Sunday 11th October 2020

This thing (Coronavirus) is now showing little sign of abating: certainly, not in the short term.

Only a matter of a few days ago – and, in particular, relevant to five of the most populated regions in Scotland (mine being one of them) – further “lockdown” restrictions have been applied. It’s not yet the full-on lockdown of March/April, earlier this year, but it’s not far from it: the most notable difference being that we are not restricted to only leaving our house for one hour each day (as it was back then): however, in the current regime, once we do step over the front door “at our leisure” – we’re fairly restricted as to going much further!

You may recall, from last week’s entry, that my prospects of travelling to Turkey were dashed – within 48 hours of my planned departure – when the UK government ruled that Turkey was to be removed from the exemption list of countries, whereby (up until that point) there was no requirement to self-isolate on one’s return to the UK. A few months back, with the obvious advantage of (reasonably!) resplendent summer weather, the prospect of being “grounded” for two weeks presented no formidable challenge, especially with the garden at one’s disposal.

Coming into the middle of October is a rather different (climatic) kettle of fish: whereby, now, sitting outside comfortably becomes the exception, rather than the rule. This almost- true perception of “isolation” is further compounded by the shortening days – and, of course, any regular followers of this Diary will be well aware of your author’s disdain of low (natural) light conditions. Therefore, all in all, I now cannot commit myself to any form of self-isolation.

Furthermore, just to add insult to injury, one of my few remaining alternatives (European holiday wise) – being Italy – has also, in the past week, been removed from the UK government’s “self-isolation exempt” list. In terms of seeking any remaining rays of winter sunshine abroad – without having to travail further that the European mainland – has almost come down to one of my perennial favourites, namely Cyprus: the current drawback of that particular locale – but one which I am going to resolve in the coming weeks – is that the Cypriot government however requires proof of a negative Covid-19 test, administered within the seventy-two hour period, prior to the scheduled day of departure of any Cyprus bound flight.

Not the end of the world, you might think, to make that happen: however, off the back of initial investigations – which pointed to a wide choice of Edinburgh-based companies that offer “private” Covid-19 testing – it has become apparent that the majority of companies want to mail out a “self-administered” test to you. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I would certainly prefer a medically-qualified person to be poking a cotton probe towards the back of my nasal passage, than attempting to do so, successfully, myself: there can surely be nothing worse than going through the self-administered procedure, only to later find out that you messed it up – by which time, of course, you can kiss goodbye to an Easyjet ticket refund! However, I will – this coming week – re-double my efforts to find an actual clinic/practice to which I can make a personal visit (with the prospect of sunny Cyprus now firmly in my sights).

In closing out this week’s entry, while – by coincidence – I have a Beatles playlist buoying my mood in the office - for the second week running - it’s another Lennon/McCartney composition (so many iconic tunes to choose from) with “Paperback (Diary?) Writer”. I’m still here for Ya!

Sunday 4th October 2020

I’m sure it would be fair to say that I’ve had some “fun” with holiday planning this year.

You will (may!) recall that, in closing last week’s entry, I was poised to make the final decision to travel to Turkey - as of yesterday – based upon the fact that A) there is no requirement to be in possession of a negative Covid-19 test to enter the country, B) there is, further, no requirement to “self-isolate” for fourteen days upon returning to the UK – one of the few European countries left that fall into that exclusion – and C) being positioned down in the south-east corner of Europe, there is significant “winter” sun still on offer, during October.

Consequently, I was settled into “going to Turkey on Saturday” mode, by the middle of last week. Then, there I was perched on the corner of the sofa – one of my fancy coffees in hand – taking in the national tea-time news, late Thursday afternoon - and almost spilled said coffee down the front of myself as the newsreader announced the “removal” of Poland and Turkey from the quarantine exclusion list! This now requires “returning” holidaymakers from those two countries to self-isolate for fourteen days, following their immediate arrival into the UK.

That announcement left me somewhat stuck in “no man’s land” as to whether to push on with my travel plans to (originally) leave yesterday for the popular resort of Bodrum in Turkey - to where you can fly direct, from Edinburgh. My initial reaction was just to push ahead, and board yesterday’s flight, being that I had already re-scheduled my holiday arrangements on two previous occasions, over this summer: and that was my thinking through Friday as well.

However, come Friday evening, I disciplined myself to focus on the effect of a fourteen-day self-isolation period upon my return to Scotland (the regulations for which are even more stringent than March’s lockdown requirements: no longer would there be the ability to leave the house for one hour’s recreation each day or to make regular food shopping trips). I actually got as far as laying out my small suitcase on Friday night and having such items as my travelling toilet bag and two pairs of shorts placed therein. Then: nagging doubt to the fore!

Recalling that, when rising at 07.00 am on Thursday morning past, it doesn’t become truly light until around 07.30 am in the morning at this time of year (and that situation is not improving) I “projected” myself forward to the 15 th of this month – the day I would have returned home from Turkey – attempting to visualise the real prospect of two “dark” weeks.

