this situation has transpired: of course, the common denominator of cause is invariably being out on the road: one is not at one’s creative best at the culmination of a twelve or fourteen-hour shift. I have accomplished little control of my own (personal) life over the last seven weeks – and this is not a situation that I can regularly allow to continue.
Come this time next Sunday, we are knocking on the door of the beginning of June which gives me a clear three months of our UK Summer, to re-order my personal life, to a level previously unattained. There are two distinct facets of that ongoing plan, namely: Health and House – and, absolutely, in that order. I’m chomping at the bit to initiate this major lifestyle change.
With the re-instatement of this 8th May entry that I stupidly overwrote, I must assure myself that I have taken the first step in the afore-mentioned direction. In the meantime (as it cost me 99 pence to download it, three days ago!) I’m sticking with my original choice of accompanying track for this entry: the band Europe with “The Final Countdown”. Love y’all!
Hey, hey – the first of May! This time next month I will beleive we’re almost into Summer.
During this past week we have made a “fleeting” visit to the home country with two shows at Glasgow’s OVO Hydro, Wednesday and Thursday. I would like to have included an additional show in Aberdeen on this tour (particularly as I’ve yet to undertake a gig at the relatively new “P & J Arena” there) however in order to add Aberdeen to any UK arena touring routing you almost have to be prepared to lose a day for travelling – and that comes at a fair cost.
Significantly (and, within the relentless touring environment, small occurrences and changes can have memorable significance) the first Glasgow show on Wednesday signified the half-way point of this 24-date tour: the start of rehearsals just seems like some distant memory.
Having bussed down from Leeds during Friday, we played the city’s First Direct Arena last night, to an 11,000+ sold out crowd. The venue – one of the “newer” arenas on the UK circuit – is a fabulous environment to watch a concert, with hardly an obstructed-view seat anywhere.
I’ve always found the FD Arena’s in-house staff to be well on the case, particularly those linked with the Event and Box Office departments: their pre and post follow-up is as impressive as any other UK arena. Any paperwork I specify beforehand, invariably awaits me.
As I write, I’m sat in the foyer of the Radisson Blu hotel in Cardiff, where we arrived at 2.00pm today from, of course, Leeds. Unsurprisingly, with Cardiff being the renowned party capital of Wales (aided and abetted by the fact that this is also the May Bank holiday weekend!), we may not have access to our hotel rooms, for a couple of hours yet. In such situations, our 47-person hotel arrival – particularly on a Sunday – is often greeted with only half of the rooms serviced. Some days mine’s is one of those first rooms available – other days (yes, today being a good example!) one has to exercise some patience and just ……….wait.
Right now, around 60% of the touring entourage have already crammed into the two hotel elevators (which should be three elevators, for a 21-storey hotel!) happily clutching their room keys: myself and around twenty others are scattered around the limited reception area, some of the more seasoned members of our group having already surrendered their luggage to the hotel storeroom and made a beeline for the bar - where the hotel have kindly offered everyone a complimentary drink while they await the imminent readiness of their hotel rooms.
Wild rock ‘n roll times on the road, eh? Not so, every day, dear readers: some days you have to call on every ounce of stamina and character within your grasp – especially, say, coming off the back of four gigs “back-to-back” – to deal with such testing days, when already dog-tired.
Anyway, guess what? Our intrepid Production Co-ordinator, Ying, has just sashayed past me and floated my room key packet down into my lap. I’m on my way folks – I’ll be under a hot shower within 30 minutes. What appropriate accompanying track therefore comes to mind? I say we go with my man Bob Seger and “We’ve Got Tonight” – because I have a “night off”. XX
Yet another Sunday – during which past week we now have another six shows under our belt.
Just last night, we completed four shows in three days at Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena (one of those being a mid-afternoon Matinee, yesterday – making for a very long day indeed!).
Prior to arriving in Birmingham on Thursday morning, we had undertaken shows in Liverpool (Monday) and Sheffield (Tuesday), so – all-in-all – contributing to a particularly busy week.
There is no denying that this (on the road) lifestyle can become a relentless pursuit: the strength required – particularly where some of our crew, especially the likes of carpenters and lighting technicians are concerned – makes demands of its participants that require large swathes of both physical and mental strength. As I sit here right now, on the tour bus heading towards Liverpool – with TWO whole days off with no show (a very rare – and somewhat expensive - occurrence in rock ‘n roll touring) - most of the guys around me are out for the count, having not made it back to the hotel until the early hours of this morning. Bless them.Like all vocations in life, you have to be there – in with both feet – to fully understand the nature of the work involved. If you can stay sane, fit, disciplined, and determined (and employed – although most of these lads and lasses are “freelancers”) you may be fortunate to travel the world at someone else’s expense: some days it will just be airport/venue/hotel, however every so often you will experience a travel day in a part of the world beyond belief.
You are, however, going to have to work hard to partake in such privilege and – boy – is there a huge slice of luck undeniably required along the way. So: be ready. Your chance to take that considerable step forward may just be around the next corner – or just outside the next gig.
I never forget that I could quite easily have continued along my (not so) merry way – working with a local band, but never scaling any greater heights than the path that the vast majority of those local bands follow: beavering away at it for years, praying for that all-elusive break that could transport them to the realms (or even just the fringes) of international stardom.
Alas, such a career path is the preserve of all but a very chosen few. Again, even as I write, I can’t avoid being plagued with further thoughts as to – initially – how luck played such a huge part in my own personal trajectory into the business. On the other side of that coin (and I’m somewhat jumping at the following assertion) it’s probably fair to say that any “perceived” bad luck – say, with subsequent business ventures over the years – has been of my own making.
