More often than not, I am communication with you when I am on the move, however today that is something of a “double whammy”, as I come to you now from a moving train, easing into Manchester. Then I realised I was feeling rather queasy - and that’s as far as the Diary got!
Fast forward to Thursday morning, sat in the breakfast room of the Nottingham Park Inn hotel, with your author (can I call myself that, in this case?), now feeling considerably better than he did when he was changing trains the other day – and now feeling ready to continue.
It would appear that I was temporarily afflicted with a bug that “was going around”: however, when that sort of thing happens within a close-knit (16 crew to a bus) touring environment, it very quickly takes hold – to a greater or lesser degree – of everyone on the tour. In this particular instance, it appears (certainly, thankfully, in my own case) to have been a relatively innocuous bug: only hanging around for a few days – and not causing any major discomforts.
I say the above: yet, Nina Chocholko, our super-efficient Production Assistant seems to have been struck a little harder than the majority of those of us who experienced it. I’m hoping that when I see her on the bus this morning she will be informing me that she’s over the worst. Me, I can still feel the “aftershock” of the minor stomach cramps that seem to have been a characteristic symptom of the bug in question. That - and a noticeable loss of appetite.
Anyway, here I am – back with my people – doggedly leaning into the final corner, approaching (staggering towards?) the home strait, but with the finishing line in sight. It has been a relatively long-haul, certainly in respect of the average length of the majority of UK arena tours: it will be only three days short of two months (from the first load-in day at rehearsals, until we head home on Monday 27th of this month) that I will have been involved “physically” with the tour. Again, if a day-off can be defined as a day when you have no show – or when you don’t have to travel to be ready for the next show – then we have yet to enjoy a day off!
The best example I convey to those who question me on the long hours we undertake in this business is – to allow them to appreciate the true meaning of a “long day” – to ask them to imagine that point when they leave work each day and then – at that very point – turn right back around and go back into that same place of work for another eight hours. Getting it?
Oh – and then do that three days in a row, then travel two hundred and fifty miles to reach the point where you start another, similar, three-day stint to the one before. Getting it?
I am proud of what I have achieved in my working life and while I have “blown” a fair whack of what I earned from the rewards of such a punishing schedule, I unquestionably earned the right to do so, I just wish I had chosen more wisely as to how I invested it, because I had to go right back out there and earn it again! Surprisingly, I’m still of a reasonably sane state of mind to be able to recount those occurrences, while (very sadly) several of my touring compatriots – fatally - allowed the lifestyle to get the better of them. I learned something from nearly all of them, even if that was only not to live the way they did. I know this is a repeat, but I can surely only sign out this Diary’s theme with “Ol Blue Eyes”. Go for it Fwanky! …
Well, folks, I have to report a rather long day today – yet nothing to do with Little Mix!
Not directly that is: having caught the 06.30 Air France flight out of Newcastle this morning, Paris bound, and having to return back to Dublin early tomorrow morning is – I guess - borne out of having to work around the Little Mix touring schedule. Nevertheless, it was my decision to go to Paris in the first place, to watch a trial game that took place earlier today in a small park called “Maison Alfort Stade”, in the south part of the city, not far from the Creteil area.
Upon my arrival this morning, I made my way across town to the Charenton district, and my “Trivago-booked” apartment hotel – only three hundred meters walk from the Charenton metro station on Line 8 of the Metro. This involved starting my journey on “RER B” - one of several over-ground lines that crisscross the metropolis of (what I believe to be) the world’s most international city. Alighting in Gare d’ Nord station, I then switched to Metro Line 5 to Bastille, from where I connected to Line 8, to Charenton, to be able to complete my journey.
By this time it was still only 11.00 am, therefore – with there being no way I was going to be able to check into the hotel (or any hotel!) on a Sunday, much before 2.00 pm – I took a stroll down the adjacent boulevard, until I happened upon a typical French Brasserie: none too busy, just a scattering of older men shooting the breeze with each other, drinking dark coffees.
So, I just slid into a window seat, ordered what the old guys were drinking (to make it one more old guy drinking dark coffee) jumped onto the Wi-fi and gazed out of the window at the world leisurely going by. There really is no other city like Paris for indulging in such a pastime.
Add to that a cheese sandwich on (arguably) the most recognisable bread in the world – which the lady behind the bar had to pop into the “Boulangerie” to purchase, me being her first food customer of the day – and that was me, as content as I’ve been for a long while on a Sunday.
Around midday I thought I might “chance my arm”, wander along to the hotel and politely enquire as to whether I might be able to gain access to my room. What I haven’t mentioned as yet, was the fact that I watched two games today – one in the middle of the afternoon, in the north-east of Paris (before my Belgian-based scout, Jean Bosco, had made it into the city) and, of course, the “main event” - the trial game, played only two Metro stops from here.
Thankfully, I have to say, I watched a very enjoyable game this evening, the majority of the twenty-one players (that was the total amount that turned up) who would put to shame 90% of the League Two players in Scotland, with the formers’ level of technical ability and rhythm of movement – and not one of those young, hopeful, players I saw tonight is signed to any club!
That’s the style of football that I prefer to watch, particularly on a freezing cold night in Scotland, attending the likes of a Forfar, or Stirling Albion or Stenhousemuir trial game – but the possibilities of that are 1) extremely unlikely and 2) nigh-on impossible. Very sad, really.
Nevertheless, let’s not go out on a “downer” this weekend, so for this week’s accompanying track, here’s something a little bluesy from The Holmes Brothers: “Big Boss Man”. Big love.
The Touring Juggernaut rolls on - parking itself this evening in Cardiff for tomorrow’s show. In fact, we have two consecutive shows here – and they’ve both been sold out for months.
The favoured hotel for technical crew involved with any show at the CIA (Cardiff International Arena) is smack bang across the road from the front door of the venue, the Park Inn “by Radisson”. Folks, I cannot tell you the countless times I have stayed in this hotel - but not always this hotel - when gigging in Cardiff. As I said, it is unquestionably the preferred crew hotel, being that you can make it from the backstage area to your hotel room in a “record” ten minutes: however, in my heady Tour Management days – and especially with Artist with “teen appeal” (such as Westlife) - it was totally impractical to have the Artist located across the way from venue. To Cardiff’s advantage, there are two or three decent “band” hotels located within a 10/12 mile radius of the city centre – but, my lips are sealed!
We are now fifteen shows into this 37-date tour, and have continued to maintain 100% sellout attendances at all shows so far – and I see no reason that trend will not continue, as what few “production hold” seats are released on the show-day, are snapped up within minutes, online.
I may have mentioned on a prior occasion (undoubtedly - knowing me) that I only really come into my own – from the point of view of my Tour Accountant’s service – when an Artist’s shows are selling particularly well. Confidentiality prevents me from entering into specific detail, but – suffice to say – an Artist has the opportunity to significantly increase their earnings once their venues (on average) are above the “80% full mark”. And that’s where I come in.
Therefore, in these days of reduced Artist income from recording earnings, you would think the majority of serious arena touring acts would be crying out for the services of a guy like me – who costs the tour the equivalent of 109 tickets each week. It’s a no-brainer, really (you would argue). I can only put it down to naivety that people don’t understand my actual role.
My energy level tends to waiver in parallel with my moods, when it comes to me attempting to convince management companies of the importance – and financial benefit – of my involvement. Is it a case of “If you don’t know it, fear it”?. It’s definitely a case of something prohibitive.
This last week has seen us play shows in London (the O2) on Thursday past, followed by two consecutive shows in Sheffield Arena. I mentioned last week that the mid-tour break ran from 21st through 25th of this month, which is why we have only played three shows this last week. Of course, it was great for me to wander down the “West Country” with Alice, however my body may have believed I was only on a short tour and therefore – thinking I was finished for a while - went looking for its customary “pay-back” as soon as I took my foot off the gas. The knock-on effect has been that it has taken me at least these three recent gigs to get back into the swing of things. Which is just as well, because we have six shows next week!
What tune can I leave you with this week, that may bear some resemblance to the above ramblings – that have revolved around my “under utilisation”? I’m sure I may have selected this track to accompany a previous diary entry but it’s still something of an iconic track: this evening, folks, I leave you with Bachman Turner Overdrive and “Takin’ Care of Business”. XX
This evening finds Alice and myself sat in the lounge of the iconic Victoria hotel in Newquay.
Why Newquay? Why at what appears to be smack bang in the middle of this Little Mix tour?
Aha - there is a sound reason for that: being that the girls had previously decided – at the planning stage of the tour – to take a few days break around this time, rather than incur eight straight weeks of touring. A wise decision - which allows everyone out on the road to step off the touring treadmill for 72 consecutive hours, and return to the fray suitably refreshed.
For the majority of the crew (many of them, family men - and women) it represents a welcome opportunity to pop home for a few days, although I suspect much of that time will be spent enduring intermittent napping as their bodies go hunting for some payback, for many “sleep hours” lost on the tour, to date, since October 1st. Rehearsals seems like a long way back now.
For Alice, due a few days holidays from her work in Cyprus, it offered her the opportunity to fly over to the UK for five days and spend some time in exhilarating company (yes, with me!).
We subsequently planned a “mini-holiday” in the West country, between the Manchester show (20th – Friday past) and the first O2 show in London, coming up next Thursday, 26th. Consequently, we are sat, this Sunday evening, in the afore-mentioned, expansive, front lounge of Newquay’s Victoria Hotel, an establishment that is now over one hundred years old, sitting majestically on the cliffs overlooking the bay – but there’s only two of us here in the lounge!
Last night was spent in the quaint north Devon coastal town of Ilfracombe, tonight of course in Newquay (where I played a show with the Bay City City Rollers – at the Blue Lagoon Ballroom – back in 1973!), then tomorrow night in Torquay - finishing up in Bournemouth Tuesday night.
So, as far as the tour goes, we now have ten of the total thirty-seven shows under our belt - and all of those ten shows so far have been complete sell-outs, which is pretty impressive stuff. There’s no reason that cannot continue, as the remaining twenty-seven shows are already sitting on an average of 98% sold: it’s a major part of my job to get that to 100%. Hence the reason I have to be in the venue by 12.00 noon, latest, each day - to locate the remaining seats, make sure any prospective purchaser will have good view of the performance and, if so, sell those seats! After all, this is the whole point, commercially, of what we do.
For my part, as soon as I enter the venue, open my flight-case and start to set-up for the day, that’s me in “automatic professional” mode for the next (minimum) twelve hours. In future, you may not find me spending so many hours inside the venue, missing so much daylight. That is certainly something I’m going have to come to terms with, and before very long, I know: as enjoyable as it is – and as lucrative as it is – it is not something I can now do forever.
In closing this week’s entry – and being that during this five-day break in the tour, we’ve gone more than a little “countrified”, picking our away along an assortment of North Devon, narrow, country lanes – I’m going to plump for what I feel to be an appropriate track from a legendary 60’s/70’s US band, “Canned Heat” with a great little tune called “Going Up The Country”! XX
Well, loyal (and hopefully mature) readers, I would have to admit to being a little sh***ed out!
It has indeed been an exhausting, past, 48 hours - and that coming off the back of eleven (12-14 hour) days, “on the trot”: seven rehearsal days; one pre-production day in Aberdeen; two Aberdeen shows and one Newcastle show. Having then travelled down overnight from Newcastle, after Wednesday night’s show, it took until about 2.00 pm to get everyone checked into the Birmingham hotel, so we really had no more than about fourteen hours of rest, before having to board the tour bus in Broad Street, at 06.00 am on Friday morning, to head out to The Genting Arena. As physically demanding as that might appear, wait for the next bit …….
So yesterday, Saturday 14th, was arguably what will prove to be the hardest day of the tour – reason being that it was a “Matinee Day” which I’m sure most of you will be aware entails two shows in the one day: one performance at 3.30 pm and a second performance at 8.00 pm. Now, normally – with just the one performance each day – we would load in at 07.00 am, and subsequently be ready for a 4.00 pm sound-check, to prepare for an 8.30 pm show. You can then imagine – with the sound-check time for the Matinee having to be scheduled for 1.00 pm - what sort of time we had to load-in at!! 5.00 am, to be specific – and that with a “pre-rig”.
Therefore, backing up a little again, and with the last truck (of twelve) having its doors closed just before 1.45 am on Saturday morning, on the loading dock of the Birmingham Genting Arena, that meant our 47 crew members only being able to have three hours sleep on the overnight ride to Leeds. Don’t try to approach them in a situation like that, and bring up the subject of glamour! Sure, the job has it’s “perks” – but not so, on such early (dark) mornings!
However, I have to report that they pulled it off (the crew more so than the Artists, in this particular situation) albeit in their understandably fatigued state. By “show-down” last night at 10.00 pm the majority of our crew were pretty much wiped out, and it was just shy of 3.00 am this morning before we were rolling towards Liverpool - thankfully with no show tonight!
I have to say that the intensity and demands of yesterday were “softened” to a certain degree, by the professional approach of Leeds “First Direct Arena” event and box office teams. That sort of “no problem too great” attitude, from the in-house staff of an arena, can mean the difference between tedium and tolerance (and, yes folks, there’s a difference!).
I recall Alice having said to me the other day (I think it was after the Newcastle show): “Well, are you still enjoying what you do?”. The immediate answer would be that I am certainly not “un-enjoying” it, as I have known – and worked with – many of the current crop of Little Mix technicians, on a variety of other tours, over the last fifteen years (we are all hired by the same, Yorkshire based, production company, that specialises in talent show winners’ touring projects). How much “I am enjoying it” will surely have to wait until closer to November 27th!
There is much to be thankful for, working in this industry: I want to continue as long as I can, in an environment where I can make impressive use of skills that were not, initially, easy to come by. Therefore, as an “accompanying” track this week (with the theme that I will be able to work on for a good few years yet) I’m going to plump for Otis Redding and “Knock on Wood”!
Hoots Mon! (old Scottish exclamation) - we’re up in the wilds of Aberdeen for our first show.
It’s currently 11.30 am (we’ve been here since 08.45 this morning). To explain: I penned that line, in real time, almost eight hours ago, since when I have become totally absorbed in trying to find a TV set (with a “SKY” link) in the Aberdeen AECC, on which I – and a couple of our Scottish lads on the crew – could watch Scotland’s final qualifying game in the World Cup (versus Slovenia, away) while we were “stuck” down here at the venue, trying to load in the show. Alas, while the TV was located – and would have been able to utilise a TV point in the production office – we discovered that the building has no SKY subscription currently in place!
Plan B (which was significantly easier to expedite, than I would have first believed) involved taking out a one-day “pass” with a company called NOW-TV, who obviously have some contractual link to SKY, for the princely sum of £6.99, to watch it on my spanking new laptop.
