The saga of my life continues (although I’m probably fast approaching the point where “Saga” may take on an additional significant meaning for me, when it comes to the occasional holiday).
Anyway, location wise this evening, you find me – once again – in the McDonald’s, situated adjacent to Dunbar’s Asda supermarket although (at the rate Dunbar is expanding) I have the sneaking suspicion that it’s only a matter of time until a competing “Aldi” or “Lidl” food store springs up in Dunbar, and probably not too far from where I sit now, close to vacant land.
Such is progress: however, in the little cul-de-sac where I reside in the town, Dunbar’s frantic housebuilding activity is not apparent to me. In fact, I am most reminded of the ongoing expansion when the train is decelerating, from the Edinburgh direction, into Dunbar station.
Some great news: Hearts (the football team I have followed for over fifty years now) have reached the Scottish Cup Final – and I was there yesterday at the national football stadium (Hampden Park) to witness our passage into said final, as a result of a decisive 3-0 victory in the semi-final, versus the Championship club “Inverness Caledonian Thistle”. Today the second semi-final was staged (at the same location) with Celtic running out 3-0 winners against Aberdeen, with the tensions that such games bring finally reducing Aberdeen to nine men.
The final is set for Saturday 25th May which (and how about this for a stroke of luck?) is coincidentally a “non-show” day on Olly Murs’s upcoming tour. So, yes, Jake is going to the football game! A few minor logistics to be ironed out of course but, hey, that’s what I do for a living. I will probably have to board an Edinburgh-bound train, from Sheffield, at “sparrow fart” to enable me to be up in God’s country in enough time to make it through to Glasgow for the game. In my lifetime of following Hearts this will be the fifth cup final I have attended.
Sliding over to family matters, it was my intention to zip down to Vietnam before I am due into Olly’s production rehearsals on 25th of this month, however a combination of escalating air fares (which tends to happen, when you attempt to book at a week’s notice!) and Jade’s current, heavy, work commitments has scuppered that plan – and I’ll now go down in June/July.
With the above in mind, I’m now slowly hatching a plan whereby I head down to south-east Asia for a combined period of (say) five weeks arriving in (again, only mooted, at this early stage) Bangkok – on the back of an Edinburgh/Bangkok/Edinburgh return – and then taking two additional “return” flights from Bangkok: one to Brisbane to visit Bradley and one to Ho Chi Min City to visit Jade, after which I then jump back on the return portion of my Bangkok flight back to Edinburgh (having, maybe, resisted the temptation to skip down to Ko Samui for a few days – however, it’s an idyllic location.) Don’t come asking me for a loan after that!!
Now that I’ve postponed the planned trip to Vietnam, I nevertheless decided that I fancy some sunshine (not terribly prevalent in Scotland at the moment) therefore I made the snap decision, on Friday past, to book a seven-day “Lastminute.com” holiday down to the south of Spain: I’ll probably be the oldest holidaymaker on the Costa Blanca. It follows then, surely, that this week’s accompanying track should have something of a “vacation” connection – so what better than this gentle rocker from Scottish band Nazareth, aptly named “Holiday”. XX
Definitely, one of the best things I ever did was to remove my date of birth from Facebook!
The above “revelation” bears relevance this 7th day of April as I’ve reached the grand(?) old age, today, of 67 (that’s sixty-seven). My contemporaries might suspect – based upon their own experiences of having “similar” birthdays within this demographic – that I may not be too enamoured to be reaching such a milestone. Actually, because – today of all days – I feel physically better than I have for the last month (has the body – my body – finally completed it’s repair work?) since – it would appear – I suffered the side effects to the “Lansoprazole”.
One day, I can hopefully reveal the reason that I’m sat here in Darlington Station, working on this week’s Diary entry. Didn’t expect to find myself here – of all places – at this time - but it’s just a result of the way things have panned out over the last few frustrating weeks.
As already alluded to, in this evening’s first paragraph, I certainly feel a whole lot better than I did a week ago today (as you will recall) and must now – seriously – build upon this gentle suffusion of renewed energy to ease myself back on track. However, it’s been a “good” thing.
Allow me to elaborate upon that last sentence: I’ve little doubt than anyone suddenly experiencing “inexplicable” stomach/gut pains – accompanied by other minor attendant ailments, such as headache and fatigue – could be forgiven for “thinking the worst”. In that respect, I was no different. With relief comes assurance & with assurance comes confidence.
Just as an aside, my regular readers will no doubt have picked up on the fact that I’m a disciple of the “wrapped” paragraph and, subsequently, I would have to confess to slightly altering the wording and/or grammar, probably at least 2/3 times on each individual, weekly, entry – in order that neatness is preserved. The “ampersand”(&) in the previous paragraph is an example!
Otherwise, the main decision at my doorstep in the forthcoming week is whether I head down to visit my daughter Jade in Vietnam before the start of the Olly Murs project (25th of this month) or whether I wait until mid-June and (with a wee bit of strategic planning) “incorporate” that trip into a visit to Byron Bay to spend some time with my son as well. Having not booked any international flights as yet, this is a decision that needs to be made within the next 24 – 48 hours if it has any chance of being accomplished without spending a fortune.