On the occasion of a future Diary entry (not at the point where I’m careering towards the end of such a full-on tour – as I currently am) I’ll be happy to expand upon the above musings. It will probably not cause me any personal harm to stumble around a little more, within that line of thinking. Time will tell, however, whether there is worth in delving deeper! For the time being, this week brings an accompanying track that came to light last week, but which could almost be my signature tune! Gallagher and Lyle and “Heart on my Sleeve”. Until next week. X
Today you find me on the train, betwixt Newcastle and Liverpool - with no show tonight.
Regular readers will be familiar with my ongoing fondness for the railways, over the years – especially when I have been fortunate enough to take advantage of foreign rail travel, associated with my work (pertinently, I recall the Little Mix tour of Europe in 2019 when unfortunately – fortunately, as it worked out for me – the two crew buses were packed to the gunwales, and the question was asked of me, about whether I would mind travelling by train).
Result! I had a fab time, criss-crossing the European continent with little more than a day bag and my laptop: I caught up with my suitcase at the hotels when the crew enjoyed a night off. You may, or may not, be surprised by what can be crammed into a backpack, with force.
Anyway, let’s whisk ourselves back from continental Europe to my southbound journey to the city of music today (it’s surely only fair to confer that moniker on Liverpool: it’s pretty much where it all started, no?). It’s both a sobering and uplifting experience to have the Beatles anthology playing in the background in the house (it’s particularly therapeutic when I’m, once again, battling with cleaning the slate floor in the kitchen). The point being: how did John Lennon and Paul McCartney manage to pen such a diverse array of memorable compositions?
We (if you presently hover somewhere within my demographic) have indeed lived through a great musical age: aided, in my particular case, with actually “living inside” part of that musical age. Much of what I have witnessed – and what I have learned – will go to the grave with me.
In my almost fifty years in the business (Jeez!) there are several flashback moments that invariably tend to re-visit me in the wee dark hours and, unashamedly, I can proffer that – were there some magical ways for me to do so – I hanker to just overwrite those memories.
Unquestionably, thankfully, those few notable – uncomfortable – recollections are easily filed into almost obscurity when I wisely allow all the fabulous memories to shoulder the former right out of the picture. Luck has played a huge part in where I find myself “sitting” today.
Now – if it’s possibly crossed your observant mind as to why I may be “training” instead of “coaching” today, then I can reveal that I spent a most leisurely morning in the company of my old (but not so old as me, I believe) mucker – and, indeed, former employer, Jimmy Nail.
We always try to hook up when I’m in the locality and – in a nod to the character and resoluteness of the man – it was Jimmy who contacted me, prior to my arrival here (not saying it wasn’t nestling in a corner, at the back of my mind somewhere – but it was re-assuring to have the benefit of that timely reminder). Even stepping off the touring juggernaut for a couple of hours, especially in such relaxing company, does wonders for one’s state of mind.
So, for a wee tune that bears some relation to what I’ve been wittering on about this week: let’s go with Status Quo and “Again and Again” – as the road can sometimes feel that way! X
I have travelled across the sea this week, to be with you – but only the Irish Sea, folks.
Therefore, I come to you this evening from the vibrant city of Belfast, tonight being the second of two shows at The SSE Arena (formerly The Odyssey), a venue – and I know I’ve made mention of this before, in previous Diary entries – where I must have done fifty shows.
When this venue is rocking (and, boy, it was rocking last night) there’s few more electric atmospheres to be experienced on the “UK” arena circuit: not to take anything away from tonight, however my vast touring experience has shown that Saturday is the best show night.
As anyone attending a “Little Mix” show on this 2022 tour will tell you (although we are just on our second show this evening) it is indeed “a big ‘ol show” – surely a view that emanate from concert goers from front-of-house. If you were able to venture backstage – not possible, by the way, for a whole host of technical reasons, not least the current, strict, Covid protocols – you would quickly realise just how big this show actually is: thirteen 45’ tractor-trailers big!
Once again, it’s my (multitude of) friends on the technical crew that – having opened the first truck doors promptly at 05.00 on a show day – are the lads and lasses that pull this out of a hat, ensuring the avid concert-going public can witness the Artist take the stage by 8.30 pm.
Come 10.15pm, once the group are off stage – straight into their vehicles (known as “a runner” in the business) and gone, the equally mammoth job of packing all this back into the afore-mentioned trucks, starts in earnest: because, yes, they usually have to do it all over again, tomorrow – a few hundred miles distant. Even on tours the size of which I am involved with at the moment, this often involves three cities in a row. Still blinded by the “all the glamour”?!
Tonight, as I alluded to earlier, is only Day 2 of this 28-show tour: therefore, the secret to going the distance, on a personal level, is all about pacing oneself – particularly at my age!
Take last night: a Saturday night (the first of two consecutive shows here) in Belfast. There was a time – not as long ago as it should have been – when it was a quick swing by the hotel to freshen up, and then straight back out on the town. Fair to say, Belfast rarely disappointed!
None of those type of shenanigans is commonplace anymore - within the orbit of your intrepid author, anyway. Now: it’s worth qualifying that sentence - to the degree that, were I still operating in my former occupation as a Tour Manager, I would have invariably had little say on those occasions when my Artist wanted to be out on the town, post show, living the dream.
There you go: another advantage of my latter (current) position as the Tour Accountant – free to travel with the crew, or alone (yes!) by train some days, “untethered” to the Artist.
Almost run out of space here: I leave you this week with a relative track, in keeping with this week’s musings, from the eponymous Fleetwood Mac, titled “Go Your Own Way”. I have! XX
Greetings from an undisclosed location, in tour rehearsals - with an undisclosed Artist!
“Undisclosed” my faithful readers - as a result of something called an “NDA” (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Such documents are appearing with increased regularity where touring Artists are concerned, particularly linked to those entertainers that (unwittingly?) offer themselves to the voracious appetite of the various, and feeding-frenzy hacks, of celebrity world. This is the age in which we now find ourselves: where certain instantly recognisable performers must guard against any morsel of indiscretion finding its way into the very-public marketplace.