That was (in my mind) the progression for the perfect afternoon – had we of course won. But, of course, in true “Scotland-fail-at-the last-hurdle” style, we once again spectacularly missed out on a World Cup play-off spot. This is sadly developing into a worrying/depressing trend. I feel particularly for the younger contingent of the Scotland following (the “Tartan Army”) who, if they are under the age of twenty-five, have no recollection of Scotland progressing to the final stage of either the European Championships or The World Cup – not helped by current Scotland team having gone on a fairly impressive run of results (up until now, that is).
However, come on, we need to be realistic here: we’re a small footballing nation in the grand, continental, European scheme of things and - some might argue - we are punching well above our weight, to have come within a whisker of making it into the World Cup final stages. When you allow yourself to objectively stand back from the situation, take a placatory breath and form as objective a view as one possibly can, in such a situation, then the pain eases somewhat.
Like much in life, the importance of things that you once viewed as very important, don’t rank nearly as important with the onset of advancing years: sex, parties and flash cars come to mind. So, what then, can take their place? Pensioner’s fish & chips, hot baths, reading, cycling and loud dance (“dance” as I knew it) music are a few alternatives that may save the day. Will the time ever come when even those lose their appeal? It occasionally troubles me that the time comes when everything loses its appeal, but I’m gonna have the time of my life, ‘til then.
As the day draws to a close (and I am still in the venue!) we are down now to a skeleton staff of around six HOD’s (Heads of Department) just endeavoring to tidy up the loose ends, before we return tomorrow, which is of course our first show of this, the biggest arena tour of the UK. The audiences up here are very enthusiastic and also very appreciative: the down side being that this venue has notable physical limitations (which I why I guess plans are already underway to build a new arena, with a mooted capacity of 12,500, due for completion in 2019).
To this week’s accompanying track, dear (tolerant) readers: trying to stay with the week’s (general) theme, how’s about Phil Collins with “I (We?) Missed Again” – and Scotland did. XX
Here I am, back doing what I do best – and there can be little argument about that.
That’s not to say it’s the most enjoyable of my two prime business interests: they (music and football) both have their good phases and their not-so-good phases, however - most definitely - the former outweighs the latter. I guess I must consider myself quite fortunate to have two lines of business to pursue at this autumnal stage of my career (although I’m only profiting from one of them, at this given time!). Life would be good if one could earn from one’s hobbies.
However, I did warn everyone, last week, that this week’s entry would invariably be delayed: going into a week of production rehearsals, when fourteen-hour days are the “norm”, leaves one with no personal time whatsoever: and with no personal time, how is one meant to pen one’s diary? Surely – you might argue – you have a little time when you return to your hotel room, at the end of each day? Technically speaking, yes – however the minute you close the hotel room door, at the end of such a long day, it’s all you can do stop yourself just laying back on the bed, with the intention of only taking ten minutes to yourself to chill. Too often, I have been unable to resist such a temptation, only to awake again, fully clothed, three hours later.
As it was, yesterday (Saturday) was fairly full-on in that I attended a football game in Airdrie (to watch one of my players – Willis Furtado) then had to leave the stadium at 4.30 pm, to drive back to Edinburgh, drop the hire car at Waverley station – and then board the last train to Manchester, which departed 5.55 pm. I only just made that train with ten minutes to spare.
A week in production rehearsals, prior to the tour starting proper, probably rates as the busiest of the entire touring period. Once we are on the road, there’s probably an average of two days each week when you are not spending fourteen hours inside the guts of a venue: with the production rehearsal period prior to the tour, however (using this particular tour as a prime example) this is our seventh straight day at production rehearsals, and we’ve had little change out of fourteen hours on each of those days. What have I been doing, in each of those fourteen hours, in each of those days? Overall, mountains of accounting related tasks. This is the time when our technical crew will identify what modifications and alterations may be required to the likes of the stage set. Based upon the increasing amount of show “run-throughs” that we do, the show running-order soon starts to shape itself into the final version.
So, here I am preparing for that week ahead, however it’s true what the man (woman?) said:
“He who fails to prepare, should prepare to fail”..
I’ve understood that ethic since way back in Catering College when, if you did not have all your ingredients laid out in readiness (“Mise en Place” as the French say) then you risk an unnecessary mishap with your culinary “creation”.
By this time next week, my show settlement programme will be complete; my files all ordered and labelled; my petty cash receipts (a whole mountain of them, by then) sorted into date order, awaiting their “logging” on to my Quickbooks system. Jeez, if things go well, I may even manage to give my old flight case a bit of a tidy. But, of course, the best laid plans ……
Being that there seems to be an “non-stop-week” being predicted for the upcoming seven days, what say we go with a Beatles tune for our accompanying track. From me to you, folks!
Today signals that I have one week remaining, before the serious work really starts ……
By “serious work” I mean my stock-in-trade income stream from my touring work. While I have of course enjoyed a relaxed summer (and some interesting “dablings” in the football side of things) over the last few months, such involvements have only served to deplete – rather than enhance – my bank balance. I now have the opportunity to reverse that, fairly quickly.
If I’m brutally honest with myself, I have used up too much of an increasingly rare commodity (time) than should have been apportioned to my football interests. Money – if you are prepared to go out and source the work - you can always get back: “time”, however, is in limited supply.
Quite apart from the obvious fact that I will now see an appreciable “earnings curve” over the coming ten weeks, there is also the advantage that I will be physically removed from the footballing side of things, being that I’ll spend very little time in Scotland, over that same period. This will, however, guarantee that I become re-focused on what puts bread on the table (although it may be more accurate to say “porridge on the table” – as I can’t recall the last time I bought bread, surely witnessed by the current “slim-line” version of your author!).
What tends (and will continue) - to “save” me is that once my “head is in the zone”, on the touring side of things, I’m totally locked in to a professional approach (possibly too professional, as I know by now that some things are never going to change in my business, and therefore I should ease up on trying to buck the status-quo). Thinking on this subject for a quiet moment, I could probably identify that this renewed way of looking at things – surely hastened by age and a touch of long-lost wisdom – is already subtly taking place. It’s back to my belief that my 100% approach is probably in line with most other people’s 80% approach: why should I incur all that extra time/effort continually trying to make up that “hidden” 20%?
How about this? As of one week today, Sunday 1st October, I’ll actually be able to pass comment (with the requisite discretion exercised, of course) upon my week – well, only one day at that point – about “Life on the Road” which, let’s face it, was the whole reason to start the “Diary from the Road” way back when I did, countless years ago (I’ve actually lost “count”).
Be prepared that next week’s edition may suffer a slight delay, being that it’s the scheduled load-in day for the Little Mix production rehearsals – and that first production load-in day always gives “long and drawn out” a whole new meaning: that’s easily a sixteen-hour day, no doubt. One does not always experience a fresh influx of energy at the culmination of such days, and therefore it may just be that next Sunday’s entry drops into the website on Monday or Tuesday evening. You can imagine the associated activity surrounding the job of “piecing together” fifteen forty-five foot trailers’ worth of lighting, sound, staging and video screens: all arriving onto the rehearsal stage at the one time – but from five different directions.
How to sum up this week’s “no-fixed-topic” meanderings in the form of some remotely appropriate track? I’m at the stage now where I could quite easily (and no doubt have, already) duplicate a previous track choice: therefore, to certainly avoid that happening this week, I’m convinced this is the first time for Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind”. Apologies, Elvis. XX
If I were to be brutally honest, this involvement that I have with football has incurred countless days of graft; countless days of hope - and very few real days of tangible reward (and of course I mean “reward” in every sense of the word). This is not to say that it has not, on the whole, been an enjoyable journey: but there’s no argument to it having been a long journey. Thankfully I can call upon a few very memorable occasions over the last twenty years.
Another memorable occasion was added to that list yesterday afternoon at Broadwood Stadium in the town of Cumbernauld, situated north-east of Glasgow: the “occasion” being the debut of our talented player, Abdel-Karim Belmokhtar, playing for the Scottish League Two side Edinburgh City versus Clyde FC (Broadwood Stadium being the home of the latter club).
Karim had only put pen to paper on Thursday morning, with Edinburgh City, in the hope that we could somehow secure his international papers in time for him to feature in yesterday’s game. In all the time I have been involved in the game, it is rare that I have witnessed “Interational Clearance” being turned around, from France, within such a short period.
Anyway, to the high-point of this story: for the first twenty minutes or so there wasn’t really a whole lot to shout about in the game. I certainly picked up on Karim finding himself in good positions, but his team-mates were not giving him the service he required, therefore I could sense a modicum of frustration seeping into his play. However, that all changed when, in twenty-two minutes, he took a short pass just on the left of the eighteen-yard box, glided past a Clyde defender and fired an unstoppable right-foot shot into the corner of the net.
And, guess what? He almost “carbon copied” that effort, in the sixty-fourth minute, with another “screamer” following the award of a free kick, just outside the eighteen-yard box. His team-mate nominated to take the kick and, cleverley - rather than having a “blast” at goal himself – stroked the ball a few yards to his right, where Karim was eagerly waiting, and took two steps to the right before angling a fierce shot into the top-left of Clyde’s goalmouth. Not a bad debut, huh, from a lad who was playing his football in Algeria for the past two years, for a team that was not even paying him for his services? Have we unearthed a gem here?
You really can’t ask for much better of a start than that now, can you? Of course, there is a fairly long way to go yet: the player is certainly not 100% match fit - and has not spent a lot of time around his new team mates. This should then tell us that there is much more to come. Of course, if he keeps up that sort of scoring form, he will become something of a “marked man” as, at League Two level, there’s not too many forward players with that level of skill.
However, the hard work and application starts now: Karim must concentrate on honing his already-impressive skills, at a level of football where the emphasis is less on technically inspired football – and more on strength and endeavor (those endemic Scottish qualities!!).
In celebration of these most satisfying last few days, what appropriate track might I present to you that would bear some relation to said proceedings? Now I don’t want to be bestowing too much early pressure on Karim, however he has undoubtedly made a notable start to his days in Scottish football, so how’s about this iconic Ray Davies composition, “Wonder Boy”? X
Match Highlights are here: https://www.clydefc.co.uk/media/video/961/
Only a stone’s throw from where I composed last week’s Diary entry (which was our local Garden Centre) I am now sat in the relatively new – two years at most – McDonalds restaurant, that is tucked between the south side of the Asda store and the southbound lane of the A1.
I need to stock my fridge this evening, as much because I am going to be here for the next three weeks – as because it’s frighteningly bare (Alice would have palpitations if she saw it). “Bare” is not strictly true. I can boast the following items: one fifth of a carton of non-dairy milk (my – sort of – latest thing); a plastic bottle of mustard – that since the last time Jade stayed here; a recent bottle of lemon and ginger salad dressing – wrong choice and, finally, a full tub of “Benecol” cholesterol-lowering vegetable spread. Make a meal out of that, Jamie!
Consequently, after I’ve finished this very entry I am working on now, I’ll “walk” the bike fifty yards to Asda to stock up with as much food/provisions as I can stuff into my backpack. Then it’s back over to the house (to “load” the fridge!) and to prepare for the week ahead. I now have much to be getting on with, in respect of the upcoming Little Mix arena tour of the UK, which commences with eight-days production rehearsals in the south of England, to which I must make my way on the last day of this month. With tomorrow being the 11th, I have just under three weeks to complete all the up-front work, while also undertaking a host of domestic duties, to leave the house in decent order, prior to my new “house-sitter” moving in.
There’s sufficient time – of course there is. With my background - and the hours I’ve been used to keeping in my touring life - I have no qualms about having to work late in the evening, if need be: it’s just that I’ve reached the point where I don’t want to have to be “switched on” continually in the weeks leading up to any tour. I have enough of that, when I’m ON tour.
Although what I’m about to say may be a revelation that comes a little “late in the day”, in terms of my (tender) age, I need to “strike while the iron is hot” work-wise, within reason, in pursuance of reducing my overdraft to a welcome zero. I’m far from being a wealthy man, but the majority of what I have is tied up in my two small properties, the second of which incurred a fairly substantial tax bill two years ago. Sure, “security” is all relative but – having been down to thirty-seven pence in 1998 – for me, I need to ensure that I’m clearly in a position of never having a recurrence of that situation. That happens in January, and then it’s a new plan!!
I’m going to hand my 2017 business accounts into my company accountant within the first two weeks in January 2018: hopefully I will know by mid-February what my tax liability will be for this year: in fact, although such amount would not be due until 1st October next year, I may just bite the bullet and submit the monies in (say) March. Then, I know exactly where I stand.
That, then, is the time at which I take a big breath: sit myself down for a good few hours (somewhere tranquil and mildly inspiring – not McDonalds! – maybe even head up to the highlands for a day away) and see if I can reach inside myself - and markedly change my life.
Until then, there’s a small matter of eight weeks of relentless touring coming up with the hottest girl band in the world right now, the irrepressible Little Mix. With that in mind, I leave you with the Johnny Nicholas Band (recently discovered) with “The Hustle Is On”. XXX
Greetings from the centre of the Universe: well, close enough - the Dunbar Garden Centre.
Not for the first time over the last few years, I had the passing thought (earlier this morning) that maybe it’s time to call it a day, on these Diary entries. I’m well aware – as much as I can be, while “at a distance” – that my readership fluctuates pretty much in line with my touring activity and the latter, in itself, fluctuates with the nature (and popularity) of the act that I happen to be touring with at the time. My greatest amount of “hits” were probably during my Westlife days and therefore it would be fair to say that it’s steadily “tailed off” from there.
Will those Westlife days come again? My honest (personal) opinion? They will: hopefully not too far in the future, for the sake of the legions of their loyal fans who have “waited” close on five years for it to happen again – and for me! I would (I believe it’s fair to say) obviously have a vested interest in their re-formation: but, I’m not getting any younger – so let’s hope it’s on the cards sooner rather than later. Undoubtedly, it will take a further year off my life!
The Garden Centre restaurant/Café is going like a train at the moment, on what is not even the best of days, weather-wise, in Dunbar. As repetitive a subject as it may appear, to regular readers, I derive the oddest wave of inspiration from observing the good people of this life just going about their everyday business – the majority of them struggling to live within their means, having been “seduced” by commercial temptation coming at them, from every angle.
You want to see life? Go sit in Glasgow’s Central Station for an hour, ideally between 07.30 – 08.30 am in the morning, or 4.30 – 5.30 pm in the evening, on a working day. “Jock Tamson’s Bairns” (which may not mean much to the non-Scots amongst my readership: Dr Google, where are you?!) just eking out a living, just playing their part in assisting the world to go around. Hoodwinked by subliminal media marketing - into believing that they require the trappings of those who inhabit another income stratosphere, well beyond (generally) their own capabilities.
So, here I am, trying to put something back – trying to make life it a tad easier for all those good folks, who have – indirectly - made my life a tad easier. But, of course, not exactly sure how to do that. There’s one particular train of thought that has bubbled under for the last few years - however following up on that, specifically, would take up so much of my time, I would surely be unable to concentrate on my own business. The crisis of conscience looms!