Tomorrow, Monday, I will have the opportunity to catch three of my young players in two different games, the first kicking-off at 2.00 pm in the afternoon in Edinburgh (in which Souleymane will play) with the second game due to commence at 7.30 pm in the evening at Starks Park in Kirkcaldy, in which game Joe and Henoch should play for around 75 minutes. These three young players (aged 16, 19 and almost 21) are made of fairly stern stuff for their young years: I’m sure they also have the potential to develop into quality players in the future.
There will no more “recruitment-activity” – player wise – for at least the next two months, with A) the signing deadline having passed a week ago and B) the current season due to finish towards the end of May. With that in mind, and with the football activity not due to re-commence until mid-June, this week’s accompanying track is from The Average White Band.
Well, there goes the first three months of the year – just another “VAT quarter” of life!
For those of you who have had to endure my (fairly recently) intermittent ramblings about having to slow things down a little in my life - and take sensible stock of my situation – your patient understanding may just be “rewarded” over the NEXT three months of this year.
Is it – do you think – just a natural human trait that we never really visualise a time when we won’t actually be on this planet? The general exception to that rule probably being when you reach your “sixties” - when such thoughts gently swim into focus, and time takes on even more significance as the world’s most precious commodity. This is where you find me this weekend.
Specifically, I have been up in Inverness for Saturday and Sunday nights where – in addition to taking in the “Inverness Caledonian v Falkirk” game yesterday – I indulged myself, for a second time in the last five years, with a trip on the the West Highland Railway that runs from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh: a most delightful and scenic round-trip train excursion.
I departed Inverness today at 1059, arrived into Klyle of Lochalsh at 1337, wandered up to the local “Bothy” in the village for a baked potato and then – armed with a takeaway coffee – headed back down to the station to “re-board” the same physical train which had carried me on the outward journey, departing 1512 to re-trace our “steps” back towards Inverness. The best view, unquestionably (but question if you wish!) is on the northside of the track, particularly when – headed west – you pass the Stromferry station and the shores of Loch Carron start to open up. I would have no hesitancy in recommending this enthralling journey.
Otherwise, train trips remaining as therapeutic to me as they always have been, I’ve enjoyed sufficient “me” time over the last forty-eight hours to assist in formulating a structure and a direction for the years ahead. I’m acutely aware such planning must firmly edge it’s way to the front of the queue of life: the emphasis being predominately during the time I am off (rather than on) the road. It’s no secret, as a result of my own conscious efforts, that the former is definitely heading in the direction of eclipsing the latter. What took me so long?
With my recently-diagnosed cholesterol count (above normal!) the requirement for regular exercise has returned, in fairly sharp focus. Not being the full-time owner of a car at this current time – and for almost four years now, believe it or not – encourages me (leaves me no choice?) to either walk or cycle to the likes of the station, the supermarket or into the village. This, of course, is no bad thing: the key is now just to regulate such walking activities, on a weekly basis, to where I am regularly accomplishing certain time and/or distance targets.
Within the last few weeks – certainly boosted by the outcome of having pushed myself too hard on the recent “TFF” tour – I have finally accepted that (especially at my stage of life) health matters take precedence over all others. Therefore it would be my intention to now be able to keep you regularly informed of all positive developments over the coming weeks.
In closing (and not for the first time, I suspect) – I leave you this week with my main man Otis Redding and his version of a Sam Cooke classic “A Change is Gonna Come”. It has to. XX
Greetings, readers - once again this week - from the department of the “Walking Wounded”.
Being convinced that something is still not quite right with me (and there’s a few folk may not dispute that, especially where my head’s concerned!) I have now set up the recently mentioned “all singing/all dancing” BUPA medical examination for Wednesday of next week . Sure, that’s coming out of my pocket, however the way I feel right now – and with the added consideration that my own doctor is on vacation for another ten days – I reckon one doesn’t skimp with issues of one’s health if one is in the fortunate position to personally cover the cost involved.
I underwent such an examination about twelve years ago, with a company called “Lifescan” in Glasgow which – at that time – included a full MRI body-scan: however I’ve since learned, from several reputable sources, that the various blood tests have become so sophisticated there’s not much that cannot be detected, therefore negating the cost of an expensive MRI scan.
I should say at this point that although I’ve made mention on several past occasions about my belief of the “destructive nature” of certain aspects of Social Media- particularly where the impressionable generations are concerned- from the point of view of researching symptoms and suspected illnesses there is an untold wealth of reliable information to be found online.
Once the health check has been completed this coming Wednesday – and the various results communicated to me – then I suspect the time will have come for me to do what I have been threatening to do over the course of many a Diary entry, namely place my health firmly at the “front of the life queue”. Other factors of the past week have reinforced my growing resolve.
Just to slide back over to touring matters (after all, this blog still retains the “Diary of the Road” title) – and what a convenient bit of dovetailing this presents me with – it is exactly one month today that I will be heading down south to hook up with Olly Murs production rehearsals prior to heading directly north again, six days later, for the first show in Aberdeen (1st May).
I’m very much looking forward to what – for sure – will be a very enjoyable tour with an Artist, of course, with whom I have toured on several (equally enjoyable) previous occasions. Add to that the bonus of a live band – not always a “given” within the realms of modern day touring – and, collectively, you have there all the essential elements for a very memorable experience.