Naturally, in my own personal experience – treading the Music Industry boards for nigh on fifty years – I can easily recognise how such a system has worked its way into my business.
For my own part, it’s not within my DNA to divulge private details relating to some of the times that I have spent in the close company of certain hi-profile celebrities. Note the understated reference to “certain”. Along the way of this career of mine I have suffered absolutely unnecessary grief at the hands of “certain other” individuals whom I have worked for and whom – because I was turning a fair bit of coin as a result of my involvement with them - figured that conferred upon them the “licence” to, basically, just make my life a misery.
Those I refer to above are of course in the minority: but not with one of them did I ever sign ANY form of NDA, so they should not delude themselves that one day I may not have my say.
Furthermore (although, sadly – even though they “mistreated” me – around four of them no longer reside on this planet) should I publicly rub shoulders with any of them again, along life’s highways and byways, I will take the immediate opportunity - all the sweeter, because I am no longer in their employ - to put them straight as to my then, unchanged, opinion of them!
Sorry: if you have treated me unnecessarily unfairly during the time we may have worked together, then I will truly take some (long-dormant) satisfaction putting the record straight.
Apologies if I (not untypically, at times!) went “off on one” there: however, I am somewhat relived to have utilised this platform to “tell it like it is”. All tip of the iceberg stuff of course!
On a rather diametrical tack from this week’s musings, so far, this upcoming week sees me reach the ripe old age of 70!! There’s no denying that it represents a considerable milestone in any living person’s existence – and, of course, induces a diverse array of lifetime thoughts.
For me, it seems like the main line of my thinking will revolve around the “How did I get here so quickly?” view. However, even as I type away here, I sense something of a seismic shift in my outlook from Thursday (the big day) onwards, particularly regarding my health & well being.
As I approach this monumental point in my life, I am (this week) going to choose a song that represents something poignant to me: a classic Cat Stevens track called “Father and Son”. XX
Here we go, with a rundown of my last (“lost”?) week in Australia, jet-lagged to hell as I am.
In retrospect, springing the surprise of our arrival into Byron Bay may not have been the cleverest of plans. Having texted our son on Monday morning, to make him aware that we were lodged in a small Byron Bay motel – only fifteen minutes’ walk from where his workplace – he duly texted us back to announce that he would be unable to leave at work, at such short notice!
However, Monday was the day we were due to relocate, accommodation wise, from the Wollengbar Motel to a location about five miles outside town – indeed a location that I formerly utilised on a previous visit to see Bradley (you may recall my past mention of the “old bus”, latterly kitted out to accommodate a maximum of four persons – but perfect for two).
The bus (initially discovered by way of Air B’nB) is located in the area of Ewingsdale, north northeast of Byron Bay – and enjoying some beautiful views over rolling, peaceful countryside.
Sure, that bus is not for everyone (it features its own little quirks and oddities) but not everyone has spent the years travelling on a bus that I have. This allows me a certain amount of affinity, with such an arrangement where – normally - I am on such a bus with nine or ten other guys. Although the owner informed me that – in the years when their children were of an “adventuring age” – the bus has travelled far and wide around Australia, alas its travelling days are over and now stays “anchored” in its present position, adjacent to the owner’s house.
We finally caught up with Bradley on Tuesday evening, following the completion of his shift, where he works (a large, sprawling, backpacker resort – which also boasts some impressive private room accommodations – called “Aquarius”) and much hugging inevitably followed.
On Wednesday, we enjoyed a memorable couple of hours – again at Aquarius, over pizza: spent reminiscing over many songs that he and his sister picked up on, when I used to feature on the car stereo system, when running them “to and fro” to all places, in their formative years.
Bradley needed Thursday to catch up on his work schedule: however, this gave Stella and I the opportunity to put our little yellow rental car to good use and go check out some of the local countryside – all very lush and green, immediately reminiscent of areas of New Zealand.
Friday night was “Karaoke Night” at “Aquarius”: however, your author (considered by some – but not all - as a consummate music industry professional!) struggles to sit through the spectacle of the well-intended public literally “crucifying” various classic song compositions.
Suddenly, before we know it, Saturday has rolled around and – with a flight due to depart at 8.15 pm, local Brisbane time, last night, we reluctantly – and sadly - bid our goodbyes to our first-born and headed north to New South Wales, bound for Queensland. In recognition of those valuable hours spent in our son’s company, I leave you this week with (thankfully) a favoured track of his, in the shape of “Bad Company” and “Can’t Get Enough”. And we can’t. X
Well, here’s a departure from the “norm”: I’m sat today in Byron Bay, in Eastern Australia!
I can’t recall (although I could just glance back at last week’s entry – I blame jet lag!) whether I mentioned already that I was headed down here at short notice to spend this last week with my son, before scuttling off to my Little Mix rehearsals in London, at the end of next week.
Fortunately, Bradley’s mum Stella was able to make the journey at the same time, meaning the two of us trudged into the Wollongbar Motel, on Byron Bay’s main arterial route into town, at 0115, this morning, having (wearily) arrived off an Emirates flight at 10.44 pm last night.
As I said, here I sit, outside the door of room 3 in the standard motel format (i.e., there are generally always two additional seats outside, directly adjacent to the motel room door) and where better to position oneself, at 09.00 am in the morning, with the temperature already a rather engaging 24 degrees! Sure, I’m a little fried right now, but I’m clad in only a sleeveless vest.
We actually thought it a nice touch to surprise Bradley, being that it is the low season, tourist wise, out in “Oz” at the moment – and surprised he certainly was, to find us “around the corner” when we texted him a short while ago. We’re hopeful of initially catching a quick lunch with him and then fitting in a few dinners as the week wears on: much will depend on his schedule.
Having said that, Stella and I popped out of the motel a short while ago to grab a bit of breakfast (£100/night for a room – but no breakfast included) and found ourselves stumping up $AUS 31.00 (£18.51) for two “mochas” and a large slice each of sourdough toast, with butter and jam. As far as Byron Bay goes, it’s like this: if you wanna play, be prepared to pay!