So, for the time being, I will look to discipline myself to stay focused on the “Main Event”, as there is a part of me (borne of past experience, of being perilously close to totally “losing it”) that cannot accept that I’m irretrievably out of the water yet. Of course, many could claim that I’m definitely safe and sound now but – believe me folks – these things can be truly relative. If you then sprinkle a little of a minor depressive condition into the mix, then – typically – you are never quite sure if you are taking stock of your situation from a realistic position. When you’ve spent much of your life on the move, it’s not easy to put the brakes on.
Well, there goes an “A4’s worth” of philosophical meanderings! Any regular reader will be resigned to the fact that, every so often, I wander right of the true track of the Diary. Anyway, from true track to great track, here’s Beth Hart with a real “Bump ‘n Grinder”. XX
I may have, unwittingly, stumbled upon the answer to living longer: get up earlier each day!
But, when you think about, if – especially when viewed from the platform of middle age – you are looking to maximize your time on this mortal coil, then here’s a way (for example) that you could eke another hour a day out of your life. Taking that thought process another stage further, why don’t we take myself as a prime – but not necessarily in my prime – example: sixty-five years old with (what would you say?) a realistic life expectancy of eighty? My father, who paid little heed to his health or his long-term well-being, made it through until he was seventy-eight. Surely having taken (reasonable) care of myself, I’m good for eighty, no?
That being the case (and I’m possibly introducing a thin line of morbidity to the proceedings here) – and working from the “one extra hour each” theory, as above – that would give me 365 hours for fifteen years which equals 5,475 hours, in turn equaling 228 days, just short of eight months: you can do a lot in eight months - depending upon how you spend your time.
Not totally unconnected with the above (no groaning yet, please) is the all-important subject of exercise. Us oldies cannot underplay the importance of even a “mild”, regular, exercise routine in contributing towards robust physical and mental health. For my part, there’s no denying the slightly uncomfortable feeling as I fall off the cross-trainer, thirty minutes after I clambered onto it, “blowing out of my backside” (although that feeling definitely becomes less “uncomfortable” as time goes on, provided you go at it regularly). However, one regains one’s breath surprisingly quickly, to then find one’s body suffused with a combination of calming, invigorating and energizing “waves”, that make for what I can only describe as a minor, natural, “high”. As I sit here now, penning this week’s Diary entry – and having come off the “bike” almost an hour ago - I am still (I think) aware of the slightest of gentle, feel-good, tremors pleasantly slipping away. Not unlike the feeling of just making it to the toilet in time!
In my own individual case, I believe I can cite a few other, specific, factors that have not (literally) done me any harm over the last fifty years, while generally scurrying around like a madman. Top of the list of course would be – as every health publication will draw your attention to, right from the get-go – having never smoked in my life. Less obvious (but, I always wonder, how beneficial?) is the fact that 90% of the houses I have owned – and there’s been a few that I surely should not have! – have all been over two floors, three in one instance.
The point being that I’ve spent the best part of forty-five years, during the periods I’ve been “domestically based”, tearing up and down the household stairs, two or three at a time. Even now, if – as is the case when you travel as often as I do – there is the occasional total elevator failure in a hotel, leaving myself and the crew no alternative but to take to the stairwells, I can tell you that by the time we have reached (say) the tenth floor I might be the oldest guy out of the bunch, but I’m no way the most “puggled”. And that is always an encouraging sign!
I’m now coming towards my third consecutive week out here in Cyprus, meant to be leaving within the next few days – but toying with a couple of scenarios as to how I could extend my visit for a few more days. More about this line of thinking, next week. To conclude this week’s entry, I leave you to work out the significance of The Isley’s “Put Yourself In My Place”! XX
“Doctor Chilled” is in the house. Well, actually, thanks to the weather, he’s outside the house!
Alice’s patio, to be precise where, paradoxically (got that word in again) – at this time of the evening, 9.00 pm – outside of the house is cooler than inside the house. Of course, as I have definitely made mention of before, Alice’s “tied” property is bereft of any “in-house” air-conditioning system. Therefore, when you add into that equation that the house has been baking in almost 100 degree (Fahrenheit) heat today for the best part of twelve hours, you’ll understand why stepping out into the relative cool of the evening, can be something of a relief.
Having said the above, we have hardly been “at home” the last two days – preferring to take off to the eastern end of the island on Friday (albeit staying within the Greek-Cypriot sector) to stay at the small coastal village of Voroklini, about nine kilometers east of Larnaca - part of the beachfront “strip” that runs from Larnaca, due east, almost all the way to Dhekelia.
Guest house/rented apartment availability is in high demand at this time of year, therefore we had to settle for (how shall I put this?) probably the least comfortable accommodation that we have utilised on the island to date – and we’ve stayed in a fair few places up until now. Indeed, the fact that we have “unearthed” some fabulous little places, on our Cyprus-wide travels, enables us to assume a philosophical overview when we recall yesterday’s ecperience!
The south-eastern corner of the island has an impressively varied collection of small towns and villages, some of which almost seem uninhabited when passing through them, around the middle of the day: however, the locals know better than to venture out in those sort of temperatures, for any extended period of time. In fact, many of the indigenous population (if not employed in the island’s tourist industry) are generally vacationing “off island” in August.
The most immediately recognisable difference between the south west and south east areas of the island is in the terrain. When you look landward (away from the Mediterranean) when motoring around the stretch of land between Paphos and Limassol, the hilly areas are predominant, leading eventually to the mountains of Troodos, mention of which I have made previously. In stark contrast – as we experienced yesterday – there are some extensively flat areas over on the south-east, when you come inland from Larnaca – when driving in the vicinity of towns like Sotira and Paralimni. Like driving across Kansas it was - for just a moment there!
So, all in all, a very relaxing two days, including a quiet dinner, last night, in the not-always-so-quiet holiday town of Agia Napa, after which Alice was determined to re-kindle memories of a past visit - by searching out her old stomping ground, the “Bar Street”. Well, we didn’t cover every area of the town, but we walked around the place a fair bit – both before and after dinner – but did not happen upon any particularly raucous part of this so-called party town. We have little doubt that said street exists, however we experienced more of “family world” than we did “singles world”. Thirty minutes of “Googling” will surely solve that mystery.
It would not take much for it to slip one’s mind that one had certain responsibilities back in the UK - and subsequently make a case for lolling around out here, indefinitely. I therefore call upon Mr. Ray Davies to take us out this week with the Kinks “Sunny Afternoon”. Indeed.
“It Ain’t Half Hot Mum!”. How about a temperature of 36 degrees Centigrade to back my claim?!
Of course, having endured (and “endured” is not far from the truth when it’s almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit – sounds more dramatic, in Fahrneheit, no? - bearing down on you, at the height of the day). By now you will have guessed that, indeed, I cannot possibly be penning today’s diary entry from Dunbar! No, as is the case with my nomadic lifestyle, I’m back out in Cyprus visiting young Alice – however, already, we are both planning to be elsewhere (vacation wise) come this time next year, if we can possibly make it happen. While there are those that welcome such heat, to have the opportunity to “lie and fry” – invariably taking on the complexion of a tomato with days of doing so, that is definitely not for me, dear readers.
Additionally, there is no escaping the debilitating effect of such oppressive temperatures when even trying to accomplish basic tasks around the (non- air conditioned!!) house: it does not take long for the house to assume the guise of a mild sauna, come later in the afternoon, when that big red ball in the sky has been “baking” the roof of the property for eight hours. Factor into that: when there are no “gentle breezes” indoors – as can generally be relied upon outdoors – then you are faced with a situation whereby it’s warmer “inside”, even more so than it is outside. “I’m just going outside into 37 degrees to cool down a little, dear”. Honestly!
Heat aside, Cyprus is a very interesting island that – as I’ve definitely referred to in the past – is criss-crossed with a web of winding roads, many of which are only passable with a “4 x 4” vehicle. Hundreds of tiny villages and hamlets are sprinkled liberally across this geographical spider’s web, however it’s rare to find any of the villages without at least some form of Taverna/coffee shop when several of the local “elders” appear to regularly gather to debate the issues of the day or – more likely, I suspect – the issues of their “collective yesterdays”.
I am possibly envious of their gentle and (it would appear) self-satisfied demeanor at this reflective time of their lives: in some general form or another, such times are coming to us all and it does no harm for yours truly to wonder when such a situation will catch up to him!
Yesterday we took a “day trip” (just over an hour’s drive – and only forty or so miles distant) to the north-eastern coast of the island where two holiday towns, Polis and Latchi – more so the latter – respectfully jostle for their share of north-facing coastline and the warm waters.
With the, current, mean August temperatures in the upper thirties (centigrade wise) sitting outside “unprotected” is not advisable for anything longer than around forty-five minutes. Hence, we relaxed in the shade yesterday in one of the many harbor-side bistros, on the “back side” of Latchi’s small, elegant, tourist strip. Even managed to catch the last fifteen minutes of the Liverpool v Watford game from back home. Someday every Saturday will be like this!
While out here – with the laptop in tow – I’m easily able to stay in touch with (and work on) both aspects of my business, without the temptation to jump in the car and run off to spend too much time with a football player – or to take in some distant, scheduled, game. In view of all this I’m going with a classic Morecambe & Wise tune for this week’s accompanying track. A most appropriate little ditty, in this most relaxing of environments, out here. Lovin’ ya. XX
“Down came the rain – it’s happened again”: not so, “Sunny Dunny” today I’m afraid to say.
However, us “Dunbarians” never give up hope of a quick turn-around in the weather – as it has proved it’s ability to do so (surprisingly, at relatively short notice) on numerous past occasions.
Give me a second now, while I undertake a quick Google search, as its bothering me which song that opening line comes from. Found it! It was a 1965 recording on the Fontana label by the singer Mitch Murray. Now, although this comes (I’m sure) as fresh information to me, I still recall that line from the song from somewhere. Subliminal forces must be at work there!
This weekend finds me looking to draw a line under several office and domestic tasks that I have been applying myself to, over the last two weeks – since the activity surrounding the football project has eased up. I’m zipping out to Cyprus this coming Wednesday to spend a few days out there with Alice – where August is invariably the hottest month of the year: “too hot” if the truth be known, from the point of view of Alice’s “tied” accommodation – which was built in the early 50’s and therefore is bereft of any in-house air-conditioning system. There are fans and mobile air-conditioning units on offer to all householders in Alice’s street, but they obviously struggle to have any beneficial effect, when the temperature (centigrade) is up in the “upper thirties”. When it’s that hot, one daily shower’s not sufficient to stay cool.
Anyway – how about a severe changer of subject? I accept I’m prone to digress, but this is good: for the three and a half years that I have now lived in this house, to date, my stereo system has been perched on two archive boxes, covering with a (neatly folded, mind you) brown bed sheet. This was giving the living room an altogether “just moved in recently” look.
As of around two hours ago, that has all changed - with my recent purchase of a rather fetching stereo unit, recently purchased from the “Next” furniture retailer. It arrived mid-afternoon at the house today, flat-packed of course, after which it only took around forty-five minutes to assemble. A far more testing operation was the re-cabling and plugging-up of the various components comprising the stereo system: probably something of a dying art, but right up my street folks. I’ve been wiring up electrical equipment for over forty years now.
What a difference the new stereo unit has made to the look of the living room, as I slowly, but surely, begin to attend to the minor domestic tasks that can only make this house a more comfortable environment, indeed more of a home. There will come a time – not too far in the future, I am increasingly aware – where I could be spending considerable swathes of time based here, therefore all these little domestic tweaks will only serve to enhance the place.
This past week has been something of a “mish-mash”, trying to do a little of everything –punctuated by a few periods throughout, of doing very little. I’m sat here – tiring fast – trying to piece together those last seven days, but not really having a whole lot to show for it.
Surely a track to celebrate the installation of the hi-fi unit is called for? I’m going to offer up something appropriate, in the “shape” of Heather Small and “M People”, with a little tune called “Pride” – because, having taken almost four years to do the job, I have that tonight! X
For not the first time (by a long shot) - while penning a diary entry – do I find myself “sitting in a railway station, got a ticket for my destination”. However, this must be the quietest ever.
The location (to allow you to lean back from the edge of your seats, and curb your anticipatory yearnings) is Tweedbank station in the Scottish Borders, the terminus of Scotland’s “newest” rail link, completed around two years ago. The diesel engines of the train are not yet running, as I’m ten minutes’ shy of the train’s scheduled departure: 4.45 pm this (Sunday!) afternoon.
I have of course spent a few hours, on this rather splendid day, visiting my daughter in Melrose, where she is based due to the nature of her work with the Borders Health Service – and a most pleasurable few hours it has been: this will of course not be the first time you have heard me make mention of this fact, but when you have been short-changed of the amount of time I have (however, by “my own choosing”) around your two children, then days like this take on an extra-special meaning. Trouble is, there’s only one of them in Scotland.
Generally speaking, the Scottish Borders is a most tranquil region and - if I had a couple more decades of my life to spare (I probably don’t have that, in total!) – an area that I believe I could have warmed to as a possible base, for a few years. As luck would have it, even if I had remotely considered spending some time temporarily down here, Jade is considering “upping sticks” and taking up a lucrative position, in her field of work, way down in South East Asia!
Thankfully, where she is thinking of re-locating to can be reached, relatively inexpensively, by the likes of Qatar Air and Emirates, provided one books the flight with some prior notice. You will no doubt recall me claiming that Qatar Air’s and Emirates’ economy class could give the likes of British Airways a fair run for their money, where passenger comfort is concerned.
And what of the past week? Much calmer than the previous three, that’s for sure. We still have one of the sixteen players here; one gone back to renew his soon-to-expire French passport and one hopefully due back in for a trial game, at some point during the coming week. This dictates that the previous one-in-four “placement rate” has now dropped below that ratio, which once again calls into question the worth of the project, both in time and money.
Let’s see what the upcoming week will bring. I have set my cut-off date – to tie up all aspects of the recent project - as Wednesday 9th of August, as I’m due to head out to visit Alice for a few days, at that point: therefore, that seems an appropriate time to draw a line under this year’s “Trialist Games” project. Add to that, I have almost two full months of work with “Little Mix” beckoning towards the end of this year, for which there is considerable research, “prep” and programming still required - before I head to production rehearsals at the end of September. Thankfully, friends of mine are going to be in a “bridging” situation, between their old and new properties during that time, so it suits all parties that they stay at my house.
The plan for the upcoming week is to initiate the process of working towards the 9th August to ensure that certain, key, domestic and business tasks are “put to bed”, in that it will give me the (rare) opportunity to touch down in Cyprus with a clear head. Hard to match a particular track to this week’s ramblings - but let’s go with a wee tune from Otis Redding. XX
Do you ever have those weeks when (like this very week, in my case) you sit down for a minute, to mull over the “goings-on” of the last seven days – and the first of those days seems more a month ago? That is certainly the feeling I am, inescapably, experiencing at this moment.
Sure (continuing with the last fortnight’s football theme – unsurprisingly!), at this point last week I detailed the last four players left out of the original squad of sixteen – a “hit rate” of 25% - confident in the knowledge that I was close to “placing” three out of four of those.