I believe, knowing myself as I do (not being great in low light situations – and not being great when unable to just “get up and go”, almost on a whim), that being completely rooted to the house for the second half of October would not play out terribly well. Another thought on my mind – once I’d learned of Turkey’s removal from the “air bridge” listings – was to then extend the holiday by (say) seven days: enabling me to “stock up” on vitamin D, prior to my return.

Even with that thought process evolving, I took the decision (as late as early Saturday morning) to postpone the planned Turkey trip. I’m now confident I’ve done the right thing.

What song to leave you with, this week, I wonder? How’s about a little tune, with an iconic opening guitar break - but also with some relevance to yesterday’s cancellation: “Day Tripper”!

Sunday 27th September 2020

Well it’s not “lockdown”, folks, to which we returned on Tuesday past – but it’s not far off it.

The revised restrictions – the most part of which the four UK “devolved” nations are now in general agreement on – are most notable for the following: the inability to share a car ride with a non-family member; the inability to visit (“indoors”) another household and, where the general public are concerned, bars and restaurants having to close at 10.00 pm every night.

If, as a result of the infection numbers significantly increasing (and they are definitely on the rise), the only avenue ultimately open to the government may be to return to “full lockdown”. This would prove anathema to the majority of the British population – never mind the further debilitating damage to the already-belaboured economy, that would surely follow.

Currently, daily positive cases are increasing at the rate of 6,000+. In “fairness” to those particular statistics, the roll-out of the countrywide (slow as it is) testing programme is responsible for unearthing a reasonable percentage of those cases. However, there’s little doubt that the virus is stealthily on the increase once again – and now it seems to be university students, as they have been returning to their on-site accommodations, who are accounting for a worrying proportion of the latest cases reported (confining them to their quarters). Of course, that was never going to go down well – especially during this time of “Freshers Week”!

The stipulation that licensed premises must close their doors by 10.00 pm represents a further nail in the coffin for many independently, hospitality-related, businesses that had been limping along financially, anticipating better times not too far down the line. Many of those bars and restaurants have looked to utilise every square foot of outdoor space (beer gardens/patios/pavement space) within the immediate proximity of their premises, to attract and accommodate patrons – while endeavouring to remain within the government guidelines in relation to social distancing legislation. At least they were able to enjoy longer hours then.

Continually, I remain aghast at the vast amounts of money being committed to shore up various aspects of the ailing economy – and (through different schemes, as introduced – and perpetuated – by the UK Chancellor) subsidise large swathes of the country’s workforce: where is all this money coming from? What is the final bill going to be? How are we ever going to pay it back? Is your Diarist one of the millions who will be contributing to the shortfall?!

Just thinking about it: although this weekly (rambling?) record of mine is billed on my website as “Diary from the Road” – I’ve not been on that “Road” for close on nine months: that period will certainly extend until a full year, with the continued restrictions on large gatherings. My next touring involvement (and one of my most comfortable work environments) – with The Who – is currently scheduled for March of next year. Let’s hope “It Won’t Get Moved Again”!

My main pending decision over the coming days has to centre around my planned departure to Turkey next week, a final decision on which I will take within the coming days (I’ll have to!).

In leaving you with an uplifting tune this week – to counteract these somewhat depressing times – here comes KC & The Sunshine Band with “Get Down Tonight” (but only until 10.00pm!).

Sunday 20th September 2020

Another week passes, in this “new” world we now inhabit – and the news remains discouraging.

In spite of our politicians (well, those down in Westminster anyway) – who obviously know more than they are saying, regarding the true state of affairs come – attempting to “let us down gently”, the public are in little doubt that we are now headed towards a possible second wave.

Currently, here in the UK, the powers-that-be are railing against having to announce a second nationwide “lockdown”: consequently, the government have introduced restrictive measures in certain large conurbations throughout the UK (Glasgow, Manchester and the north-east of England) meaning that one-in-nine of the British population are subject to those restrictions.

One can only hope that - when “the science” points to the fact that there is then no alternative, but to re-introduce a nationwide lockdown – they will bow to the common sense of the inevitable. Our government obviously have justifiable fears regarding the state of our already-ailing economy: as with their access to the realistic, increasing, virus statistics - they are clearly reticent to paint the true picture of the actual state of the country’s economy.

If one is to believe what one reads (which I pretty much do, according to the Daily telegraph yesterday) then the Prime Minister will spend the best part of this weekend, based in Downing Street, locked in talks with his senior advisors and scientific members of the “S.A.G.E.” outfit.

Boris, of course (as most prime Ministers would, to a certain degree, let’s face it) could well do without all this pandemonium: the glaringly obvious fact that this particular, populist, Prime Minister displays a lackadaisical attitude towards placing himself front-and-centre when the going gets tough, hardly instils the general population with confidence, as we lumber forward.

As (I believe) I mentioned last week, I have once again re-scheduled my planned break to Turkey (originally Cyprus), this time with a departure of Saturday 3 rd October. With the UK Covid cases now experiencing a marked rise, over the past two weeks (and showing little clear sign of that trend reversing itself, in the near future) it may paradoxically be the case that I would be less likely to contract the virus in Turkey – than would be the case, on “home soil”.