Just realised I omitted to mention that we both only have a seven-day window, for this particular trip: meaning that we are back on a flight out of Brisbane, this Saturday night coming, the reverse of the trip of the last few days: homeward bound, the first leg (Brisbane to Dubai) is just a tad over 13 hours – ouch! – with the Dubai to Glasgow leg taking another 7.
The blessing however, as on the “outward” flight, was that connection time in Dubai was under two and a half hours: the flip side to that coin (or lots of coins, in this case!) was that it increased the per-passenger flight cost by almost £500, for each of this. This was only avoidable by enduring an almost twenty-one-hour layover, to peg the ticket price - and that would have to have been “endured” in both directions. With me having to travel to Little Mix rehearsals on 31st March (jeez, that’s only eleven days away!) we had real choice but to plump for the more expensive fare. I can’t afford to be over jet-lagged at the start of this tour.
Well, let’s see how the next week goes in terms of maximising the time we can spend with our son while we are down here – as we must remember that he has a fairly stressful job, managing a large hostel, strategically placed on one of Byron’s busiest streets. Moving on to this week’s accompanying track, I’m opting for a wee tune that bears some relation to the events of the last 26 hours – and from a Scottish band! I give you “Nazareth” and “This Flight Tonight”!. X
Back to Life – Back to Reality: basically, back to Dunbar, as of Wednesday evening this week.
I may have indicated, within the body of last week’s entry, that the original plan had been to return from Cyprus last night, Saturday. However, in looking ahead to the projected weather situations, both in Scotland and in Cyprus, I discovered so little difference in temperatures.
Adding to the above that My Little Mix commitment kicks off at the end of this month, my sensible self advised me to jump back on the plane on Wednesday night, and head homewards.
The weather forecast has certainly borne out the BBC’s predictions of earlier this week - as we have experienced a very pleasant last few days, albeit with the wind never too far away!
Thoughts of extended stays in Cyprus now need to take a back seat until June of this year, when my involvement with Little Mix will be completely finished. Right now, while quietly harbouring considerations as to how long I can actually continue to undertake this, unquestionably, stamina-sapping work, my current sentiment is to totally immerse myself in this upcoming project: once out there, within the confines of my “second family”, the work will – as always - come naturally. My energy to increase the “bottom line” will never cease!
Although I alluded, above, to a wish to return to Cyprus within the foreseeable future – but of course not until this current touring commitment has ended – I am also considering dedicating the month of June to bringing my house “up to scratch”, maintenance wise. The associated work is primarily of a cosmetic nature but is nevertheless a (now) reasonably substantial “snagging” list: a host of niggling jobs that have built up over the previous winter.
Such work is naturally easier to accomplish during decent weather, especially as the majority of tasks needing done on my property relates to the garden (and a very modest garden, at that, I have to inform you) and small outlying areas. I actually made a start to this yesterday.
Ideally, the garden is brought “up to spec” from which point onwards the only general requirement should be a bi-monthly tidy, such work which I will probably handover to a local gardener: a lad that I’ve used on a few previous occasions – and who charges very reasonably.
Time management: life’s constant challenge, in particular with the advancement of years – when said time renders itself as an increasingly precious commodity. I earnestly suspect that the imminent onset of my seventieth birthday will (welcomely) galvanise my thinking towards carefully measuring where I go from there. However, as that point will occur one week into the tour’s rehearsals, any notable deviation in life planning, for me, will have to wait until June!
For now – as with the onset of any major tour – I have to throw myself into the work tirelessly: an approach that, thankfully (but, possibly, with a few more lingering reservations than normal), evolves quite naturally. With that in mind - and reflecting upon all that I have (somehow) accomplished in my career, I leave this week’s tune to the iconic Mr Dean Martin!
In exactly one month and one day, I will be seventy years old. That’s hard to comprehend!
The above line is not about to lead into a few paragraphs where I grapple to understand how things got to this stage (I’ll save these musings for a month from now!) – it was just the first thought that jumped into my ahead, as I prepared to compile this week’s (on-time!) entry.
This evening finds me in the charming coastal town of Polis, on the north-east coast of Cyprus: if you gave your undivided attention (if not, why not?!) to last week’s Diary entry, then you will know that I was due to be heading out to this enchanting island, as of Wednesday past.
Since arriving in as planned, and after collecting my KIA “Sedona” rental car (the word “powerhouse” could never be used in the same sentence, with this vehicle) from Europcar, I headed – eastwards – to a previously favoured haunt of mine, namely Pissouri Bay. I wouldn’t say things were quiet, accommodation wise, at the moment - but I was the only guest booked into Pissouri Bay’s Yiallos Apartments on Wednesday night: the owner had already messaged me to say I would find the key in the door, but I’m thankful I brought my torch, to find it!
There are some noticeable changes since the last time I was there (almost three years ago now), the most apparent of those being the ongoing conversion of the beachside car park into what appears to be some sort of boutique hotel/apartments – with stunning views to boot.
I spent both Wednesday and Thursday nights in Pissouri, taking the opportunity to utilise most of Thursday, during the day, to re-visit many familiar local haunts that I repeatedly frequented during the times I visited the island when Alice was stationed out in Episkopi.
Coincidentally (but not 100% coincidentally) my good neighbour, Sue, from Dunbar – and her friend Janet, from nowhere near Dunbar – are currently spending a week out in Cyprus, staying at a far plusher place than where your esteemed author will be laying his aging head tonight.
Having said that – and spinning forward a few days (and two accommodation locations) – I am sat here in the Souli Beach Hotel in Polis, at £37.50/night, including breakfast, where the lady at reception has kindly given me a sea-view room, although it was dark when I arrived. Nevertheless, I am aware of the sound of the waves gently breaking on the shore when I stand out on the balcony of my room, therefore I’m looking forward to the view in the morning!