Let’s start with the striker and the defensive midfielder: although not ideally what they would like to be earning (understandably), a small, well-run, League Two team was willing to offer them terms until the middle of January, which would have “opened the door” to the future. I duly, specifically, explained the limitations of what was on offer at the part-time club. “Part time” in Scottish football decrees that the training at the club is only two nights each week, generally on a Tuesday and a Thursday – therefore leaving any football player (particularly those from abroad) with a “dangerous” amount of free time on their hands. Of course, those foreign players’ Scottish based counterparts are generally all in some form of “local” full-time employment. So, there is two considerable aspects of the foreign part-time players’ dilemma.
It’s been a while since I have (once, typically) digressed so markedly, as in the above paragraph! Back to the situation with those two lads “signing” with the League Two club.
I was of the understanding that their trip to the club’s premises, arranged for Tuesday evening past (so that it could coincide with the club’s bi-weekly training schedule) was merely a “formality”. However, lo and behold, when the two players turn up to meet the club Manager – who has efficiently pre-prepared the associated contracts for signature – the older of the two players decides he will attempt to “chance his arm” and re-negotiate the pre-agreed deal.
Consequently, my cellphone vibrates about two nano-seconds later with the Manager heatedly demanding to know what is going on. Naturally, I honestly profess no prior knowledge of such a development, while respectfully reminding the Manager that I have nothing to gain – in the financial sense – from those two players’ deals: in fact, my involvement in the procedure has only, to date, actually cost me money. It’s like writing my own cheque to pay for inviting grief!
Suffice to say that little procedure ground to a halt very quickly. The fractious conversation that subsequently passed between myself and the players’ French representative (the same guy for both players) indeed included some of the only “French” words I am familiar with!
When things get to that stage, I very quickly reach the point of disgust and disinterest, to the extent where it almost doesn’t matter about any prospective future earnings – or the possible future progress of the players: I just want to be done with it, to walk away from it. At that particular juncture on Tuesday my concern was more for the club, and not the players.
I have since recovered my composure and I’m now hell-bent on fixing that club up with another two players, being that their squad is “bare bones”. In trying to allay an accompanying track to this whole episode, there is possibly none better than “How Long” from the band Ace. XXSunday 16th July 2017
And then there were four (players left here in Scotland, this morning, from the original squad of sixteen – reduced, as you will note from last week’s diary entry, down to nine. So, what’s the story with the five players who are no longer here I (possibly) hear you enquire? Read on:
Listed in the same format as last week’s diary entry, those that have gone home are:
It is indeed a time for reflection on the general approach to this annual “trial-game” project, particularly as one must face the undeniable fact that (for reasons both of personal choice – and being almost “over-qualified” in my normal line of business) my work-related earnings are gently, year-on-year, on the decline. It therefore follows that when I chucked a few thousand pounds into my trial-game project a few years ago it wasn’t really missed: whereas, nowadays – when my own music-business work is not as full-on as it once was – there is not nearly so much investment (risk!) funds available to me. Hence the timely emphasis on “reflection”.
I will certainly be in a better (less well off?!) position to reflect upon the above, come this time next week. Undoubtedly, the success rate is not something I would want to boast about: by the time the dust settles we should have landed short-term deals (which was always part of the planning) for four players which – let’s face it – is only a 25% “success rate”. While I painstakingly remind all prospective trial players (within the body of the e-mail information than I send out to them, well ahead of the project) of the potential risks of travelling here to take part in the project, I guess each player has to believe that he’s the one to “make it”.
Therein lies the moral responsibility of the project, as experience over the years has shown that – even if the “final” rewards (should the player eventually make it to England to continue his career) prove to be lucrative for one or two of the more-talented players – the “failure rate” understandably leaves a lot of lads saddened by the experience. More reflection please!
Anyway, I’m still running around dealing with the logistical aspects of the four players who are still here – which I am duty (and responsibly) bound to do. Therefore, come this time next week, I will surely be in a more “even-minded” position to take realistic stock of the situation.
My gut feeling? For a variety of reasons (many of which are ultimately “un-correctable” – and just down to the situation with Scottish football, which I may one day elaborate upon) the trial-game project does not enable the majority of the players – who spend good money to make the trip – to secure a further trial at one of the Scottish clubs, or a chance to play in another friendly game, in the days immediately following the five days they have spent here.
There is also the matter of my own life. “Don’t get too busy making a living, that you forget to make a life” Dolly Parton once said. So Dolly deserves the accompanying track this week! XSunday 9th July 2017
Well, we now have the two trial games already under our belt (played on Monday and Wednesday past) and, predictably, it has certainly been something of a “whirlwind” week.
Since the main squad of sixteen players arrived last Sunday evening, I have had to make the difficult decision to “cut” six of the players, thereby reducing the squad to nine remaining individuals. The criteria for doing so are many-fold: suffice to say, though, that if certain of the players have not received any mention from any of the considerable grouping of scouts who attended the two games, then it makes no economic sense – to me or them – to prolong their stay here. I can honestly cite the fact that they were made acutely aware of the “risk”.
Naturally, that’s not to say it is an easy decision to make – nor an easy task to carry out. I believe I have done so with consideration and respect. The homebound players may say otherwise - a viewpoint understandably being coloured by such a disheartening experience.
To summarise, I have retained the following group of nine players, with explanatory reasons for doing so:
With two full games played in three days, it was imperative that we allowed the lads to “rest up” on Thursday. However, from Friday onwards - with the remaining nine players our priority for the coming days – we moved quickly to place the players as best suited to the requirements of the clubs who indicated their preference to see particular players, at “closer quarters”.
This certainly called upon some “juggling” expertise, with the majority of the forty-two clubs staging friendly fixtures every few days. One does not always find oneself in the ideal position of a finding a club who is seeking a player in a particular position – and who will elect to look at one of my players: at any given time these clubs have several “irons in the fire”. No question.
We will continue to source opportunities, over the coming week, for all the hopeful (and skilful!) players that remain based at our temporary headquarters at Stirling University: the idea being that a club takes a look at one of the lads in one of their friendly games – and, subsequently, sees enough of the player’s ability and compatibility to invite them into their own set-up, thereby taking the opportunity to check out the player – as well as the footballer.
Who knows what the next week will bring? You guys will, of course - because I will impart that information to you. As we continue to employ such methods into next week, I’m thinking that an appropriate accompanying track would therefore be “Knock on Wood”!! Oh, I’m knocking. X/
Today, good people, will certainly rank as one of those “Have I done the right thing?” days.
To explain: today was the day that sixteen hopeful foreign players (fourteen French and two Irish) baled into Scotland, to take part in two trial games next week, with the object of the exercise being to see what interest we can drum-up, the ultimate aim being to secure a small contract for each of them at a small club - for an initial six month “breaking in” period.
Much, much, easier said than done, when the clubs are very cautious regarding “unknown” players - and the opportunity to include said players in any of their own practice/friendly games. Naturally – and this is not the first time I have commented upon this situation – I cannot fathom such a short-sighted approach. What’s the harm in “taking a look” at the lads?
I am one of the few (decent player representatives, focused upon the players welfare, ahead of my own) but I am battling against – and dogged by – the dodgy dealings of the “many’. Of course, it is the clubs who sign the players’ cheques and – invariably – the players’ agents’ cheques. The general agent fraternity would not readily admit to the latter practice, however any football agent who has been around awhile will tell you that it is way more preferable to be paid by the club, than to be paid by the player. Players have poor “after the fact” memories.
Anyway, back (here) to Stirling University and “my” sixteen hopeful players. Although I forwarded them explicit and detailed “Do’s & Don’t’s” notes by e-mail, in the weeks prior to their scheduled arrival (with an underlined paragraph relating to the need to change their Euros to Sterling) at least 70% of them arrived here with a fistful of Euros – and no pounds!
Well, lads, there’s a number 54A or 62 bus leaves from the gates of the University, at regular intervals, and terminates at the bus station in the centre of town - so “off you go”. Hey, I consider myself to be a reasonably helpful guy, however that does not extend to making good the naivety and inattentive tendencies of young players, who are hoping to enter a man’s world.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings: we have an initial training/shaping session here at the University at 10.00 am in the morning, before the lad’s first friendly game, tomorrow evening, versus the League 2 side, Edinburgh City. We’re asking a lot of the squad to produce a cohesive and impressive performance, in front of a fair array of scouts. This, when they only met each other for the first time, four hours ago. Thankfully they all speak the same language, apart from Peter and “Deano” (who hail from “the Emerald Isle”) and who I struggle to understand!
Well, there’s no looking back now: they are here and I am here – and my credit card is here, the latter – arguably - being the most crucial for the long days ahead. To stave off any future depressive state (in myself) I’m dumping all project-related expense on to my debit card rather than be faced with deblitating credit card bills, that could possibly remain unpaid, in full, for months to come. Oddly enough, one (fairly) large overdraft figure does not alarm me.
In closing this week, on the subject of “biting off more than one can chew”, I offer the following accompanying track: “Long as I can see the Light”. Question is: can I?! Lovin’ Ya!!
If the truth be known - this fine evening in Dubuque, Iowa – I don’t really want to go home!
Before continuing any further, I need to hold my hand up to say that (as I sit here in the wee hours, in one of Stirling University’s student rooms) I’m way, way, behind on my diary entries.
Specifics? It’s 00.58 on the (early) morning of Wednesday 5th July - which effectively means that I’m currently two Diary entries behind: although, reduced to one by the end of this page.
Those of you who are regular readers will know that when it gets to this stage, with my diary entries, then there is invariably only one reason for it: yes – undeniably - it’s “Football”. In this actual instance, I may have more excuse than normal to elicit some sympathy from you, being that I currently have fifteen players in the country (Scotland) at the moment, based on the Stirling University Campus. However, last night, I was able to boast of having eight hours sleep, for the first time in four days: the fun really started Sunday past (3rd), when the whole fifteen (I thought) players baled in to Scotland at various times of the day. Well – get this – it was planned to be fifteen, but when I counted them all, after the final four had arrived, I found myself in “possession” of SIXTEEN of them! This “extra” lad introduced himself as Eduardo Gomis, which is probably just as well - because I had no idea who he was!
You know what, though? I’ve never had the chance, over the last 48 hours, to speak to the agent in France who sent the lad to me (along with another of his players: but, in the case of the latter - at least one that I had previously agreed to!). The only time my day frees up, from the standpoint of all the little tasks that are piling up behind me, is around about now. Why can’t people have the decent consideration to wait up for me? One day, all businesses and individuals will operate on similar hours to myself. It would make my life so much easier.
Anyway, a few details of this last week - careering around the mid-West, in “Dollar’s” finest. Alice and I worked out earlier this evening that we have actually set foot (and “set foot” was about all it was - in the case of three of them - as Alice posed in front of the state-line sign, then we immediately “turned tail” and headed back into the previous state) in twelve states.
I guess I should be eternally thankful that the “Dollar” rental car deal, was on an “unlimited mileage” rate, as I managed to rack up just under 2800 miles over the fifteen-day period. Of course, some might baulk at that – arguing (with fair reason) that holidays are meant to be relaxing affairs, not “tear-ass” road-trips. However, paradoxically, driving through such wide-open spaces and through such expansive vistas, has the effect of a form of relaxation on me.
Weather wise, we experienced one, fairly-continuous, inclement day - and one other day that started overcast, but “burned through” to bright sunshine by mid-afternoon. Therefore, apart from those two, afore-mentioned, occasions, we experienced warm “sun-on-the-back” conditions for the rest of the holiday. “T-shirt weather” does wonders for my mood and my psyche. I honestly cannot see myself spending another winter in the UK, unless it’s for work.
I think this week’s accompanying track should bear some connection to Mr “Out-of-the-Blue” (alias Eduardo Gomis) so take it away Sam and Dave with “Hold on, I’m Comin’”. No, I’m here!
Does anyone recall a band called the “Ozark Mountain Daredevils”, from back in the late ‘70’s?
The relevance of the above band – to this week’s Diary entry, that is – stems from the fact that I am penning this very entry from the edge of the Ozark Mountains, specifically from the town of Mountain View which – if the lampost-attached banners are to be believed – is the “Folk Music Capital of the World”. Kinda hard to equate to, if the truth be known, seeing as we hardly saw any “folk” when we first baled into town, just after 6.00 pm this evening.
Having said that, Mountain View is not without its charm: once we had checked into the local “Dogwood Motel” (on the outskirts of the town, from the direction in which we arrived) we ventured further in towards the “centre” - and happened upon a delightful town square where – believe this if you will – there was a preacher/guitarist entertaining a small group of townsfolk, on the lawn, in front of the County Courthouse! It turns out Mountain View is the county “seat” of Stone County, here in the state of Arkansas. Well, folks, I’ll be doggone!
However, as pleasant as an impression that Mountain View has had upon us, during our short while here, it has had a “tough act to follow” – in the guise of the Bluesberry Café in Clarkesdale, where we spent a very entertaining (almost) two hours – over breakfast – this morning: the “entertainment” element attributable mainly (but not exclusively) to a blues guitar player called Lucius Spiller who, accompanied by none other than an electric guitar, proceeded to blow us away with the array of his guitar techniques and the range of his voice.
Equally as impressive during our “protracted” breakfast at The Bluesberry Café was the gentleman who along with his good lady wife (and one other buddy of theirs, cooking up the breakfasts in the kitchen) appeared to be the owners of the facility. I feel kinda bad having left there earlier today, and not even having enquired after this gentleman’s name (“Watermelon Slim” might be his name!). What a character: tearing around the Café in a combination of “busboy”, “opening act” – and general all-round raconteur. It is the latter of those array of talents which proceeded to astound Alice and I when – having discovered we hailed from Scotland – he launched into a (apparently) word-perfect rendition of an old Irish “ditty”, which we have since discovered (with the assistance of everyone’s new friend, Google) is called “Ramblin’ Rover” which “Watermelon Slim” sang unaccompanied – and, in tune!!
So far, on this holiday, this morning remains (and will so, for a while, I suspect) the most poignant interlude. People will say to you, of a particularly memorable occasion “you had to have been there” and that’s exactly my sentiments from our experience this morning.
Onwards we will travel tomorrow. Alice is adding quite impressively to her “State Line” snapshot collection, now having pics from entering Michigan, Illinois and Indiana (but she “can’t go back there”!). That’s not to portray the limit of the different States that we’ve actually visited so far, as Alice already has pics of Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.
Enchanted as we are by this relatively small “settlement” of Mountain View (we may come back here some day) it is possibly the least that we can, respectfully, do to feature the afore-mentioned “Ozark Mountain Daredevils” with “If You Wanna Get To Heaven”. I’m there now.
Before confusing the issue, let me own up to my penning this edition on Monday 12th!
Ironic that I chose a Frank Sinatra track to accompany last week’s entry and, only today (having arrived into Chicago yesterday) I was driving a rental car down State Street, “that Great Street, I just wanna say …”. Me and Frank, the stories we could tell - the nights “we’ve” had.