As if the above wasn’t enough to ensure a most relaxing and convivial touring experience, our Production Manager (Andy Colby, a stand-up guy and longtime touring buddy of mine), several reprobates on the crew - and certain members of Olly’s band - are ardent football fans (with a host of different clubs supported, across all those folks: which makes for great crack).
Prior to departing the sunny shores of Dunbar, as previously mentioned above, I may “zip” over to Australia between (say) 11th and 23rd April to see my son in Byron Bay, with the added incentive of attending the iconic Byron Bay Blues Festival – something of a bonus, if I’m there.
However, I want to be “fighting fit” before making the trip, otherwise I may delay until June: with that in mind , here’s Australia’s Jimmy Barnes with a rocker called “No Second Prize”.X
Something of a watershed week, this week – if that’s the correct term, but read on ……
I continue to feel out of sorts - and have returned to Edinburgh this evening, with an appointment at my local doctors tomorrow morning, in the hope of determining the source of this “malaise” that has descended upon me, since returning from the “Tears For Fears” tour.
Whatever the diagnoses (and I remain “hopeful” that my condition is purely borne of years and years of over-exertion – because with application, diet and exercise I know that can be fixed) I surely have to recognise, this time, the need to give absolute priority to my health.
My re-adjusted approach to (the remainder) of my life will certainly feature a personal ruling that I do not go careering into projects at the eleventh hour, like a knight on a white charger, to assist Artists with their touring projects – and subsequently expose myself to 16-hour stressful days for weeks on end. If I don’t have a “fair run” prior to any given project, to enable me to arrive at the first show, properly prepared, then I walk away from the project.
Impressive start to turning over a new leaf? Stick around – I suspect there is more to follow.
As much as I love my involvement with football, that – too – has to have some curtailment introduced to the process, although that is pretty much the current state of affairs based upon the fact that I am only assisting three players in Scotland at the moment (and have no plans to extend that for the current season, particularly as the signing deadline is only two weeks away). I must accept that my touring business will always take priority and if I get to football after that, then fine – but if the football has to “wait” then, in future, it has to wait.
At the moment, I have the possibility of four projects which could come to fruition, before the end of this year: none of them have been absolutely confirmed, however I’m confident of being able to confirm the first of them, by next week’s Diary entry – with the confirmation of the second project following within the next month. Once the two afore-mentioned projects are given the “green light” then it would be the icing on the cake if one of the two remaining projects fell into place: if both did, that would actually be too much work for me!
I cannot forget how fortunate I am to be in this position, coming from such humble beginnings and having made one or two key, momentously bad, decisions along the way (notably of a domestic nature). To have infamously have been in a position whereby I was down to my last 37 pence in mid-1998, but then to have somehow dragged my way back – twenty years later - to owning two small properties, in addition to being mortgage free now in my own house, has its foundations in a serious amount of hard work, and a few, timely, welcome slices of luck.
However, the hard work which I have alluded to above, may – with the manifestation of what currently ails me – have taken its toll: I can only hope I can get back to my “old self” soon.
This week I will leave you with a track penned by one of my all-time favourite songwriters, Mr. John Fogerty, here with a 35-year old (original) rendition of one of several great “Creedence Clearwater Revival” songs, namely “Fortunate Son” (and I surely have been!). XX
As I gaze through the windows of this small Café in North Yorkshire this evening – from where I have taken up temporary residence, to pen this week’s edition of the Diary – I can indeed report snow on the ground! Surely the first I have experienced in the UK this year.
You may recall I alluded to feeling rather out of sorts, towards the end of last week. That situation hasn’t noticeably improved since then: in fact, it has been compounded by a sudden gout flare-up – maybe my fifth or sixth occurrence of such, since first being struck with it back in 2009, on a European promotional tour with Paul Potts (in Germany if I recall correctly).
It may yet be shown that there exists a connection between those current two ailments of mine - that connection being “dehydration”: a by-product of those long hours spent in windowless production offices on the recent European leg of the Tears For Fears tour, many with questionable air-conditioning systems. Such inattention to one’s fluid intake can fairly quickly result in mild to considerable dehydration. That may be precisely what’s happened!
Sprinkle that situation with a serious lack of sleeping hours, over that particular ten-day period – not to mention a few seriously late nights, upon my immediate return, attempting to package all the accounts away to the States before the end of last week - and all the signs ominously point to me probably pushing myself a little too far, considering my tender age.
Thankfully, off the back of a useful visit to a local “drop in” clinic near where Alice is now based and a subsequent issue of prescription medication – albeit with a couple of very uncomfortably sleepless nights in the interim - I’m now over the worst of the gout flare-up.
Mildly concerning, however, is the continued presence of this current state of lassitude that I am experiencing. With the abatement of the gout condition (which, if you have ever experienced that particular condition, you will be aware of how distracting it can be) I am now able to focus more intently on the symptoms of this other temporary (it had better bloody be!) ailment of mine. The uncanny physical “imbalance”, that is suffusing my system at the moment, appears – as best as this layman can ascertain – to be emanating from the bowel area.
The very helpful doctor that saw me at the “stop-in” clinic in Catterick village on Friday past was kind enough, in spite of a heavily attended waiting room, to check my blood pressure and “take my bloods”, the result of the latter which will be made available to me in the next forty-eight hours. Naturally, I’m hoping that said results may throw some informative light on my current “un-wellness” – and point the way to taking advantage of some corrective medication.