Between my arrival on Wednesday – and this present moment, sat here in the hotel’s very reasonably priced restaurant – I also spent two nights at The Petsas Apartments in Coral Bay (seven miles west of the centre of Paphos, on the southern coast), another “outskirt” of the main city that’s always appealed to me, as having a very comfortable and a very “villagey” vibe.
Well, whad’ya know? We’re almost at the end of this week’s entry. So, deferring to my very laid-back state of mind this evening – in this most relaxing area of Cyprus – I leave you with a track that goes some way to encapsulating this evening’s mood. Here comes “CCR” (again)! X
I am sitting in a railway station – and got a ticket (on my phone!) for my destination.
The above being a slightly re-worked version of the first lines of an iconic Simon and Garfunkel song – as my more mature readers will have already cottoned onto, by this point.
The station in question (and certainly not my first time through here) is located in Crianlarich on the “West Highland Way” approximately 85 miles due north of Glasgow. Interestingly (he says, assuming that – akin to your author – the world of railways may be of interest to you) the line “splits” here: giving you the choice of travelling on, either North North-East to Oban or almost directly North, albeit via a circuitous route, to Fort William. In the case of the latter, every third or fourth Fort William train then carries on to the “end of the line” small coastal ferry port of Mallaig. Both Oban and Mallaig operate ferries out to the Western Isles.
I arrived up here yesterday, via a somewhat elongated rail route (Dunbar-Glasgow Queen Street - Crianlarich) just in time to partake of dinner at my favourite “hostelry” in the area, The Ben More Lodge. Today, off the back of a very leisurely morning – knocking on into a very leisurely lunchtime, taking in the Hibs v Celtic football game on my laptop – I took advantage of a feasible “day-trip” return to Fort William, as it has been many years (if any, at all) since I travelled this section of the line: generally, I always head NNE up to Oban, from Crianlarich.
Well folks, I should have undertaken that Crianlarich to Fort William train journey years ago!!
The scenery was/is absolutely stunning – although, of course, one would not be able to appreciate such vistas were one travelling in the dead of winter, with snow lying everywhere.
I can only marvel at the engineering ingenuity involved when that line was first constructed (I’m actually going to research the history of that particular line now: I can now tell you that the line was opened in 1894!) – never mind the extremely remote, and “unfriendly”, terrain.
I fully intend to make that trip again, next time extending it all the way to Mallaig (where, as a result of fairly restricted train timetables in that part of the world, this would involve a Mallaig stay). I have already narrated the trip to Jade, as to how magical the journey was, in respect of the next occasion she may hopefully find herself with a free, “long”, weekend.
Tomorrow, I will head south again – via Glasgow – back to Dunbar: but will take with me a clutch of vivid memories of the preceding seventy-two hours. I’m actually then on the move again, two days later, with a flight out to Cyprus - a favoured area where I have a treasured, past, affinity for, having enjoyed several trips over the two-year period before Covid struck.
Consequently, next week’s entry will come to you from somewhere in Cyprus (haven’t booked my hotels yet – no surprise there!) and – with that in mind – let me leave you with a “travelling type” of song, that has probably already made an appearance in a previous entry, somewhere down the years: unmistakably, Creedence Clearwater Revival and (yes) “Travelin’ Band”. XX
This past week has been a somewhat subdued period, after the “highs” of the previous one.
Having enjoyed a fabulous weekend break with my daughter last weekend (as thoroughly detailed, within last week’s Diary entry), I returned to my – then – quieter domestic domain, having dropped Jade back at her partner’s house in the Borders, on late Monday afternoon.
Jade has been on holiday this past week but will hopefully spend at least the first two nights of the week, from next week onwards, based at my place in Dunbar – until further notice.
It therefore goes without saying that I will relish any such time that she spends in my own environment: small recompense indeed for the countless evenings I was nowhere near her, as a result of the globe-trotting demands of my business life & with no recourse to social media.
From what I have experienced so far – on these few precious evenings in Jade’s company – we only really see each other for around ninety minutes each day, mostly spent across the dinner table from each other: but it’s an arrangement that I’ve certainly come to treasure, of late.
On the basis of the saying “a job shared is a job halved”, Jade’s presence around the house – if only for these initial few days of the week – has seen us power through a plethora of minor, queuing, domestic tasks that had been gently (and very noticeably) piling up over recent months. OK, we may – at the same time - have infinitesimally edged up Amazon’s share price (I’m here, Jeff Bezos, if there’s any spare dividends flying around!) with at least one delivery a day, over this past week. However, the subsequent little cosmetic touches - that have further enhanced the increasingly homely feel of my wee house – are most welcome additions.
Next week (as I may have alluded to, in a recent edition of the Diary) I am due to fly out to Cyprus for a two-week holiday, in the hope of encountering some warm sunshine - cloaked in temperatures at least 10 warmer than those currently on offer back home in East Lothian!
Having said the above – and realising that these enjoyable times on offer, with my daughter will not last indefinitely – I am tinkering with possibly hanging back in Scotland for a few more days before finally heading to Cyprus. Confession: I already rescheduled yesterday’s originally planned departure date, to now leave this coming Wednesday, 23rd (no extra cost!).
Even that latest arrangement is currently bouncing around in the back of my head: I mean, within reason, I can literally jet off to Cyprus “anytime” - whereas Jade will soon move into her own place, certainly within the foreseeable future. The latter opportunity – naturally – far outweighs the former opportunity. Consequently, watch this space for further details.
So, with my personal situation in something of a state of “flux” at the moment (never seen me like that before, have you?!) - going into next week - let’s see if we can drum up some form of relative song for this week’s accompanying track. How’s about this 80’s number from the group “Bucks Fizz” – “Making Your Mind Up”! This should have been accomplished by next week. XX
Having been based at home for weeks, today’s entry comes to you from the Scottish Highlands!