Yes, I’m here in the Windy City: trouble is, there’s very little wind – only severe heat, all 96 degrees Fahrenheit of it, today. It’s just warm sunshine I’m after, not blistering heat – and that’s exactly what we have endured today, during Alice and I’s walkabout in the centre of the city and down at Navy Pier. Even in shorts and T-shirt, it can hardly – in my humble opinion – be construed to be comfortable when you are out in the open, experiencing such temperatures.
This - in the city where, come the months of January and February (and folks this is certainly not hearsay – because I have experienced Chicago in those months!), it can drop to -50 degrees “windshield factor”. Hard to imagine sat here on the balcony of our “Chicago-suburbs” motel at 8.30 pm in the evening, with the temperature still registering a cloying 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, I’m ahead of myself here as A) I’m penning this entry one day later than I should - on Monday 12th - and B) a whole week has transpired, prior to us jumping on a plane in Heathrow, early Sunday morning. Not to mention that I had to first fly to Cyprus, to collect Alice …..
When I left off with you last Sunday, I was Paris bound, from Amsterdam, having no need to travel to Scandinavia to be “on-site” for the girls’ Copenhagen and Stockholm shows. With the Paris show – the last of the European tour – not due to take place until Thursday past (8th June) this left me a chance to take in a trial game, populated by a host of hopeful young French players, “hopeful” in the sense that I (or, more accurately – and more fairly – Jean Bosco, our Chief European Scout) might see enough, to believe them worthwhile of being included in the squad of players that I will bring to Scotland, for the two trial games, at the beginning of July.
Consequently, we have identified a couple of players who definitely have “something to watch”.
As Chuck Berry once sang “It’s so good to be back in the U.S.A.” – a sentiment that, at this very moment, rings dear to my heart. There’s something about the place, the people, the culture -and all the “peculiarities” that go with the place – that endears me to the “wacky” place it is.
We shall, of course, have much more to report on our little makeshift “roadtrip”, come this time next week and, to that end – typical of our “chance” method of often finding accommodation – we have still not booked anywhere for tomorrow night’s lodgings: the idea is to strike out for the south-western corner of Kentucky for tomorrow evening, and then travel onto Memphis for Wednesday and Thursday nights, where we actually HAVE booked a hotel!
“Burning the candle at both ends”- in respect of having the show and the football game in Paris, within the same four-day spell – has undeniably left me a little shattered: to the point where, I slept six of the seven hours of yesterday’s flight. As we’re heading to the music of Memphis, I will leave you with The Staples Singers and “I’ll Take You There”. May God be with you. XX
This is starting to become a habit (for the last two weeks anyway): that is, being on a train, travelling between two European cities, while I’m (tardily!) penning the weekly Diary entry.
This Sunday I’m heading to Paris, from Amsterdam, where last night we played to 3500 “crazed” Dutch fans, a fair smattering of whom have been camped outside the venue’s production offices windows, here at The Heineken Music Hall, since the early hours of this morning. What’s more – they seem to have every word of every Little Mix song, “down pat”. Oh joy, while I’m at work.
Since penning last week’s entry, the girls have undertaken an additional four shows, out here in Europe: Milan (Tuesday, past); Munich (Wednesday); Antwerp (Friday) and last night in Amsterdam. Different cities, different promoters and – consequently - different negotiations. Unlike the majority of work that I have undertaken over the last few years (namely, concentrating mainly on the major UK arenas) this current project involves a different territory each show night – with a different promoter at each of those same venues – each of whom, needless to say – has their own way of doing things. Some more credible than others!
If the truth be known, it’s a while since I have country-hopped in Europe with such fervor: therefore, even someone as old and (only occasionally, now!) as stubborn as I can be, I have to admit that it “takes it out of you”. Where did us old timers get the idea that, while we would admit to hearing youngsters - at least half our age - claiming that “travel is tiring”, we can just tear about the place at the tempo that we used to. We should be thankful for any tempo!
I may have mentioned, within the body of last week’s Diary entry, that I am not actually attending every show on this current “Little Mix” European outing – just specific dates where my expertise could make the difference. That’s not to say I don’t have an involvement with all the shows. I do: the important ones you will see me at, haranguing promoters from the discomfort of some stifling corner back-stage space (their choice, of course, before I set foot in the building - not mine). The less important shows, at which I didn’t make any physical appearance, can however take on the appearance of a convoluted “phone-haggling” exercise – to the point where you possibly wished you had actually turned up there – and “saved some time”.
However, the flip side of what I have been wittering on about, in the above paragraph, is that – for the majority of the time spent out in Europe on this current tour – I’ve been “my own man”. In fact, I would say that for a good 60-65% of the course of the tour, Alice was possibly the only other individual on the planet that had any actual idea where I was, at any given time.It is written that us “Aries’s” are given to an adventurous spirit (however, I’m sure that’s true of most of us, given the opportunities – all be it work-related, and I’m talking “hard” work related here – that have come my way, to have allowed me to circumnavigate the globe several times over, during the last 40+ years). Was that really me? Nah, couldn’t have been, surely?
What could I possibly have to complain about (writes he, on an obvious upward curve of his minor, ghosting, bi-polar condition)? Nothing - of any great significance - is probably the fair answer. So, my friends, coming off a typically random gathering of, generally-unconnected, musings, I can only leave you with Fwankey Baby with “That’s Life” – because we still have it. X
Ah dear readers: in the long (and trying?) times that you have stuck with me, did I ever pen an edition of my diary from the “midst” of a twelve-hour train journey? No? Well, today, I am!
There’s not much to beat hurtling through the Italian countryside (Bologna – then ultimately -- Milan bound) having departed Vienna Hauptbanhof at the eye-watering hour of 6.30 am this morning – no, I didn’t actually make it under the covers last night Alice – with a mid-journey connection in the enchanting city of Innsbruck where the Alps can be staggeringly viewed from the train station platform. ”Hurtling” we may be at the moment however, for appreciably long stretches, on the pull up to Innsbruck, I reckon we must have been down to 30 miles at times, on some of the more challenging gradients. However, what ranks as one of the most endearing recollections of today’s journey, thus far? The length of some of those mountain tunnels!!
There were one or two of the afore-mentioned tunnels that must have been pushing for a couple of miles in length (I’ll be poring over a Google map, later this evening in Milan, in the hope of establishing – and then duly informing you next week – the actual length of the more impressively longer tunnels). I even recall on a couple of occasions - when it seemed like we were in one or two of them for getting on for a good five minutes -that I was struck (but not by the very train!) that we were cruising along at a good fifty/sixty miles per hour at the time.
Having arrived at Bologna forty-five minutes ago, I’m now winging (training) my way to “Meelano Zentralle” station, smack bang in the centre of the city, from where I take my fourth train of the day, to complete the journey to Milan’s Garibaldi station – only nine minutes from the main train station – from where the local train leaves to go out to Tuesday’s venue, and from where my chosen Trivago hotel (it’s actually a small apartment) is a matter of only six minutes walk.
The tour has a day off in Zurich today (well, something of a long travel day for them, as they have come up from Vienna overnight, and their Zurich hotel was booked out last night, meaning they may not have access to their rooms until mid-afternoon – and, boy, I’ve been to that movie more times that I care to remember). One of the defining structures of life on the road.
Because of there being no dedicated front desk at this apartment block, the management of the establishment have called me and arranged to meet me out front of the building, to hand over the keys and paperwork – and no doubt to politely relieve me of the three-night fee.
It will not surprise me in the least if they are not on time, or if it not as straightforward as I am used to (in bona-fide hotels) to check in to the place. There is (and always has been, in my experience of working in this country) just a tad too much of the “tomorrow will do” attitude – which brings me back to my oft-uttered view that the best places to go on holiday in Europe are invariably the most tedious territories in which to try and make a rock show happen. My historic dealings with my French players has engendered a certain preference for the country.
Well, gang, with the lion’s share of this week’s Diary entry focusing on today’s train journey, it is only now appropriate to give the floor to Mr. Rod Stewart (with a distinct suspicion of deja-vu here) and ask him to take the floor to perform “Downtown Train” (which I am on!) XX
I may be late this week – but, “paradoxically”, I could also claim to be very early …….
You will be well used to the fact by now: that whenever a tour is imminent, my Diary entry always slips behind that first week. In this particular instance, I’ve managed to get to a Saturday – with the next entry to write tomorrow, of course! – before commencing to pen last week’s entry. Alice did actually remind me last Sunday evening, but I was busy on tour “stuff”.
The “early”, as intimated on the first line above, relates to the fact that it’s just coming up to 07.00 am, as I sit here in my Vienna hotel room, determined to catch up in Diary world. I can’t bear the thought of having to generate two entries (one “historical”) on the same Sunday. Yes, I have a long train journey ahead of me tomorrow, but I can only divulge that info “next week”!
During this “past” week I travelled out to Cyprus, to Alice’s place, on Wednesday (17th) - determined to catch a week of decent weather before flying to Berlin “next” week, on Wednesday 24th, to commence the “Little Mix” tour. In fairness, the weather of late has not been too bad down ol’ Dunbar way: hopefully indicative of what’s to come, during the summer.
Currently, it’s my intention to spend several weeks based in Dunbar this summer – as I have been unable to do so in the three plus years that I have now lived there (“Ain’t it funny how time slips away?”). The ensuing dilemma that I will have from that proposed plan, is having to discipline myself not to have an involvement in my football business “every one” of those days.
The above will very much depend upon the outcome of my “trial period” (2nd through 6th July) when I have two games planned (still – slightly apprehensively – awaiting confirmation of the opposition for the second game!), on Monday 3rd – and Wednesday 5th – of July, based at Stirling University, upon whose football grounds we also be staging the games. From a squad of sixteen players (with the benefit of hindsight, borne of arranging similar projects in the past) I know we will be lucky to land deals for (say) six of them. The ongoing plan, following the culmination of the two games, will be to place the “six” players with appropriate clubs within a matter of two weeks of my trial game period ending. Then my work’s done till January!
Sounds fairly straightforward, huh? In practice, it rarely is. However, I’m increasingly aware of my quest for expediency in these matters – and the need to avoid finding myself as little more than a glorified taxi driver during the period we are attempting to have the lads signed. (let’s sincerely hope it doesn’t drag into weeks - I’m determined that won’t happen this year).
The project itself is most enjoyable, accompanied by the anticipation of “discovery” – in that my efforts may just unearth a wee “gem” or two of a player. I believe I may have already mentioned, at some point in the last two/three Diary entries, that I have managed to arrange another trial game – co-incidentally – for one of the two days that I will be in Paris, towards the end of this Little Mix tour. If said “gems” are to be discovered, it will be in that game.
Well, entranced readers (there may even possibly be three of you this week!) to close up this Diary (I sense a “re-entry” here!), I’ll leave you with “Ain’t it funny how time slips away”! XXX
Fear not, loyal readers: my poetic streak has deserted me (well for the time being, anyway!).
This past week has been one of frenetic footballing activity and “Jake’s Journeys” taxi firm has very much been to the fore: my own fault, of course, I would have to admit – after I broke one of my own cardinal rules, regarding an “incoming” players command of the English language (I omitted to have a phone conversation with him, from France, beforehand, on the phone – to check out he at least had a basic command of the language, in the light of my pitiful French).
I don’t know if “conundrum” is the correct word that could be used to describe the situation I regularly find myself in with this “life-long” (some days it certainly feels like it!) footballing project of mine. Endeavoring to be as level-headed as I can, albeit while nursing this “shadowy”, mildly depressive, side of my character, I continue to sincerely believe that there is light at the end of this (long) tunnel. However, needs lots of time – which translates to lots of money!
The crux of the matter is indeed “time” – and a huge requirement of it. With that precious commodity in abundance (allayed to a “fairly lenient” cheque-book) one could take the time to set out one’s stall accordingly: lay some solid foundations for a structure that would eventually, regularly, yield a rich seam of hitherto undiscovered footballing talent. It almost reminds me of one of those movie scenes where the fugitive is being tracked through a massive cornfield where the crops are towering above him. What I’m looking for (young player wise) is in that “field” somewhere: “plundering” through the maze (maize?) won’t guarantee I’ll ever find it.
However, during this particular period, there is the opportunity to draw a line under the last few weeks activities: the reason being, I have to be in Cyprus by Wednesday evening, coming.
I plan to spend a week out there with Alice (she will still be working) to finalise the preparations for the upcoming Little Mix dates in Europe, due to commence in Berlin on 24th of this month, to where I will fly direct from Larnaca to join the tour. That will be me on the tour through until the final date in Paris, on June 8th (with a trial game there, on 7th June!).
On the footballing side of things, the next involvement is a two-game trial period, for a squad of French players, between 2nd and 6th July (the games – looking very likely to be played at Stirling University – are scheduled for 3rd and 5th July). A busy few days for your Uncle Jake.
The serious discipline, on my part, then comes into play: I certainly do not want to be “on call” – with various players who have hopefully impressed during the trial games – until the transfer window closes on 31st August. Absolutely no way, Jose. Yet ….. I can’t be out of reach for them.
Therefore, therein lies the rub – and it’s something that I’m aware I’m going to have to get on top of, pretty sharpish. If I can discipline myself to concentrate on this matter, when I arrive in Cyprus – where any football “diversions” will be of a minimum, then there’s hope(?) for me.
Ah, here we are on the final paragraph, when I had almost sorted things out (could that be a euphemism for my life?!). So this may be a repeat selection, but take it away Fwanky boy ….. X
How about this, - for a change of tack? This week, The Diary is a poem Will this cause me too much flack?
I’m composing as I go - “Write” off the cuff You can always hit delete If, by now, you’ve had enough
Yes, I’m “late again” this week Not only girls can now say that! Surely my poem won’t be censored? Could there be - no looking back?
Alice in the kitchen Wearing nothing but a “Pinny” My hands might start to wander But, dinnae, dinnae, dinnae!
I’m kinda short of time this week Can you really tell?! It’s my only rhyme in twenty years Of Diary entries – well?!!
I’m back on track next week, for you The prose will flow again No more lazy options I’ll be true to you – ye ken?
For next Sunday’s Diary .. On time - I’ll write it out Football’s sure messed up my week - of that I have no doubt!
The challenge, now I’ve come to think (Accompanying song in mind) Is how I introduce said tune? And how that song I find?
Association I must keep, With what I’ve written here So listen through a coupla’ times The message should be clear!!!
Back on track with my diary entries, as I sit here (at my new dining table with it’s orange, “Alice-inspired”, chairs: that’s something else now to be checked-off the household list).
Alice is back in Cyprus now, as of Wednesday evening past, after we spent Monday and Tuesday visiting family “on both sides”: Alice to see her son David - and me (with my sister Jane, accompanying us) to go and catch up with Jade, down in the Scottish Borders.