The events of the last week have brought into sharp focus, the constant need – especially during one’s advancing years – to place one’s health and well-being unquestionably at the front of the queue of life - and that must now be the priority going forward. I’ll be able to update you on the origin of my current “out of sorts” condition. Let’s just hope I’ve not overdone it!
In summary of the spirit of this week’s Diary – meaning I’ve had something of a wake-up call on the health side of things – but also to keep the mood upbeat, I’m going with a track that is nefariously, appropriately, named - so take it away Mr Levi Stubbs of “The Four Tops”. XX
Back on track! Sure it may be 8.21 pm on Sunday evening - but it’s the actual Sunday evening that this particular Diary entry is due to be published. So, for me, that’s “Back on Track”.
The (obvious?) disadvantage to “rushing” the weekly entries, is that the content is almost “time driven” whenever I find myself behind schedule. This, of course, sees me pushing on to complete said entries - rather than just allowing the content to flow from the mind to the keyboard, as it generally does when I take an on-the-day, relaxed, approach to composing it.
Today finds me almost having completed the “clear-up” on the recent Tears For Fears tour, with possibly three or four hours work left, to enable me to draw a line under it. From that point onwards, I will be awaiting the response to a proposal which I’ve submitted to the management of a very popular act, whose upcoming summer itinerary will feature the concentration of their shows being staged over “long” weekends. Should this project come to fruition, it would require me to be “on call” throughout the six-month period May until August. Then, from mid-September onwards, I’m committed to a two-month touring period, but can’t say too much for the moment. Once I am in a position to go “public”, I will divulge all to you!
Prior to that, my Olly Murs commitment will commence around 25th/26th April and that - essentially - “bookends” the time I can use to travel to see my children, hopefully taking in Vietnam and Byron Bay on the same trip: in other words, I have seven weeks “downtime” in which to figure out the best period to pop across the other side of the world for a few weeks.
By the time of next week’s Diary entry, I should have a clearer idea of when I can look to “Go West, Old Man” and subsequently have the framework of a travel itinerary in place. Naturally, the sooner I book up the required flight(s) the sooner I’ll be able to secure a reasonable deal on the air fares. I need to be six months ahead of myself, rather than only six weeks: less planning generally translates into more cost. I’ve learned that lesson painfully, in the past.
Over the last couple of days I feel like I’ve hit something of a wall, particularly today - as I continue to attempt to eradicate the last vestiges of a heavy cold which first took hold of me over ten days ago now. There was a time where I could shake such an ailment in a matter of days, even while still out on the road - admittedly, by dosing up on a cocktail of cold medicines.
That same “quick” fix appears to be less effective as the years progress, witnessed by this latest episode - following in from which I racked up two consecutive early morning finishes in an attempt to wrap up my company (and the Tears For Fears!) accounts within only 3 days.
I sense the time has come for me to take my foot off the gas, and be content to “cruise” for a while. This last week has demonstrated that pacing myself now becomes more important than ever. I’m going to constructively utilise the next few days to formulate a plan where considerations for my health (short and long term) unquestionably take precedence. Now, yes, I’ve alluded to such an approach on previous occasions: however, events of the last week are a clear indication of the need to get serious. I can’t say right now what the next move will be - other than to say that move is, arguably, long overdue. In looking to source a track that mirror’s those sentiments, I give you the inimitable Beth Hart and “Everything Must Change”.
The catch-up exercise continues: whereas, on the other hand, the tour is “dis-continued”.
Not that it ended prematurely (“discontinued” is obviously not the most appropriate word, however you get my drift) with the last scheduled show being “this evening” in Padova. Of course, if I could have summoned the strength to do so, I would have at least made a start to this week’s edition when I returned to the hotel after the Padova show. Alas, the last show clamour – with trucks being loaded in accordance with their drop-off schedules back in the UK (keeping in mind that the shows always start a little later in Italy – in our case 9.15 pm, instead of the “normal” 8.45 pm) this decreed the last night was something pf a late one.
When you vector into the above a 40-minute ride to Marco Polo airport (one of two major airports serving Venice) it was pushing 2.30 am by the time we were collecting our keys from the Airport Courtyard Marriott hotel – at which point one’s literary juices have evaporated.
Fast forward to Saturday evening (2nd March) at 10.26 pm and here I am desperately trying to complete last week’s entry, prior to the stroke of midnight - in readiness to actually start the next edition on the day it should be started. All this with Susannah Yorke gadding about on the TV screen right now - as part of some fairly graphic war movie, involving lots of Spitfires - in only wartime suspenders and a blue R.A.F. shirt. My concentration’s shattered!
Back to the literary task at hand: I would probably have to admit that a combination of my involvement with Tears For Fears; a subsequent heavy cold brought on as a result of the afore mentioned commitment and, finally, two or three early morning finishes in my home-based office in an attempt to both mail the TFF accounts away - and complete my own company accounts - before the end of this current week, has blown a large hole in my energy reserves.