To be specific, I am currently sat in the “Corran Bunkhouse” adjacent (wouldn’t you know) to the short Corran/Ardgour ferry, approximately eight miles south of the town of Fort William.
I’ve enjoyed a fabulous two days in the (sole) company of my daughter Jade, trawling around the western highlands of Scotland. I’m way short, in life, on such quality time, where my children are concerned: far too much time spent estranged from them, over my long career.
We left Edinburgh late afternoon Friday past, almost as soon as Jade had finished work and stopped by her house to collect a weekend bag. Our first port of call was a village called Tyndrum, 88 miles north-west of Edinburgh, where we arrived just before 8.00 pm. The Hotel (the Muthu Ben Doran Hotel) was – as far as we could see – literally deserted: evidenced by the fact that neither the in-house restaurant nor bar facilities are currently in operation.
However, in fairness to the hotel’s attentive front desk staff, the other facilities were fine for the price we paid – with the local restaurants (actually, all of three restaurants!) and the gas station/food store all within easy walking distance of our Tyndrum hotel, so all hunky dory!
The following morning (having packed a selection of crockery/cutlery/condiment/basic food items in the back of the car, prior to leaving Edinburgh) we enjoyed an impromptu muesli breakfast, in the car, with the addition of fresh milk from the afore-mentioned food store.
The majority of Saturday was taken up with a daytrip to the coastal/ferry town of Oban, 38 miles distant – further west - from Tyndrum (we were booked into Tyndrum for both Friday and Saturday nights). Once we reached Oban, we drove west out of the town on the esplanade road – keeping the water on our left - until we could go no further, reaching a small settlement called Ganavan Sands. With a large (free) car park area on offer – augmented by a very convenient “coffee trailer” – we just kicked back and watched people exercising their dogs!
Returning mid-afternoon to Tyndrum, we managed to find an alternative, circuitous, route back: this time over the hills, rather than hugging the coast – as we did on the way up there.
This morning, we departed early from Tyndrum – again employing something of a circuitous routing – initially driving through the stunning Glencoe, onwards to Fort William and Mallaig, “returning” via Lochailort and Strontian to meet the short ferry crossing from Ardgour – a mere few hundred yards from where I currently sit, in the lounge of the “Corran Bunkhouse”.
Tomorrow morning, we take a relaxing drive, via the towns of Pitlochry and Perth, back to Edinburgh – for what will have unquestionably proved to have been a most memorable three days. In respect of having my daughter all to myself for that time, I’m going to plump for an accompanying track that I suspect I have featured before – but most appropriate this week: none other than the iconic Buddy Guy with “She’s A Superstar” – and that she definitely is! X
“January – sick and tired, you’ve been hanging round me”. Astutely said, David Paton of “Pilot”.
It wasn’t quite that extreme, for me. To be fair, it has been one of the more tolerable Januarys that I can recall: obviously, the exceptionally mild weather that we experienced throughout the month – without even one significant snowfall to report – contributed to that.
Having said the above, this morning’s televised weather forecast has predicted a late afternoon appearance of snow, in certain areas of Scotland – so I probably need to push on with this week’s entry before I possibly have to eat my words. Not the first time, you say?!
I will admit, particularly within my sphere of business operations, that I’m known to be strongly opinionated on certain subjects. In defence of that view, I would argue that - based upon the time I have spent in the music business – my views are founded upon the knowledge of experience rather than off-the-cuff assertions. Add to that (again, in my opinion!) an almost-eerily dependable sixth sense, in respect of innate “vibrations” that reach me when I’m exposed to certain situations and individuals, then my opinions generally prove to be right!
Often, continuing the tack of the above paragraph, I occasionally wonder if there is a possible commercial angle from possessing such a trait? I can’t (and won’t) be infinitely employed in this business, based upon the amount of experience I have under my belt. Such worldly experience appears to cause rumblings of unease within the majority of Artist Management companies that are staffed by young, “newly-arrived” and relatively inexperienced individuals.
Such is the nature of the business in which I have spent almost fifty years. Financially, it (naturally) sits well with me: morally, it does not always endear the same sentiment: however, I have to be careful – as I have been known to do – not to run off at the mouth, while I remain a “resident” of that business! I remain in awe of the legions of dedicated concertgoers around this world who have kept me in work for close on half a century: I am possibly only just worthy.
One day - possibly not too far off in the future- I’ll elaborate on the general context of the above paragraph, but this is certainly not that time. But, yes, it’s not all gloss and glamour.
Back to the here and now – and the next project up for me is “Little Mix”, commencing with London-based production rehearsals from early April onwards, followed by six weeks’ arena touring throughout Ireland and the UK. It will certainly (although, probably, only initially) be somewhat strange to see only three of the girls up there on stage, following Jesy’s departure from the band, last year. In spite of that change, the tickets continue to “fly out the door”.
Having touched upon the world of “girl bands”, then why not feature a girl-band song as this week’s accompanying track? Digging through the plethora of music tracks that are resident on my “choked” hard drive, I’ve chosen to go with what I believe (and was proved right!) to be a very catchy and commercial composition, at the time, from one of the first “girl bands”: no less that The Shirelles with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” Of course I trust that you will! X
Only two days remaining of the month that I (and many others) find hardest to deal with.
I personally feel that I have accomplished markedly more in January 2022, than many of its predecessors. The fact that this particular January has been one of the mildest on record has certainly aided my tolerance levels and my general mood status: just venturing outside, without fear of encountering treacherous surfaces or freezing temperatures, is a positive.
That’s not to say that we have not experienced one or two rather chilly days, during this past month: however, those have been the exception rather than the rule. Also welcoming, where daylight is concerned, the end of January marks a further corner turned – being that dusk is now the heartening side of 5.00 pm - with precious more minutes of light each additional day.