I anticipate I’ll be heading out to Cyprus for a week or so, in around ten days from now. Thinking about it – as I found myself doing so a few minutes ago – it will be almost three months since my last trip, if I head out there – as planned – around the middle of May. By all accounts (Alice’s accounts) the weather is already up in the mid-twenties, Celsius.
Any regular (even irregular) reader will be well versed in the acute requirement of light and warmth for my particular well-being. This is not an uncommon wish amongst much of the population, however my “dips” come upon me – I believe – quicker than most. I am already planning how the rest of the year will go and – fortunately – I’ll either be enjoying reasonable weather (if late April is any indication of what is to come, in the middle of the year) here in the UK, or in Cyprus (almost too hot at times) or, towards the end of the year – October and November, I’ll be fully immersed, working on the “Little Mix” tour.
Over Christmas, Alice and I have yet to decide what the plan is although I perceive a leaning (from both of us) to be back here in Scotland for at least part of Alice’s Christmas down-time. After that, I have a fairly – by that time, I believe – monumental decision to make, concerning how much involvement I want to have on the football side of things, during January 2018. That, in turn, will depend on how things go on the football side of things, over the next two months. I am planning to stage two trial games, this time (appreciably earlier in the year than last time) in early July. Consequently, I’m “spinning several plates” in attempt (as my old buddy Russell would say) “to get my ducks in a row”.
My energy for pulling all the above together has a definite link to my “yo-yoing” moods: it even bamboozles me that – within the same twenty-four hour space – I can both confidently believe such arrangements well within my capabilities and, conversely, wonder how I am ever going to possibly pull it all off. One of the sure ways to attempt to deal with the any “down-swing” is just to convince yourself that an “up-swing” is not too far away: but that sounds easy to say so, sitting here, gazing over the distant rolling hills on a light night like tonight (I’ve moved back upstairs to the office to finish this week’s Diary entry).
Tomorrow, here in the UK (hello to my legions of international readers!), is the “May Day” holiday, allowing me to push on with formulating plans for the two afore-mentioned trial games, and to speak with several players and counterpart foreign agents – and then to attempt to document all the data into one master spreadsheet programme. Wish me luck.
Now comes that point in this week’s entry where I attempt to identify an accompanying track that may possibly bear some relation to what I’ve been wittering on about within the last 600+ words (yes, that surprised me as well!). How cryptic is the following? It’s (Orange?)Chairmen of the Board, with “Everything’s Tuesday” - when I’ll be back to work!
This evening, I am here to say that I’ve returned from a day in God’s country: Scotland.
Part of the reason for the delay in penning this week’s entry can only be put down to how time-consuming Alice can be (she has been over in Scotland this week, to visit her family). If it’s not her insistence on sourcing a bottle or two of the old “Lanliq”, it’s her need to wash her underwear every single day – or her avid requirement of the “Sports Mixtures” novelty sweets. It can all knock the wind out of a guy - delaying his Diary entry by days!
The “particular one” arrived into Scotland on Wednesday night last week and – as we were headed to the (almost) north-eastern tip of Scotland, to visit her daughter – we struck out from Edinburgh airport directly, making a late evening stop in Dunkeld: one of many, quaint, Perthshire towns that nestle not far from the main “A9” Inverness road, north.
On Thursday morning we motored the remainder of the way, past Inverness, through the towns (villages?) of Golspie, Helmsdale and Brora – the latter where we took a lunchtime break, only to “interrupt” a few pipers, in “full gear”, heralding the presentation of a local award outside the “Co-op” food store: and that is how Brora will always be remembered!
After spending Thursday and Friday nights as guests of Alice’s daughter and her husband it coincidentally transpired that one of my players (Dylan Bikey, on loan back to Stirling Albion, from the Scottish Premier League club Hearts, at the moment) was playing in Stirling’s league game against Elgin City – a mere three hours’ drive from Sarah’s house.
Trying to make something of a “mini-holiday” of our few days away, we then booked “AirBnB” accommodation about 30 miles south of Elgin, and only around ten minutes’ drive from the “distillery town” of Tomintoul, specifically in the picturesque area of Glenlivet.
This enabled us to enjoy a leisurely drive the following day, heading south on the A93, towards Perth – and taking in some glorious countryside along the way: hence my opening remarks this week: if we had average monthly temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius in this country, we would be right up there as one of the world’s top holiday/tourist destinations.
As Alice and I did a few years ago – on a then similar foray into the Scottish highlands – we purchased the Sunday papers in Braemar and then parked up on the Braemar to Blairgowrie stretch of road, reclined the hire-car seats, turned on the football game and worked our way through said Sunday newspapers. It doesn’t get much better than that.
“And, what about the game?” you may be inclined to enquire. Well, it ended in a 2-2 draw, which leaves Stirling Albion with something of a mountain to climb, to secure the fourth “play-off spot” in League Two – which, in turn, would’ve given them an outside chance to be promoted to League One. It is now less about Stirling Albion having to win their last two games, as it is about their “neighboring” teams dropping points: yes, it’s a long shot.
But what is football, if it is not hope? This particular situation, however, is going to require hope – and luck – by the barrow-load. With that in mind, this week’s accompanying track takes the form of the iconic Terence Trent D’Arby tune, “Wishing Well”. Indeed!
May I welcome you, this fine day, from that worldwide hub of literary out-poring: none other than the Dunbar Garden Centre. This does, however, indicate that I’m on home soil.
I should probably be more specific and state that I’m in the restaurant of said Garden Centre – although it is a somewhat informal setting, under the description “restaurant”.
I was about to check back there, to last week’s entry, to see if I had made any mention of an impending cold virus that – if I recall correctly – took a grip of me at some point during the day, last Monday, and is only now, today (Sunday – yes, Sunday!) appearing to lose its grip on me. However, it has certainly knocked the wind out of my sails this week.
As Alice would be the first to tell you (well, I’ve sworn Helen to secrecy) this is not an uncommon occurrence, within days of me finishing a concert tour, where my body comes looking for a little payback. I have yet to follow up on my long-held intention to commit a little research into the effect of heightened adrenalin flow over “infection protection”.
Anyway, I’m desperate to be rid of this debilitating head-cold/rasping throat – and get back to being 100%. I’m not going to leave it there though: I’m going to apportion some time to guarding against any repeat of this situation - with some of the remedies already in mind being to administer the “First Defence” as soon as the tour finishes; get back on the daily Echinacea routine – and seek out a quality, high-dosage, Vitamin C supplement.
It would appear that (more research needing done here, as well), much as age inhibits one from recovering from – say - a late night out, as easily as one once did, there may be a fairly direct link between general “unwellness” and slow(er) recovery time from such household ailments as the common cold or man-flu. Even more reason to put a little time into “heading it off at the pass” in the future. I really don’t want to be feeling like this.
Remaining confident that I can shake this thing within the next couple of days, I then need to turn my attention to – literally - “putting my own house in order”, particularly off the back of gifting certain items of furniture to my daughter’s new rented apartment, down in the Scottish borders. Put another way: I need to find a replacement dining table!
For the time being, I should work on the premise that I will be spending more time in my house in the next few years, than I have in the last few years: in fact, I may be looking at spending more time around the house (again, over the next few years) that I have for, at least, the last ten years. Hence the reason to create a relaxed and comforting environment. Oddly enough, the upstairs area of the house has managed to “find its own chilled vibe”: probably, naturally, because that’s where the sleeping areas are located.
I’m confident that the same can be accomplished downstairs, the initial challenge being to decide whether the dining table “lives” in the dining area or the kitchen: major dilemma, huh? That’s going to have to wait however, until I’m back to 100% fighting fitness. On that note, what accompanying track could, this week, possibly have a link to this week’s disjointed ramblings? I’m going to plump for Del Amitri’s “Kiss This Thing Goodbye”. Prepare next week, for a virus-free version of he who writes to you, this week!
Wouldn’t you know it? Just when you think you might (almost) be close to “figuring it all out”, along comes your sixty-fifth birthday - and throws everything back up in the air.
This is what I believe I have observed over the last few days, off the back of reaching this monumental stage of my life, as of Friday past, 7th April: sixty-five does not feel a whole lot older that sixty-four – but sixty-five sounds a lot older than sixty-four does.
So where do we go from here? Only forward, I guess – but definitely with forward planning. If all this milestone (millstone?!) age prompts, is a pragmatic rethink of one’s aims, aspirations and realisations then it may indeed have something positive going for it.
I did, however, have a most enjoyable birthday dinner – hooking up with my daughter Jade and her boyfriend Pete, down in the Scottish borders town of Melrose, where Jade has managed to find a rental property that is conveniently located near to her place of work with the NHS. For the previous year, Jade had been commuting back and forward between Edinburgh and Kelso, at least an hour each way, each day. I meant to ask her the other day – when she is now in work only fifteen minutes after leaving “home” – if she ever wonders how she kept going before, with such extensive travel, for months on end.
With this weekend hosting the “Melrose Sevens”, it took me a few phone calls (off the back of Jade’s local recommendations) before I was able to secure said dinner reservation, namely at the Town House hotel, just off the centrally-located marketplace.
Being that Jade has yet to invest in a single bed for the second bedroom in her new flat (and with yours truly hardly being able to boast of being a good sleeper at the best of times) I subsequently booked myself into a small guest house just outside the nearby town of Galashiels: a “funky” – very friendly - little establishment called “Binniemyre”).
Coincidentally, one of my footballers (who plays for the Scottish League Two team, Stirling Albion) was featuring for his club against Berwick Rangers, who play their home games at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Enter “Perrymans Border Buses”, who have a convenient service – every two hours on a Saturday and Sunday – that makes the run from Melrose to Berwick-upon-Tweed, with a journey time of just over ninety minutes (and a most pleasant journey it is – passing through some delightfully quaint, serene, countryside).
Arriving into Berwick-upon-Tweed just after 1.00 pm (the next service would have landed me there – in the centre of town – mere minutes before the 3.00 pm scheduled kick-off) I actually wandered over the main bridge, bringing back early memories of travelling south every weekend to undertake gigs with the “Bay City Rollers”, long before the town’s by-pass was constructed. I was surprised to learn that the “new” bridge dates from 1928!
That’s me back home in Dunbar for the next five or six weeks, prior to probably having to jump onto a week or two of Little Mix European shows, where my presence will “make a difference”. I am reliably informed that a period of decent weather is heading the way of the east coast of Scotland, so I fully intend to take advantage of that! On that tack, let me leave you this week with the iconic Donovan track “Mellow Yellow”. And I am. XX
A life on the ocean wave: well, I’ll settle for the ocean – I’m not fussy about the waves.
Well, “ocean” might be pushing it – in fact I’m (more or less) in the middle of the Irish Sea, en-route from the UK mainland to Dublin, to undertake the final three shows on this current Olly Murs arena tour: one show in Dublin and then the last two in Belfast.
This current crossing is most placid and relaxing. As Alice well remembers, this particular crossing has a reputation for “throwing up” the occasional stormy passage, however – in the main – it’s trouble-free, as it is today - accompanied by warm sunshine.
All in all, it’s not a bad job I have. The hours are long, the travelling relentless – but one cannot have too much to complain about on a day like today, when you are receiving a full day’s pay to sit by the window on a Stenaline ferry, watching the world floating by. I have worked out my average expenditure to be just under £11.00 each day of the last thirty-seven days that I have been out on this tour – and that includes £100.00 that I changed up to Euros to finance my cash expenditure on my two-day Paris trip, last week.
If I were at home at this time, I would certainly be expending more than £75 weekly – and, I’ve learned, it would be the “hidden, unpredicted” costs that would undoubtedly be pushing that figure beyond the £100 mark. When you are on the road, there is no cost to transport yourself anywhere; no cost to heat (or cool) your living environment; no reason (or time!) to be down the local coffee shop – no clothes shops to be tempting me!
Of course, the (initially) unseen downside of this “road circus” involvement is that – during the time you are barreling from town to town at a fairly frenetic rate – you essentially put your personal life on hold, for the time you are out here. I’ve (possibly unwittingly, initially) made my choice and it has been the basis of my working life up until now. The considered reasons for me to slow things down a little are (surprisingly) less to do with the onset of physical incapability – and more to do with the protection of this increasingly valuable commodity called Time. Time and “Balance” are intricately linked at this stage of one’s life: would I still be continuing in this vocation of mine, were I to have twice in the bank right now, than I actually have? Probably not, I think.
Nevertheless, one still requires some form of livelihood that, to a certain degree, defines a little schedule and structure to one’s existence. Nothing too hard and fast, mind you: just some form of rewarding routine – a routine that extends the unavoidable (arising in the morning; showering; taking one’s meals; basic housework, etc.) in the direction of the enjoyable involvement in some purposeful pursuit. If that pursuit can render a little income along the way, then one is approaching an ideal state of affairs.
How does the above all pan out, in respect of this current tour that has only five days remaining? Well, I can tell you that I have definitely identified too hurried a workload on this current tour: I want to strenuously avoid my almost insatiable quest for unnecessary detail eating into every living moment of my working day. Being that it would appear that I am, today, caught at crossroads, I’m going to conveniently leave you with Ms Ellen Whyte and the pleasantly rocking “Four Way Street”. I’ll go figure. XXX
In the meantime, I have to tell you honestly that I am, today, in the area of Greenwich.
Now, being that you may be following my travels with almost-eccentric zeal (well, I can always hope, can’t I?) you will immediately realise that something is slightly amiss here: on Sunday 26th March, I should be relaxing in my Bournemouth hotel, having completed three consecutive, nightly, performances at Birmingham’s (once NEC) Genting Arena.
That never actually transpired, because I indulged myself in a little impromptu trip to Paris (yes – you guessed correctly – on the football front!) being that last Saturday and Sunday turned out to be the only two, consecutive, non-show days on this current Olly Murs UK arena tour. Before I induce any further confusion, I believe I should explain.
The immediate fact to which I must confess is (and things will start to become clearer, from here) that today, as I write, is Wednesday 29th March – which immediately points to the sorry situation that sees me penning “this week’s” diary entry, three days late.
The Paris trip has to shoulder some of the blame for this (hardly unique!) state of affairs. Having completed the third of the three afore-mentioned Birmingham shows, on Saturday night past, I didn’t arrive back in the Birmingham city-centre hotel until after 01.30 am on the (Sunday) morning. With my “Flybe” flight booked for a 09.00 am departure, from Birmingham International, it was a “stay-on-top-of-the-bed” night, for fear that - with a three week touring itinerary behind me – I might be unable to rouse myself from deep slumber, had I succumbed to the temptation of being fully tucked-up.
Thankfully, my “plan” came off and (having discovered, somewhat surprisingly, the previous evening, that the first airport bound trains did not depart Birmingham’s central station - New Street – to Birmingham International Airport, until 08.15) it was most fortunate to make the discovery that the airport bus departed from a location less than two hundred meters from the front door of Hotel Latour, the crew’s hotel.