I go back to my analogy of the egg-timer, meaning that I need to allow the top “glass” to drain completely to build up the reserves of strength in the bottom “glass” before I turn it over and “start again”. There was a time where I could function adequately on “half a glass of sand” but I suspect my requirements nowadays are to commence with a full glass. To that end, it surely comes down to pacing myself, both during the times when I am on - and off - tour. I can’t go into too much detail, just yet, until a few key, prospective, touring projects are confirmed: however, suffice to say that I may have a busy year ahead of me. The one good thing to say at this moment is that the next six weeks definitely look to be free, therefore I must use that time wisely - to be in the best possible shape to deal with what lies ahead.
Right now, the clock is ticking (it’s currently 11.18 pm - well the war film has some very realistic dog-fight scenes!) and my laptop is down to 38% battery. Tomorrow, finally, I’ll be back on track with my Diary entries - a clear barometer that I’m finally back to some sort of schedule.
For those consumed with curiosity as to which war film I may have been watching (and being occasionally distracted by) it was indeed “The Battle of Britain” with many famous names. Now I must draw this week’s entry to a close (11.42 pm - and counting down) but with no real theme on which to “tag” a particular track, I’m just going to go with a great little tune that will hopefully have proven connotations: Daniel Boone with “Beautiful Sunday”. Let’s hope it is!
Another week playing “catchup” – it would be an ideal situation for a Sunday to be a day off.
However, that’s not how things have worked out on this little Tears For Fears jaunt. Again, I find myself days behind with my weekly Diary entry, as I currently sit on the tour bus, en-route from last night’s Paris show towards Milan, where – as good luck would have it – we have no show this evening. Having said that, with our rooms not being held from “last night” we just have to keep our fingers crossed that our Milan hotel was not heavily booked last night.
Fast forward to me sat in the stylish bar/lounge of the NH Hotel (so, obviously I fit right in, yeah?) on the outskirts of Milan, however only a “stone’s throw” from tomorrow night’s venue, the iconic Mediolanum Forum. Again, allowing honesty to come to the fore, just let me remind you that – at this very second, no less – it is currently 8.00 pm on Friday 22nd February, and there is nowhere to hide while I attempt to catch up, with this Diary entry from last Sunday!
A second ago there, I used the adjective “iconic” to describe the building in which we will play tomorrow night’s show - the second last on this short continental European jaunt. However, having endured many a “robust” show settlement in that venue – with me last to leave the place on a couple of memorable occasions – there have been a few less complimentary adjectives thrown around in the past: certainly when I have been in there during the summer months, where there is a most inefficient air-conditioning system – if indeed any form of functioning AC system in the place at all. The sort of days that call for taking a second shower.
Did you note that both the second and the second-last word in the previous paragraph were actually the word “second”. What would the worlds’ greatest grammarians (I looked that up in Google!) make of such a phenomenon? Maybe it has its own “conspiracy theory” to match?
You see: undying proof once again that nobody goes off at tangents like I do. I could probably put it down to (quoting Alice here) a combination of “the way your brain works” and the somewhat OCD need of mine, personally, to have everything tidy and in its place: therefore, when five days late with processing my Diary entry, such as today, I’m not really “composing” at the leisurely pace that I would prefer; rather there’s a little too much haste involved.
To be honest (twice during one Diary entry!) I’m not sure what the answer is to producing the Diary entries on time, when I’m engulfed in the maelstrom of back-to-back touring. One’s sixteen-hour days fly by in a hurricane of “fire-fighting” issues; intense financial debates (me and the local Promoter); repeated trips out onto the “floor” of the house to assess how the production set-up is coming along – and to see if further seats can be released for sale – and so it goes on. A “time and motion” expert would surely send me back to the drawing-board.
Actually, on that last point (and this has taken way too long to hit home – hard) I need to ease back on the absolute detail to which I undertake my work, particularly in terms of record-keeping. It’s surely never too late to rectify a situation that finds you more time in your life.
In closing this week’s entry, and in mentioning earlier how stifling tomorrow’s venue can become, when played in the height of summer, I’m going to hand over to Mr. Joe Cocker ….. X
Another week when I’m four days behind with my Diary: my life just isn’t my own, out here.
It’s hard to find any personal time when undertaking a run of three back-to-back shows – when the days seem to fly past. Trust me, when you’ve spent fourteen hours in the venue, all you want is to climb into your bunk, as soon as you clamber onto the crew bus. To think that – in days gone by (many moons ago) – we would sit in the downstairs lounge quaffing a few drinks before heading upstairs to get our heads down for a mere five hours sleep before the next day’s show. That sort of activity is only sensibly now reserved for “travelling” into a day off.
On the Tears for Fears tour we have “just” the two crew buses (I don’t miss the days of stadium touring and the attendant five or six crew buses) which keeps things “comfortably cosy”. Our bus actually “shredded” a back tyre on the rear steering axle, about forty-five minutes out from Glasgow on Monday night past, around 0230 on Tuesday morning. Us old road dogs are familiar with the sensation and sound of the tour-bus runner over patchy stretches of highway, however the accentuate rumbling left me in no doubt what the real problem was.
Our driver, Mike, then had no choice but to call out the breakdown service to the Abingdon service area, about 30 minutes north of Carlisle. This set us back around three hours – however, priority wise, the other crew bus (Production Manager and his assistant; Rigger; Caterers & Lighting crew) is the one required at the venue for “first light” therefore – although we didn’t reach Birmingham (“Resorts World”) Arena until around 10.30 am – if it had been the other way around, crew bus wise, we would have been lucky to “open doors” on time.