Being once more (after a hiatus of probably almost seven years) the outright owner of a vehicle has further assisted my passage through this “darkest” month: even having the opportunity to sit down at the harbour late afternoon – albeit well wrapped up – cossetted in the interior of the (literally) old Honda – guarantees a mood-lifting change of environment.
As I have alluded to on several past occasions, the wonderful natural light bestowed upon Dunbar – with its “unique” geographical position – has oft come to my rescue to literally “lighten my outlook” when, say, taking the 20-minute walk into town (the discipline here is not just to jump into the car, to undertake a task that previously involved a short, bracing, walk).
Only last night, having now plugged my weekly Asda shop into a Saturday night (wild times, eh?) as part of my constantly-evolving “homebound” schedule – and even though darkness had long fallen at this point – I elected to walk up through the woods to collect my groceries. One always feels the immediate benefit of even such a simple form of exercise. Certainly, I do.
I’ve just gazed towards the window, in the direction of the garden, and that very inspiring light to which I referred is silhouetting the bare trees in the small patch of woods between my back fence and the road which runs behind. The sun is out – but I don’t anticipate warmth!
Currently, I’m awaiting news of confirmation of my involvement with a touring project that commences 31st March - almost two months away, to the day. I’m quietly confident of finding out, during this coming week, of my involvement - with the project’s completion due in late May: more about the actual project, once I am in the position to “go public” with the details. If that all works out, I have nothing else in the pipeline – although something always turns up. Having said that, I am (finally!) in a position where there is no desperate need for me to be canvassing further work: I’m more than content to await my regular clients future touring.
Forward into February I go – with the prospect of my daughter Jade spending some time at the house this coming month, as a result of her being relocated with her job. In celebration of that, I leave you with a very appropriate Buddy Guy song: “She’s A Superstar”. Be well! X
In terms of my mental well-being, I’ve enjoyed a most uplifting and soul-satisfying week.
You will recall, from last week’s entry, my planned whistle-stop of visits to several people that I haven’t seen for a while – all located south of the border: well, I’m now back - and revitalised!
On a more sobering note, with regard to those very visits, the overriding thought process was that I should never have left it that long; that - where had all those intervening years gone?
Only a matter of less than a day from returning from said trip, I have already decided that – quite apart from the cerebral benefits of having hooked up with Fran, Michelle, Barrie and Chris (and his good lady – and “chauffer” – Kate) during this last week – there is a need to make a concerted effort to catch up with more such “distant” friends. Invigoration beckons!
In the meantime – and with a booked doctor’s appointment that I’m determined to keep, ten days from now – I’ll spend at least the next couple of weeks based back here in Dunbar: the mild winter weather continues to determine that I am nowhere as “imprisoned” as I anticipated I might be. Having said that, on walking down to my local train station – early Tuesday morning past - to commence my little trip south, I was certainly aware of a slight sheen of overnight pavement frost - which reminded me of my “clattering” fall last winter.
Having, finally – after over six years of renting cars (on the “relatively few” occasions they were required, with all the travelling I had undertaken during that period) I may have mentioned that I subsequently took the plunge and bought an inexpensive Honda Cr-v, being that I anticipate a conscious reduction in my touring exploits in the years ahead. The vehicle in question has done a fair whack of miles in its time – coming up for 165,000 – however the care that has been lavished upon it, both interior and exterior wise, is plain for all to see. Being a 2009 model, I have no intention of venturing too far with it (i.e., south of the border).
The vehicle will come into its own during these winter months, when I have to be increasingly aware of just leaping onto my bike and cycling off around the locality, when temperatures have dropped: I hark back to my earlier comments about the risk of “treacherous” surfaces.
Having the means to just drive away from the house on a whim – albeit possibly no further than (say) fifteen miles locally – definitely offers advantageous alternatives at this time of year: by the time you’ve travelled ten miles or so, the interior of the car is sufficiently warm to allow you to sit parked for a good forty-five minutes with the engine turned off before possibly having to “repeat” the same procedure. However, folks, that works just fine for me!
Moving forward, I’m emboldened by our days lasting a few more minutes each evening, light wise: by the end of February, I figure it should be at least 6.30 pm before the onset of dusk – and that can’t come quick enough for me. With that in mind, this week’s accompanying track has something of a cryptic relationship to the subject: say hello to one Esther Philips with “What a Difference a [longer!] Day Makes”. Let’s make the most of each of those days!! XXX
My little travel itinerary (as referred to last week) has now come together rather nicely.
I was due to leave - heading down the East Coast - tomorrow morning: however, my buddy - who I was intending to visit in Huddersfield – called a few days ago to inform me that his good lady has contracted Covid. This has now necessitated a revised Tuesday departure – subsequently now taking a southwest bound train - with Manchester my reworked destination.
The above meeting will be a relatively brief lunch stop, as I’m due back on a train the same day, at 3.15 pm (having arrived in Manchester at just before 1.30 pm) onwards to Farnborough in Hampshire, to visit my one and only cousin, before she returns Stateside, later this month.
From Hampshire, on Thursday morning, I’m heading over to Henley-on-Thames to meet up with an old musician buddy, who played with one of the first major bands that I was fortunate to work with: I’ve been alluding to pay him a visit for a few years now – and now it’s finally on.
Next up, on Friday morning, I’ll be heading towards Peterborough for dinner that evening with Paul Potts’s Musical Director, with whom I toured extensively – worldwide - throughout the years of 2008, 2009 and 2010 (the most intensive touring period of my professional career).
That will see me back in Dunbar by next Saturday, sat here once again – a week from now – relaying the experience of next week’s trip, which can only have had a positive effect on my “social life”, which I fully realise requires a more determined, future, application on my part.