With the Paris (RER) “over-ground” being it’s efficient self (I’ve no doubt certain Parisians may beg to differ on that) I was alighting at Gare du Nord station – with my funky little Paris hotel only a matter of ten minutes walk away – just after 1.00 pm. The meeting schedule that I had previously put in place kicked off at 1.30 pm and – before you could say Champs du Elyses – I was heading back out the airport again, less than twenty-four hours later, returning to Birmingham airport, onwards to Bournemouth.
I just have to mention that it turned out to be a most pleasant and sunny 24 hours as I (beside the station, appropriately) stationed myself outside Gare du Nord, at the “Aux Villes du Nord” street-side Café with the advantage of taking all my meetings there!
I’m now back to the business in hand (the business that makes – and does not cost - me money) with three consecutive shows at London’s iconic O2 arena, starting tomorrow. With this – and the recent trip to Paris – in mind (and, sadly, the tour finishing in just over a week from now) I have chosen to play out with the song “What a Wonderful World” from the inimitable Sam Cooke who, of course – for the most part – was right! X
I’ve journeyed this evening to the country that (they say) has more sheep than people.
Or am I possibly confusing the country of Wales with the country of New Zealand? Suffice to say they both have a flocking great amount of the wooly ones and – let’s not kid ourselves here – our lives wouldn’t be any easier without those poor, unsuspecting, animals. “Have some more grass, Dolly: no, that word above the factory door says “A Bitter”, it just means it’s a bit cold through that door, and there’s a door on the other side of the factory - which is why you never see your mates coming out this door again”.
I just had a random thought there: what’s the difference between wool and cotton?
Back to the road (arguably the best place for me) and my adventures of the last week. However, before I go off on a tangent relating to the last seven days, I have to report (sadly) that this tour is just flying by, more so than I’ve noticed of any other tour, that I’ve been involved with over the last few years. There may be good reason for this ……..
Without going into painstaking research to establish the exact details, I’m aware that I have worked on at least three of the most extensive UK tours of each of the past six years, from 2011 through 2017 – which will certainly be the case when I go out with Little Mix towards the end of this year (October & November). Long tours, those were.
Since last writing, we have completed another five shows this past week: two at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena; a one-off in The Echo Arena in Liverpool and then two shows at Manchester Arena, the second of which we loaded out from, only 15 hours ago.
Once again, as I take my customary walk around the venues – once the doors are open – I’m staggered (still, after all these years I have been doing this) by the amount of the public who will flock to witness one of their favourite Artists in the (literally) live arena. While I am in admiration of Olly’s professional approach – and I know he has recorded some very catchy songs in his time – I could never attest to being a fan, where I would put my hand in my pocket and pay £55.00 plus an astonishing booking fee of £7.45 to attend one of his concerts: apart from anything else, I don’t think I would be able to sit still for that long, without feeling the need to wander around and observe.
Paradoxically (got that word in again!) I will “attend” twenty-four of Olly’s concerts throughout this run in the UK and Ireland - but will see everything from such a diametrically opposite viewpoint from all those concert-goers who have stumped up their hard-earned cash to experience one of their favourite Artists at first hand. Then we have the whole autograph phenomenon that, again at times, just defies clear logic!
At some point, possibly not too far in the future, I will look to separate the entanglement of emotions that gently trouble me about this business (the music business) that has provided me with a good living – but, at the same time – sits uneasy, in respect of the ticket-buying public, and how “easily” they tend to part with their money. Now comes the time where I have to associate the week’s ramblings (musings?) with a little tune. Herewith (cryptically) is the late Etta James and “Tell it Like it Is”. X
A warm good evening from (what was once) Robin Hood country – yes, Nottingham.
We arrived here earlier, with no show tonight, having made the “short” 90-minute drive from Sheffield, off the back of two sold-out shows there, on Friday and Saturday past.
I was just saying to Alice yesterday how I am currently – only within the last 24 hours, actually – experiencing this odd sensation of being already “caught up” on this tour: meaning that I am not, as has been the typical situation on many past tours, “chasing my tail” - a situation that normally only corrects itself, in the latter stages of the tour. Since coming to realise this state of affairs I have almost become pre-occupied with attempting to fathom how I’ve reached this point, so I can possibly offer these notes:
Do you know that when I was covering both jobs on the same tour in the past, I rarely left my room on non-show days, using every waking hour to stay on top of the accounting side of things? Sure, I was doing very nicely out of that – earnings wise – but I was nonchalantly unaware of the extent to which I was “battering” my already ailing body. I’m therefore not sure if I would be willing to repeat that process in the future, if the opportunity presented itself again. Not without the help of a s**t hot Asst. TM anyway.
As of last night, we are exactly one third of the way through the UK-mainland sement of the tour, having played seven shows (two each in Glasgow, Newcastle and Sheffield – and a single show in Leeds) from a total of twenty-one. Bring on the other fourteen! Nottingham’s Capital Arena – while renowned a cold venue during the day (as a result of the ice layer under the boarded floor, to accommodate the local ice hockey teams home games) – features a most efficient and passionate in-house team to make my job easier.
Further trawling of the blues music content on iTunes has turned up another great voice in the shape of Ellen Whyte. Here she is with a track called “Four Way Stop”. XX
A fine good morning to you, en-route to Newcastle from Glasgow, with the first two Olly Murs shows under our belt. I’m back with the “family” – and the family are all good!
I trust that the 21,000+ concert-goers that Olly played to, over the last two nights will have gone away believing they have been well-entertained for their hard-earned money.
One day (yes, that same day when it dawns that I no longer require to derive my income from this meteoric business) I’ll reveal how Artists such as Olly Murs and JLS are/were streets ahead of most of their contemporaries in innately – for relative “newcomers” to this business - grasping the underlying mechanics of the touring animal.
The last few months (it must be almost six, in all!) probably represents the longest period I have been absent from “touring world”, in as long as I can remember – in the last ten years anyway. I could claim it was planned: however the truth of the matter is that – knowing I had this coming up, in addition to two months on the road, later in the year, with “Little Mix” - I purposely didn’t make any effort to seek out additional work.
Of course, I’ve fallen back into “the routine” – akin to anyone who has been in their chosen line of work for over forty years: albeit it is a slightly different routine than over-nighting after every show, onwards to the next city (whether straight into another venue the next morning or to the city where we have a night off). On this occasion, with several “multiples” involved – mostly “doubles”, with two “triples” - we can accomplish the city-to-city transfers on day (what we crew call “sit up and beg”) buses.
While such movements may not represent rock ‘n roll, back-to-back, touring as we know it (Jim), I cannot deny that it is any less “comfortable”, especially for an old codger like myself: I certainly have more time to myself, more decent showers and less “bus face”.
There is another aspect of this (that I can’t quite claim has just come upon me, of late) and that is the almost unnoticed slow disappearance of my touring “contemporaries”. Of course, that factor can differ from tour to tour and – naturally – is not prevalent on the likes of my touring activities with The Who: on that tour, with a few (young!) notable exceptions, we are the “old codgers” union. Even Pete (Townshend) would probably agree! Trouble is, touring organisations like The Who are now few and far between.
Still - as you may find when you reach my stage of life – that is something one just has to come to terms with, if one wishes to continue in one’s favoured line of work - when most of your contemporaries have (sensibly?) decided to opt for an easier existence. Then again, what else does one do, to compensate for 40+ years of such a frenetic lifestyle? I know I’m not penning this as I’m feeling it but (on a future occasion when we’re not due at the hotel within fifteen minutes and I’m trying to – slightly hurriedly, if the truth be known – finish up this weeks entry) you can be sure I’ll expand upon this.
Now, for this week’s accompanying track I want to share the work of an Artist that I happened upon by complete accident, when trawling iTunes to find blues music. Please enjoy the “memory-invoking” Shakura S’Aida with “Outskirts of Memphis”. Loving it. XX
Ah, don’t you love staying at a “conference” hotel, stuck out in the middle of nowhere?
It will certainly keep us out of trouble, although a Sunday night is not a “trouble-finding” night. How well I recall, on those wild Aerosmith tours, in the US, invariably heading out into town after every gig - even when we had a lobby-call the following morning, at some God-awful time wake-up time, to drive to just another airport for just another flight. I marvel that I’m still living in the same (creaking?) body that accomplished all those feats of touring madness – and, on many occasions, over several consecutive nights: and, yet, I’m still here.
Well, that’s us four days into this Production Rehearsal period of Olly’s upcoming tour and (although, from my point of view, it would go without saying) the band are sounding very slick and very dynamic. Live, vibrant and entertaining music is the backbone of this here tour!
Over the next three days Olly will look to tighten up the set and the running order – although it already sounds very “together”, even through the wall of my accounting office, adjacent to the sound stage. I must confess as to only knowing Olly’s single releases of the last five years, however some of the album tracks (the strains of which, have been gently wafting into the production offices area) don’t sound half bad, either. During the rendition of one of those very songs (the title of which I will procure for you, by next week!) I caught myself reflecting on the unfathomable amount of differing songs in this world: much respect goes to those prolific songwriters who, despite that, can still pen tunes that are wholly original.
Even allowing for the fact that I’ve been in this business over forty years now, I am still regularly overwhelmed and astounded by the sheer power of the combination of words and music, and the almost-unlimited range of emotions that this medium can induce. I mean, let’s face it: if you have decent audio equipment in your front room – and a widescreen cinema system to boot – you will find it hard to at least replicate the sound side of things, in a cavernous arena. However, of course, that is far from what it’s about because (and I’ve witnessed this as far back as 1976 when I was first introduced to the big rock show, in the only country that (then) did it “justice”: The United States of America! Thirty years ago, many of the state University campuses had 10,000+ capacity arenas, the likes of which the UK could only boast Wembley Arena in London, that even dared to draw any fair comparison.
Although, certainly, I recall hankering after a totally organized approach, as Jethro Tull’s Stage Manager (in charge of our seven-man road crew – all around the world) now realise how young and gullible I was then. How did we manage to drag ourselves from city to city, state to state – flying commercial airlines every day – and sometimes racking up eleven or twelve shows “back-to-back”? I quietly yearn to have some of those times back, not necessarily because it would knock forty years off my life but just to again experience the buzz of the thundering rock ‘n roll machine, in the one country that was made for it: USA.
I’ve rambled on a bit there, so let’s quickly cross to this week’s accompanying track – and it trying to bear some relation to this week’s entry, step forward the inimitable Bob Seger …
I’m sitting in the railway station, got a ticket for my destination ….. no, honestly, I am!
Today’s occasion (and let’s play the honesty card, right off the bat – it’s actually Wednesday morning, 22nd February!) is my departure from Edinburgh, heading south on the train to – apologies - an undisclosed rehearsal location down in the South East of England.
We will be stationed there for the next seven days, as of tomorrow, with Olly and the band (with no end of assistance from our sterling technical crew), prior to packing it all into ten 45-foot trailers and travelling up to Glasgow, overnight, on the first of March.
Of course, it is what I do best: the environment in which I am most comfortable and – as I’ve no doubt made mention of in the past, in these very pages – I’m never as contented as when I am on the move. How can 40+ years of involvement in this business not fail to kindle the “adventurer spirit” in one? Although I don’t yearn to travel quite so far, as I once did!
I actually only returned from another wee trip to Cyprus, on Saturday night past (18th), as you can probably have figured out from my scribbling in last weeks diary entry. The weather there is certainly improving; even compared with the time I recently spent there, over the Christmas and New Year period. Do I now qualify as a “Scotia-Cypriot”?! However, “improving” is purely a relative term, in relation to a country that enjoys 265 days – on average – of annual sunshine. Scotland on the other hand, can probably only lay claim to 65!
Now that I’m out on Olly – and this current tour will run through the 5th of April – I will effectively “miss” the latter part of the UK winter, if only because I’ll be confined to indoor production offices in UK arenas for long, daily, periods at a time. I’m not really sure – in the final analysis – which is more preferable or, indeed, best for my long-term health.
The “light” will always keep me positive more than the dark ever will, although some of the things I’ve got up to, in the dark, will hopefully never have any undue amount of light shone on them! The particular rehearsal facility that we are using on Olly this year has the benefit of light (via wall-to-wall windows), airy and spacious production offices and that – as any longtime road-dog will tell you – can make all the difference to one’s 16-hour days.
How long can I sustain myself on the rock ‘n roll concert-touring circuit (and I wasn’t particularly referring to the financial aspects there)? Well, $64,000 may not be enough to provide the concise answer to that question. I would probably have to “forward-refer” you to my yet-to-be-penned, of course, diary entry of Sunday 9th April: then you can read between the lines(?!) as how I have been able to deal with the (then) previous six weeks.
I’m now on the train, just leaving Berwick-upon-Tweed station, in my first-class carriage (but only charging the “standard” fare to the Artist!), as I say goodbye to the, endearingly pleasant, east coast of Scotland. You know I think this weeks accompanying track choice is a repeat, but so appropriate: The Doobie Brother’s with “Long Train Runnin’”. Life is good!!
I write to you this week from what has, nowadays, become “my second home” – Cyprus.
Realising I had to find a way to draw a line under my football-agency activities, lest I found it butting straight into my touring involvement with Olly Murs (due to commence on the 22nd of this month) I made a fairly short-notice decision to head back out here, as of Wednesday past, and spend ten days, kicking-back, in the (winter) Mediterranean sunshine.
Yes (this to my regular readers – but hello to any new ones!), I’m acutely aware that I was only here just under a month ago – arriving back into Scotland from my last trip to Cyprus, on the 11th January. However, increasingly – if the truth were told - I’m struggling to deal with the cold, dark (often wet and windy – often together!) winter months in Scotland.
This last winter (and it isn’t over yet!) I was again out in Cyprus for most of December, and early January – after which I pitched myself straight into my football-agency work, upon my return to Scotland, that having only come to an end last week. The point being – keeping in mind that I’m off on Olly Murs on the 22nd of this month – that I haven’t really had occasion to be sat around for any appreciable amounts of time, over these last few months.
The trick for next year, therefore, is to be “well ahead of the game” and plan to be relaxed during the Scottish winter period – although enjoying it anywhere but in Scotland! As things stand, it very much looks like I will have a full-on involvement with “Little Mix’s” UK Arena tour, towards the end of this year (already mooted to stretch throughout the months of October and November) so all I would then need – to stave off any prolonged inactive winter period – is some form of work involvement from (say) late January onwards.
Having said all of the above, in the previous two paragraphs, from the winter of 2017/2018 onwards, I can honestly see me only being back in Scotland between (say) the beginning of November through the end of March - if there was a real need to attend to anything. On the other hand, when I then start to think of my family (and “family” in this case, nowadays, probably specifically means my sister and my daughter) then I’m not sure I would want to be away from them over such an extended period. The answer, therefore, is probably to “dip in and out” of Scotland - as much as personal resources will allow/dictate.
Such plans need careful thought and consideration to come up with the right balance. Again that word “balance” percolates to the surface of my reasoning. I’m not going to tell you I’m totally on top of that objective, as I would like to be but – even if it takes a little time to come around to making it happen – I’ve recognized and identified the way forward!