To recap, this past week, we (as previously alluded to) played the Glasgow Hydro on Monday night past; Birmingham Resorts World Arena (essentially the “NEC”) on Tuesday – and then finishing the current UK leg last night, and our ninth show, at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.
Can I just briefly pause to honestly inform you that the time lapse behind that last paragraph and this first line of this paragraph is – wait for it – around forty-eight hours: hence the reason you finding me typing away with fervour, just before 9.00 pm on Saturday 16th of February, cocooned backstage at the Berlin “Tempodrom”, with the band having just gone on!
Yes, I have been known to slip behind like this before and – yes – my touring activities have invariably been to blame for such a lamentable state of affairs on similar past occasions. However I will not rest in my bunk on the tour bus tonight, knowing I’m heading into Sunday, tomorrow, without having managed to draw to a close, the previous Sunday’s entry. Not good.
It doesn’t stop there: we have a nine-hour run to Amsterdam after tonight’s show here in Berlin, which means the rigging truck - last out tonight, required to be first in tomorrow morning - is probably not going to roll up to “AFAS Live” (formerly the Heineken Music Hall) until 10.30 am tomorrow morning: compare that with our usual load-in time of 07.30 am. Ouch.
Forty-five years of experience tells me that tomorrow will flash by in a kaleidoscopic collage of frantic activity, crazed timings and snatched mealtimes. Anticipating all of that, there are few tracks that could capture that sentiment, however I intend to heed Huey Lewis ‘s advice.
Well, as any regular reader of this Diary will know, what’s happened this past week was inevitable: back out on the road I go and my personal life becomes files under “hold”. However, being that this project came to me a little late in the day, there are worse tours to be involved with (believe me!) than the enchanting Alison Moyet opening up for the iconic Tears for Fears.
There’s a further “bonus” (there had better be!) in that both principal Artists feature live musicians: honestly, it’s been too long since both opener and headliner – on a tour I was involved in – when both opener and headliner featured real musicians throughout their show.
As of today (which is meant to be Sunday past – but it’s actually Tuesday evening) we’ve played four shows already: Killarney, Wednesday last; Dublin Thursday; travel day on Friday; Liverpool Saturday and Brighton Sunday. So this gives you an insight as to why I was unable to complete my Diary on time – for the first time for a long time, I would add in my defense.
This evening finds me “camped” along the road from the O2, in the salubrious Holiday Inn Express, the location of tomorrow’s performance – after which it’s overnight to Bournemouth for a “back-to-back” show. Once out of Bournemouth, that will see five out of nine shows completed. As always, long taxing days are involved - adrenalin being the only drug you need.
I’ve elected to travel on the crew bus (one of two) on this little jaunt, as it is the most convenient method of travelling from “point A to point B” and – probably more significant – it’s a fairly short (yet sold out) tour, so I’ll be fine with a few nights hanging with the crew.
Tomorrow I will not experience daylight, at all, as we’re heading in to the venue at 0745 (still dark outside) and not leaving their again until around 0045 the next morning (still dark outside) That’s just the way it is when you sign up (temporarily) for such a stamina-sapping lifestyle, either playing shows or travelling formidable distances to play those said shows. I’m sure I’ve mentioned, a few times down the years, there’s nothing more personally rewarding (for me anyway) than climbing into my bunk, reading a few pages of my book, then nodding off.
Not for the claustrophobic mind you : as each bunk space occupies only a 6 feet by 2 feet by (wait for it!) 2 foot high space, there’s not a lot of room to move around in there just to sleep.
I probably prefer the scenario whereby I run around in a small rental car, sorting my own hotels through “Booking.com” and generally being my own man: the sense of freedom is palpable as one charges about the length and breadth of the country , somewhat unfettered.
On the football front, my young lad – Boris Melingui – has now signed for the Scottish League One club “Dumbarton FC) which will enable him to get his head down and concentrate his energies in keeping Dumbarton clear of the relegation zone; now comes the real challenge .
Having played out last week’s Diary – appropriately, with an accompanying track by Tears for Fears, I feel it is only fair that we repeat this scenario by seeking to leave you with something by our very impressive opening act, Alison Moyet. From my system, I have selected the following track, hailing from a good few years ago, a lovely song called “All Cried Out”. XX
Finally, my silence can be broken, in relation to my veiled references of the past few weeks.
The first revelation: I am currently sitting in Killarney this Sunday evening, preparing for the commencement of a “Tears For Fears” Ireland/UK/Europe tour that takes up the next month.
It’s never too difficult to persuade me to come out on the road when the Artist involved uses live musicians: and that’s refreshingly the case with TFF, which ensures that I’ll be nipping out into the concert bowl to give these lads a listen, whenever I can tear myself away from my accounting office backstage. There is however a rather thick layer of icing on the cake: Alison Moyet is the lads’ special guest act. Another reason to be most positive about this tour!
Finding my way to Killarney involved a (direct, thankfully) flight from Edinburgh to Shannon, down here in the south-west of Ireland – the Republic of Ireland to be precise – and then a connecting bus run, through Limerick, with the bonus of some delightful countryside en-route.