However, even further up the queue (actually, smack bang at the front) on my current list of ongoing life priorities should unquestionably be my health. On this particular front, I continue to work towards a situation, where everything else takes second place to my general wellbeing.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned (within the body of “recent” entries) that my general plan, going forward, is to spend the majority of the Winter months – now redefined, for the time being, as November through February. This all presumes that I have no work during such a period. Having said that, here I sit on a bright, crisp, Sunday morning which – temperature aside – could easily be April or May outside, with this exceptionally mild Winter we’re experiencing.
Suffice to say, the “contouring” exercise is underway - and I sincerely believe that I’m making inroads towards gearing my lifestyle in keeping with my age in this (yes!) my seventieth, year.
Having, this past week, 95% completed my 2021 business accounts – ready for presentation to my accountant, early February – I’m looking forward to being on the move again, next week.
So – all in all – I find myself in a good place this morning and – as always – the key to my mental stability is to hold on to that “vibe” as long as I can. With that in mind, this week’s accompanying track can only be an upbeat offering! As in many such situations, I find myself pulled towards Bob Seger’s repertoire – and what better than his “Travellin’ Man” track? XX
Well, here we are – already nine days into the New Year, with 2021 consigned to memory.
A little time apportioned to attempting to slow the march of “Father Time”, will always be time well spent. Personally, I believe I have already made inroads in that direction. Such minor corrections as “unsubscribing” a whole host of regular e-mail services that (over the past few years) have somehow crept into my e-mail queue with increasing regularity - is a good start!
If you caught last week’s Diary entry, you would recall that I made some representations towards the “parking” of my footballing interests until such time as the free movement of labour returns between Europe and the UK – and that’s certainly not going to happen overnight.
In the above respect, I currently have no contractual obligations to any young football player at this time. This state of affairs has “conveniently” dovetailed with a period of my life where – even more so than has been the situation in the past – I need to spend more time with a whole host of people (family being the first priority), that my involvement in this, at times, relentless touring business has prevented me from doing so. Time to put that right, folks.
My commitment to my football interests has – over the past twenty-five years - swallowed up countless “non-returnable” hours of my life and, in keeping with all of us of advancing years, these hours become increasingly precious. Even these such Diary entries – as therapeutic as their penning can be – are rarely accomplished within (say) a one-hour period. More often than not – just like I’m experiencing this very morning – reflective interruptions, during their composition, can run the process closer to two hours. Something else to concentrate on.
Having said the above, the regular Diary entries always allow me the opportunity to gather my thoughts at the end of the week – so it may be that they will be on the go for a while yet!
Back to my tentative plans for the remainder of January: certainly, I plan to visit some of the very folks, generally referred to in one of the previous paragraphs. In that respect, I have formulated a tentative itinerary that will see me take in Huddersfield, Manchester, Farnborough - finishing up with two days “based” in London, before heading back to Scotland. I figure – without “rushing” things – such a little jaunt to take between five and seven days.
Favourably so at this time of year, are the various hotel room deals on offer – mainly from recognised chains like “Travelodge” – that I will certainly look to take advantage of. Rather than drag my old Honda around the UK, I will revert to my favourite mode of transport and just utilise the country’s railway network: I’m with their slogan “let the train take the strain”!
There’s no reason I can’t be reporting on these very pages next week that the afore-mentioned itinerary is pretty much in place. That “week” may be followed by another wee trip back out to Tenerife, to pick up from where I left off, in late December. What, then, may be an appropriate track to follow this week’s musings? Well, if I’m going to be wondering around at my own behest, how about The Fortunes with “Freedom Come, Freedom Go”? That’ll do! XX
There’s no denying that this year of 2022 will coincide with the 70th year of Jake Duncan.
It has kinda crept up on me, or so it certainly seems. I was just thinking this evening that, -rather than allowing April to roll around (the 7th of the month, to be specific) thinking I’ll deal with it when it happens – I think I need to take some pro-active steps to prepare myself!
Let me return to that subject in the near future: just wanted to put the thought out there.
That’s me back here in the UK now, having returned from Tenerife on Wednesday past – essentially to seek an appointment with my own, local, doctor to follow up on my little “abscess mishap”, as reasonably detailed in last week’s Diary entry. The way things are at the moment – Covid implications wise – it is no longer a straightforward matter to pop along and see the doctor. However, a phone-call conversation between us has allayed any undue concerns I had, and – along with the sterling work that the course of antibiotics appears to have accomplished – I am confident that your intrepid author has now almost returned to his old (yes, old) self.
I did not originally intend to head back to the cold and rain (and cold rain) of Scotland so soon of course, therefore I have to take a breath, now that I am back here, and carefully – and resourcefully – schedule the months ahead, prior to the commencement of my next touring project (early April) which will require my full attention from the middle of March onwards.
As a result of one of my daughter’s future work contracts possibly involving her working close by to me, for two days of her working week, I’m going to hold off making any further travel plans for the time being. Although I certainly need to make a trip down south to catch up with several key friends that I’ve not seen for a while (which, if well planned, should be able to be accomplished as an 8 – 10 day round trip) I’ll slip that trip onto the back burner at the moment.
It’s something of a personal summarisation but, in my case (until I can “formulate” another approach) I have to make the best of the darker days – as the “lighter” days never present me any difficulties. Dusk at 4.30 pm loses me much of the day – and does little for positivity.
I quietly sense that (quite apart from the fact that the UK’s exit from the European Union has scotched much of my associated business workings) my interest in football is waning. It has been a roller-coaster ride, however I allowed myself to become too emotionally involved and that involvement manifested itself as, over the years, a substantially large financial hole.
This is not a cut and dried decision: however these thoughts have been “bubbling under” for a while now and – as afore-mentioned – was certainly prompted by the immediate effect that Brexit brought to my regular practice of bringing in young players from continental Europe.
I suspect further (therapeutic) thoughts on the above, tumbling onto the pages of future Diary entries. For the time being, with this week’s entry drawing to a close, let’s step up the tempo somewhat with a track that’s just jumped into my head: The Stones “Tumbling Dice”!
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