While out here one more week in Cyprus, I have to re-order my thoughts on the football side of my business, to enable me to plan ahead, resourcefully. On the touring side of things, I will be well into Olly’s rehearsals two weeks from today – and that will take care of itself. What can I leave you with “track-wise” to round off this week’s Diary entry? Well, hows about KC & The Sunshine Band with “That’s The Way I Like It”? And I do!! XX
I can’t (honestly) say that I’m overwhelmingly sad about the “transfer window” closing!
This took place, of course, at midnight on Tuesday night past, 31st January. I see much has been made in the media about why many clubs leave it to the last minute to complete their business, when – with the transfer window initially opening on 1st January – they have had the whole of the previous month to do so. For me, the answer to that conundrum is relatively straightforward: it is just another facet of football’s age-old problem of “the heart ruling the head”. That and, lamentably, the “win at all costs” mentality now.
Of course, I am notably disappointed that I was unable to assist two or three particular players to find clubs. Having said that - if the truth be told – the “heart ruling the head” has not stopped at my door: meaning that (possibly during the course of one of my mood up-swings) I believed I could secure deals for one or two lads as much because they were decent guys, as they were decent footballers. I may have misled both them and myself.
Football can be as cruel as the Music Business – there’s no doubt about that. Common to both industries is the undeniable trend whereby the “elite” 10-15% are coining it in, while the majority of honest, hopeful, football players are only making a passable living out of the game. The weight of blame for that situation sits heavily on the doorstep of every free-spending football club. The clubs sign the players’ cheques. Overpayment is now rife.
I genuinely look to assist talented (but, in many cases, “forgotten”) football players to pursue their dreams – to be able to play football at the highest level. All of them, naturally, want to aspire to that: in reality, less than 1% will ever reach such a stage – and you know the best laugh of all? Paradoxically (I just love having the opportunity to use that word!) it’s the adulation that they crave most of the time - even before the money.
The professional football clubs have failed dismally to see that, of course: failed to see that if they expose the players to the adulation – and the “love” of their fan-base (and of course give them the opportunity to play football, week in-week out) - then they would be more negotiable than you might think, when it comes to being paid for such a “privilege”.
If Gareth Bale had the choice to continue his football career on half the money he earns now – or give up the lifeblood of his very existence (by having to cease to be involved in the game at the highest level) – which decision do you figure he would quickly reach? Yes.
Unquestionably the whole thing’s long passed the “reasonability milestone”: it went hurtling passed that point, many moons ago. The recent developments in Chinese football – where international players are being paid in a week what would buy a five-bedroom detached house in suburban Edinburgh – is only serving to pour neat petrol onto that fire.
My heart goes out to the thousands of “mid-level” football players who can only observe, and possibly dream. I leave them with a Four Tops song “It’s All In The Game”. Semper Fi.
Finally, finally: after 20 (long) years of football involvement, I take a player to Hearts!
The player in question is none other than Dylan Nguene Bikey, a 21 year-old French striker, whom I have made increasing mention of, in the body of the last two weeks’ diary entries. Dylan first came to my notice in August of last year, when he played in a friendly game against Stirling Albion FC, a League 2 club here in Scotland. I say he came to my notice: but not so, to the notice of the fair handful of scouts who watched the same game, just over five months ago now: leaving us no choice but to do it the “hard way”.
That involved signing Dylan to the League 2 club Stirling Albion in late November (yes, the very club that he had played against in the trial game, three months previously!) and then drawing significant attention to himself by scoring nine goals in nine games played.
Why was there no move made by any of the afore-mentioned scouts (3 from the Scottish Premier, 2 from the Scottish Championship) on the evidence of Dylan tearing up and down the left flank, causing the Stirling Albion defense no end of headaches during the game?
I can only surmise that most professional scouts are unwilling to make any recommendation “up the line” at the clubs they work for, based on one apparently impressive showing, by the player. It would appear those scouts needed to re-assure themselves (which, in fairness, I sort of understand) that the player in question could indeed repeat such an initial - head-turning - performance. As evidence of that, I know for a fact that a certain Scottish Premier League club kept tabs on another one of my players (Willis Furtado, currently at the League One club Stenhousemuir) for four games, before making an enquiry as to Willis’s availability to attend two days’ training with the Premier League club. Ah, where are the risk-takers and heart-breakers? At Tynecastle!
The outcome of Dylan’s signing at Hearts late Friday afternoon past, was that the Head Coach, Ian Cathro, agreed to Dylan being in the first team squad for Hearts televised game in Glasgow, earlier today, versus Celtic – where he actually “appeared” on the bench. Dylan didn’t actually make it on the field of play for today’s game, however he has gone – in the space of one week – from playing for Stirling Albion in their Scottish Cup game versus Clyde, on Saturday 21st of this month, to being “surrounded” by a crowd of 58,247!
I’m personally very satisfied (and if the truth be known, somewhat relieved!) to have completed this one solid piece of business with Dylan going to Hearts until the end of the season. It was the culmination of a madcap 20-odd days, when I rarely managed to get to sleep before midnight, trying to keep tabs on up to eight players here in Scotland, at once. Somehow, even with the lads paying their own flights, I’m down £1200+ in 3 weeks!!
Time to slow down, take stock, and see what lessons I can take/learn from a manic January. I’m not getting any younger, you know!!. For this week’s accompanying track, let’s go for the appropriate Lennon/McCartney composition “Slow Down”. But, yes, I will try! X
Well, as week’s go, I’m not sure I can handle too many more along the line’s of this one.
However, I quietly suspect the organised “pandemonium” will not relent until nearer the end of this month: this is all attributable, of course, to the football transfer window being “open” and – quite honestly – yours truly allowing himself to become way too involved with more players than it is reasonably possible to efficiently, fairly, represent.
I will certainly need to re-evaluate how I go about my business in next year’s transfer window. To save considerable cost and (wasted) time, the answer may lie in contouring the “entry qualifications” for the players, on a much more stringent basis. I have definitely identified three specific criteria that I need to discipline myself to stick to, in future:
**The player must speak to me – in English! – on the phone, from France, before I agree to endeavoring to help him to find a club in Scotland
**I have to set an age limit of 25 years old – as players beyond that age are very hard to market, in an industry where suspicion and skepticism are rife, when clubs are faced with an “older” player who has not seemingly played football at a recognisable level
**Any interested player (under the age of twenty-three), who has never signed with a club professionally, must procure the paperwork from all of his previous clubs – since the age of twelve years old – to confirm that they are “negotiable” on the player’s compensation for his past training and development, and that they will accept a “percentage of transfer sell-on” – rather than the regulation FIFA compensation amounts
Those above three criteria are certainly going to narrow down any “applicants” looking to kick-start their footballing career here in Scotland, with a weather eye on the possibilities that English football may have to offer. However, far more importantly, it is going to take a machete to my workload: it is, literally, going to “separate the men from the boys”. Where these young lads are headed is going to be tough, therefore the sooner they exhibit the qualities that convince me they are able to handle that, the better.
In terms of priorities, Dylan Nguene Bikey is my first priority, particularly as he has attained a “goal per game” average since arriving at the small League 2 club, Stirling Albion, in late November of last year. That sort of “strike rate” attracts much attention!
Consequently, I have to be tough myself - and ease a few of the other young footballers, that I presently have here in Scotland, on to “the back burner”. I have a good feeling about Dylan’s situation: it has taken careful planning – along with a fair dash of guile – to engineer us into the driving seat, where the next phase of his ascendency is imminent.
Continuing that theme – Dylan’s impressive progress, that is – we come to the selection of this week’s accompanying track. I’m going for Limahl’s “Never Ending Story” – as it won’t!
Well, that’s me back in the chill of the UK weather and – not only geographically, now – Cyprus seems like a long ways away. What is it the song says? Back to life – back to reality.
Being that the “second” of the football transfer windows is now well and truly open (1st to 31st January) I have plunged myself right back into the middle of things, upon landing back into Scotland earlier this week. Let the madness begin. Am I ready for it? Probably not.
While the Cyprus weather was definitely – on the whole – preferable to what has been on offer over the Christmas/New Year period, here in the UK, it nevertheless came as a surprise not to find myself basking in the warmth of the Mediterranean sunshine for the majority of the days I have recently spent out there. Boy, when it rains in Cyprus – it rains!
So, here I find myself back in the thick of things, football business wise, as my mood pendulum swings between anticipation and palpable skepticism. There remains much of this world of football that I will never truly fathom. The heartbreakers and risk-takers are thin on the ground. I know – and probably quietly understand – the reasoning behind much of what goes on, however to a guy from a business that accomplishes so much in so little time (specifically on the touring side of things) I have yet to come to terms with football’s ways.
However, if “salvation” is the correct word here, there may yet be a little salvation for me, on the horizon: this comes in the (athletic) shape of Dylan Nguene Bikey, one of several “trialist” players that we featured in a friendly game, versus Stirling Albion, back on August 22nd of last year. Willis Furtado (at Stenhousemuir FC) was another of the players that day.
Finally – but, sadly, probably only off the back of his current ability to have retained a “goal-per-game” average – the over-cautious world of Scottish football has begun to note interest in Dylan’s accomplishments. However, the same old observances now start to percolate through the waters of doubt: “Aye, he can do it in League Two, but can he reproduce that form at Scottish Championship level?”. Listen, all you perennial doubters: when you’re fast, you’re fast. If you (but please don’t!) drive your Audi down the High Street at 100 mph, why can’t it maintain that same speed out on the motorway? Fast is fast.
Here’s another classic observation: “It’s a big leap for a League Two player to compete in the Scottish Championship”. Yes, it would be, if he was a “League Two player” – but he’s not, he’s a Scottish Championship player (at the least) who is stuck in League Two, because Stirling Albion were the only club to recognise his pace and ability - and his future potential.
I continue to suppress any latent frustrations over the processes whereby – when only five months ago several clubs were represented at that 22nd August game, and not one of them picked up on Dylan – lads as talented as this are in danger of being completely passed over.
Onwards and upwards, but I’m not even close to being finished with Dylan yet. We WILL triumph. On that note, here comes a whole lot more: Tom Petty with “I Won’t Back Down”. X
Well, folks, there goes the first week of the New Year: ain’t it funny how time slips away?
As tradition would have it, I have quietly put a couple of “New Year Resolutions” in place:
** eliminate refined sugar from my diet (I’ve managed it with red meat for countless years)
** give over thirty minutes of each day (discipline required here) to health issues/thoughts
** take at least thirty minutes vigorous exercise at the beginning of each day
I think we’ll stick with those three as I believe them to be manageable and (in the case of two out of three of them: you guess!) they are almost “mandatory” at this stage of my life.
I only have three days left out here in Cyprus (returning to Edinburgh on Wednesday 11th) so I need to look at – amongst other things – completing a few domestic tasks in Alice’s house, that I indicated would be taken care of, within days of me arriving here, on 14th Dec..
It had temporarily slipped my mind that Alice’s house actually features a “serviceable” chimney, therefore with the temperatures not being nearly as comfortable as those experienced back in the summer (however, nowhere near as cold as Scotland can be in winter) we “opened up” the fireplace, sourced some firewood (cut logs) locally and enjoyed the comfort of an open fire on several of the “holiday” nights that I have been over here.
Within this last week, a few decent opportunities have arisen to place some young French players, with smaller Scottish clubs (along the lines of the two young lads that we have here already, Willis Furtado and Dylan Nguene Bikey). Therefore I’ve been beavering away, putting the associated arrangements in place – and trying to coincide the onset of those placements with my imminent arrival, back in the UK, next Wednesday. This will commence with a trip – on Thursday evening – up to Stenhousemuir and Stirling (the respective clubs of the two afore-mentioned players) to catch up with the players situations – and to make a plan for the next three weeks, as the January “transfer window” is already one week old.
Both lads have been attracting a fair amount of interest, over the “brief” time they have been signed to those small clubs in Scotland (in Willis’s case, four months and with Dylan – assisted by his “goal-a-game” record to date - not even two months yet. Good progress, eh?
On the touring front (just to get back to the “Diary of the Road”) I will soon commence the preparation for Olly Murs’s UK arena tour, due into production rehearsals in late February and running through until the first week in April, followed by “The Who” rescheduled dates.
This week (trawling my memory to try to ensure I’m not “duplicating” tracks: I must have done?) how’s about a song that pays heed to the fact that after 20+ years, I may (may) just be making some headway with “fitba’”: Creedence Clearwater Revival with “Fortunate Son”!!
Precious few hours left now until …… we are poised to usher in the New Year of 2017.
I remarked to Alice that I recall having a thought at one point (but cannot, of course, even closely remember when that was – only to know that it was in the “last century”) wondering where I would be in the year 2000, when I foresaw myself “only” at the age of forty-eight!
Now, here we are - thundering towards 2017 – and obviously seventeen years past that previously mentioned point. For many reasons, I’m surprised I’ve made it this far: that’s not any general observation on (say) the state of my health – which I’m sure is above average, for several empirical reasons (good word, eh?) – but is more to do with the myriad ways that life can be taken away from us, at the drop of a hat, through illness, accident, old age, etc.
But, hey, the writer and the (loyal) readers of this week’s diary entry are still here! So, lets all (carefully, now) thunder forwards into the New Year with the definite intention of all re-convening here, exactly one year from now! To stay positive, going forward, is a formidable challenge for yours truly: it comes back to this all-encompassing word “balance” - as we have touched upon, on several recent occasions. I know the work/life balance is the key to it all.
On the work front – if all goes according to plan – the upcoming year will be relatively busy: you are aware of my involvement with Olly Murs, that will span at least six weeks from late February until early April, which will then dovetail nicely (if I can figure out how to “overlap” the two projects for a week) with The Who’s re-scheduled UK shows, from 3rd through 12th April. After that, I may have a European involvement – for two weeks during May – with a currently successful UK act (can’t say anymore than that at the moment, folks – you know how it is) leaving June and July free at the moment, prior to another small – yet high-profile – UK arena tour, for the best part of August. September should then be another free month for me. Then I have an extensive October/November project pending.
I have to say that there’s a few Artists touring “next year” (2017) that I would dearly like to have an involvement with however, with my commitments as already detailed above, it will (once I look at those Artist’s touring itineraries in more detail) no doubt prove impractical to consider any involvement in any tour that runs longer than two months in the U.K. and, anyway, I now have no wish to spend any more than half of the year actually out on the road.
In spite of the fact that once I am locked into a touring project, I give it 100% of my time and attention (not totally necessary as I have painfully learned that my 100% is everybody’s 80%, so that does give rise to the question of me just “laying back” off things a little).
I’m still currently out in Cyprus at (until 11th January) where the weather continues to be inclement, with the instance of rain on at least half of the days – to some degree - I have spent here, over this Xmas/New Year break. So what track to accompany this week’s entry - to bid good –bye to 2016 (and, sadly, some very notable entertainers)? I’m going – typically - for Mr B.B. King’s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” Bring on 2017! I’m ready (I think). XXXX
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