The venue in Killarney, for Wednesday night’s show upcoming show, is the same location where we kicked-off Niall Horan’s Ireland & UK tour, back in March of last year. The venue is staffed by a most energetic team, under the direction of the Event Manager, Shane O’Driscoll. It makes for such an easier day, when the venue staff genuinely want to go out of their way to ensure a smooth operation and this invariably contributes toward a great show.
So, this is me back in the swing of things, doing what I do best – and surrounded by several familiar “road dogs”: essentially, as I have made reference to in the past, my extended family. On this particular tour, I’ve toured several times before with the Production Manager (Andy Colby); the Catering Chief (Sarah Nicholas); the Stage Manager (Torin Arnold) and the Video Engineer (Devin Turner). The remainder of the crew appears to be a fairly even split between UK and American which – when you think about it - is the same as the “Artist split” with one of the lads residing in the UK, and the other having (I believe) spent many years in the U.S..
On the football front, one of my young lads (Boris Melingui) scored a cracking goal in his debut for the Scottish L1 club Dumbarton, the result of which earned him “Man of the Match”. Initially – with so much going on prior to my imminent departure here to the Emerald Isle – I was doubtful I would find the six-hour window required to attend the game (Dumbarton is right across the other side of Scotland, from where I stay in Dunbar). With a fair sprinkling of judicious planning, I arranged it that I could stay in Edinburgh last night, after handing my rental car back on the way into town, having secured an cheapish one-night hotel stay in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh - and within walking distance of the Airport Express bus stop.
Two more of my young French footballers arrived into Edinburgh late this morning (I only “missed” them at the airport by 3 hours!) as both Falkirk FC, in the Championship, and Raith Rovers, in League One – both very approachable clubs – have each agreed to assess the lads.
All in all, not a bad end to a fairly frantic week (including two 03.00 a.m. stints in my office) but nothing I didn’t anticipate. In closing this week’s Diary entry, it may come as no surprise as to my choice of Artist to lead us out, with this week’s accompanying track. On you go, lads.
I’m making a start to this week’s entry, ahead of a Hearts cup-tie, kicking off at 2.30 pm. The majority of the other sixteen ties were played yesterday, save for the cancellation of Friday night’s televised game at “lowly” Cowdenbeath, where their opponents were the high-flying Glasgow Rangers. At this time of the year, the weather can cause havoc with football fixtures.
Back with you, now, after the Hearts v Livingston game, which Hearts managed to win 1-0 - however not terribly convincingly. Being that the Hearts game was the last of the 16 games to be played (although – as mentioned above – the Cowdenbeath v Rangers game has now been re-scheduled to Wednesday 30th of this month) the draw for the next round of the Scottish Cup, was conducted from Hearts stadium – “Tynecastle” – ten minutes after today’s final whistle blew. Hearts came out with a (favourable, you would have to say) tie against the only “Junior” club remaining in the competition – and a club that Hearts played in this same competition, back in 2012, on the way to winning the cup (I was there!): Auchinleck Talbot.
It is great credit to Auchinleck Talbot’s efforts that they have reached this stage of the competition, culminating yesterday in knocking out their senior-club “neighbours” Ayr United, the latter currently sitting second in the Scottish Championship – and pushing for promotion.
Unfortunately, with the next round being played on the weekend of 9th/10th February, I may be out on tour during that time (although I’m still awaiting confirmation of that actual project, with the date scheduled to leave town being a week today!). Ach, we (Hearts) should ease into the quarter-finals of the Cup, but we need to avoid complacency against Auchinleck Talbot!
Apart from the obvious reasons to know if I’m involved in the previously-mentioned project (and all will be revealed, next week, if I am!) which commences only ten days from now, there is much for me to be getting along with at the house, both on the practical and administrational fronts: I remain cognizant of my current home being my most prized asset!
On the weather front, it has certainly been something of a wake-up call to return here to chilly Scotland (2 celcius today!) when I have probably experienced an average daily temperature of 20 celcius for the past two and a half months. Also, while dusk in Cyprus currently falls around the same time as Scotland – 5.00 p.m. – the noticeable difference is that dawn is around 6.15 a.m. in Cyprus, at this time of year, whereby it’s not much before 8.00, here at the moment.
Therefore, with my constant “need” of light and (reasonable) warmth, I’m bound to personally find January and February, in Scotland, not the most comfortable months to endure. This is not to attract sympathy for my situation – but I’ve (increasingly, down the years?) monitored these developments and – seeing things as objectively as I can – I really don’t fare too well. Having said that, I’ve rarely been able to apply the requisite amount of time seriously required to study, research and pro-actively combat my “condition”. But I know something needs done!
On a brighter note, the jewel in my crown of young footballers (that I have been involved with over the last season) – Souleymane “Souley” Diakite - will hopefully be signing to a Scottish Championship club, within the next two weeks. This is gratifying news and subsequently prompts me to leave you with The Rolling Stones to sum things up for this week! Brrrrr. XXX
The decision has been made: of Cyprus’s four main cities (Paphos; Limassol; Nicosia and Larnaka) it is Larnaka that shades it, as my personal preference – just edging out Paphos, with Limassol not far behind in third place, leaving Nicosia a good few lengths back in the running.
The above judgement may come down a little unfairly on Nicosia as – apart from the other three all nestling directly on the Mediterranean (a definite “plus”) - I have only ever visited Nicosia on two occasions, over the two and a half years that I have been frequenting Cyprus.
Additionally, it’s from the balcony of our room at the Frangorgiou Hotel in Larnaka (a five-minute walk from the Marina and seafront) where, today – while it is still light – I am in the process of penning this week’s Diary entry. What has certainly not caused any slight on my choice of favourite city was last night’s dinner visit to a quaint back-street restaurant called “Art Café 1900”. Very chic decoration (without being pretentious); jazz and blues music in the background, through a decent sound system – and, key to it all of course, impressive food.
Got to zip off to lunch now, therefore I’ll pick this back up again, before we head out tonight.
Back in the hotel, just coming up to 5.00 pm local Cyprus time - having just discovered a neat little esplanade-front restaurant, serving “Sunday Roast”, which would appear to be a fairly popular event for the majority of the ex-pat community, whereas - for the indigent Cypriot population - Sunday is seen as a family day, when the midday meal in generally enjoyed indoors.
With Alice due to re-locate back to the UK around the end of this month, this may be my last time in Larnaka (and Cyprus) for a good while. However, albeit in more sunnier months than December and January, there could be a lot worse places to hangout for a few leisurely weeks.
Having, now, been out of the country for almost two and a half months, there will follow something of a “re-alignment” exercise for me, upon my return to Scotland in three days from now - with the work prospects on the horizon (there will undoubtedly be a “re-clothing” exercise!). It’s probably close on ten years since I last spent such an extended period away from the UK shores, what with the intentional deceleration of my recent worldwide touring activities. However, I do foresee a fair amount of time being spent out of the country this year, again – albeit (as a result of developing work projects) without a twelve week “chunk”.
There’s a fair amount of work on the cards for me during this coming year, whereas – at the moment – 2020 looks fairly sparse (although work opportunities can “turn on a sixpence” in this topsy-turvy industry, where I ply my trade) which, I have to admit, is just as I planned! The time is fast approaching whereby the lion’s share of my time will be applied to my OWN travelling plans, rather than those of my clients. Time to start thinking about a bucket list?!
Possibly the most significant aspect of recent extended period away from the clamour of both the music and football business has been to enable me to reach a decision to streamline my activity and involvement around the football side of things, which I’ll be happy to expand upon next week! This dovetails beautifully into allowing my man Otis Redding to encapsulate such a mood, with this week’s accompanying track, aptly titled “A Change Is Gonna Come”. XX
Well, there’s no avoiding it now: the new year is definitely upon us – and already six days old.
Alice and I managed to find a cheap deal on an apartment in Pomos, on the northwest coast of Cyprus (you may recall me singing the praises of the area, in a past Diary entry) and it is there that we have spent the last two days, returning “home” this afternoon via Pafos, where we planned to take in the sunset, from the vicinity of the harbour lighthouse coffee shop.
However, that plan was well and truly scotched when (as can happen occasionally in Cyprus, at this time of year) a surprisingly squalid stormfront literally appeared from nowhere to block out the final thirty minutes of the sunset. No complaints, really, on the overall weather front in Cyprus though – considering the countless days of warm sunshine that I have taken advantage of on (now) several visits to this island. For sure, Cyprus has much going for it.
Having said that, it may now be a while until I return here (I’m heading home to Scotland next week) as Alice’s company are re-locating back to the UK at the end of the month – and it very much looks like she will be based in either Leeds or York, for the remainder of this year. Of course, this will represent a major “climate change” for Alice, who is in the process of digging out a host of winter-clothing items that she has had no requirement of for the past two years.
Just to say that I’m currently awaiting final confirmation of my involvement (as Tour Accountant) on a “small” – eleven date – UK arena tour, with an iconic “eighties” outfit but – as I’m sure you can appreciate – cannot say too much at this time, until all is finally in place.
That would take up most of February, after which my next project (as things stand at the moment) would not kick in, until mid-April. The plan therefore – if I can pull it together – would be to go visit my son and daughter in late March/early April – and hopefully in the same location. In other words, Bradley flies to Vietnam – the more likely of the two scenarios – or Jade flies to Australia, which of course would save me having to “Continent-hop” - because you know I’ve done a fair bit of that in my time (I often wonder how I managed all of that!).
For the time being – if nothing else comes in for the summer period (and that’s 50/50 at the moment) I intend to anchor myself to my home town of Dunbar, at least for the four-month period of June through September. Following on from that, it very much looks like I will be involved with another touring project for the best part of two months, specifically October and November. Subsequently, I’ve already pretty much set my sights on being home for Christmas “this” year: I just feel the “pull” of my own environment, for that particular period.
So, there you have it: a first glimpse at my plan for 2019. Being that I’ve now committed the above tentative “forecast” to the record, it will be most interesting to look back at this particular Diary entry – one year from now – to make a “projected versus actual” comparison!
Generally speaking, I’m just easing my foot back, a little more, off the gas as I look to restore the personal/work life balance: that, in conjunction with paying increasing attention to my general health, is how I intend to move forward in this coming year. With that in mind, I leave you in the capable hands of the legendary Maxine Nightingale to elaborate. Here’s to 2019! X
Site Design Caledonian Communications 2018