The above assertion doesn’t necessarily indicate that I will follow through with those imminent holiday plans: however, I’m aware (understandably, I guess, with the amount of travelling that I’ve undertaken in my time) that my tired old feet are nevertheless becoming “itchier” by the day. The coming days will determine what my next “move” is likely to be.

There continues to be a fair amount of minor “snagging” jobs around the house, requiring attention, but nothing I can’t see myself getting to, over the next couple of weeks. Finally, I can see progress with my new “summerhouse”, destined for the far right-hand corner of the garden, as the base will be laid in the next fortnight: there’s even a possibility that it could be fully “habitable” prior to my departure to Turkey (if I finally decide to take up that option).

This week’s accompanying track somewhat pays heed to these (continuing) uncertain times: always “gets me up”, this tune: Boyzone with a live version of “Life is a Rollercoaster”. Oh aye!

Sunday 13th September 2020

I believe I claimed last week that I would be coming to you today from Turkey (the city of Bodrum, to be specific). Slight change of plan: I’m still at home – here in Scotland this evening - having returned from a four-day away-break in the North-East of England. Wednesday and Thursday nights were spent in South Shields; Friday in Whitley Bay and last night (before catching the train back up to Dunbar, this morning) in the lively Newcastle suburb of Jesmond.

Essentially, I “bottled” the Turkey trip at “the eleventh hour” - re-scheduling my departure now for Saturday 3 rd October. My reasons for doing so? A combination of reasons actually: the prime one being the notable rise on Covid-19 cases within Scotland, in the earlier part of this week, manifesting itself in two significant aspects of any planned foreign travel (as I was planning to do): of the greatest concern to me, was that by the time I was due to return from Turkey on the 23 rd of this month, I could have found – and it may yet be so – that the First Minister of Scotland adds Turkey to the list of countries requiring “incoming quarantining”.

It also struck me (rather late in the day, I admit!) that - although Cyprus required any incoming foreigners to arrive into their country with a negative Covid-19 test, taken in the seventy-two hours, prior to taking the flight – at least that stipulation “guaranteed” that all passengers on the incoming flight (with me!) would probably have been virtually virus free.

Not so with holidaymakers arriving into Turkey at this time, where all that is currently called for - upon arrival at Bodrum Airport - is a routine passenger temperature check, when deplaning, and administered by the airport’s temporary medical team. Turkey has an infection rate of 13.5 cases per 100,000 of population, which is below the European “alert” rate of 20 cases per 100,000. Countries like France and Portugal have now already exceeded that ratio.

Such a pity to have to postpone the Turkey trip (it was 33 C in Bodrum yesterday!): however, because I have a (risky?) habit of booking my hotels as I “go along”, I am not out- of-pocket on the accommodation front. Yes, there was a £64.00 cost involved in moving the Easyjet flights to October: therefore – in an effort to keep an element of sensible budgeting about the process – I’ve now curtailed the upcoming stay to eleven days (it was originally fourteen).

So, here I am back in Scotland, from my mini-weekend break and - with just under three weeks left until I’m due to take up the revised itinerary – it’s now my intention to push on with fixing up the house, particularly with the colder months approaching: it’s no fun (well, maybe it is for some, but not for me) trying to work in the garden in the “short” days of October.

I suspect – but should be able to confirm over the coming months (and as I’m sure I’ve made reference to, in past editions of the diary) – that, going forward - unless I’m actually out on tour in the UK at the time – I’ll certainly be planning to spend the best part of the four- month period, November through February, in warmer climes. However, there’s naturally a reasonable financial commitment in undertaking such a plan – meaning I’ll have to tread carefully to budget what will probably be holiday-let accommodations, where I choose to stay.

In closing this week, let’s go for a travel-orientated accompanying track: as I’m stuck back in the UK for the foreseeable future, Chuck Berry knows I’ve “No Particular Place To Go”! XX

Sunday 6th September 2020

Today sees the end of a seven-day period, during which time there has been so many mixed messages regarding the ever-changing with the UK’s “quarantine landscape”. As a prime example: within the approximate space of the last three weeks, the need for UK citizens to self-isolate upon their return from Portugal has been introduced – and then that decision was suddenly reversed (this tells me – surely- that could now happen with any European country?).

Consequently, I am viewing this Wednesday’s (9 th ) planned Cyprus departure with more than a touch of scepticism. You may recall me mentioning during the body of last week’s entry, that anyone arriving into Cyprus at this time must do so in possession of a negative Covid-19 test.

I’m of a mind to make some quick calls, first thing tomorrow morning, on the test front, as much to see the cost involved of “testing private” – as to be sure the results can be returned within 48 hours of the test having been administered (I can’t “risk” using a postal service).

Additionally, I have to stay focused on the indisputable fact that travelling to Cyprus would still involve me, literally, wearing a mask throughout a five-hour flight. Maybe this just isn’t the “sensible” time to visit Cyprus, much as I find it to be such a relaxed, invigorating and sun-soaked environment. I look forward to the day (but, of course, not in my day!) when – akin to how they accomplished it on the good ship Enterprise – I can just be “beamed” in directly.

Back to reality – and long summer days are now becoming few and far between, for this year of 2020. My gut feeling is that we have now “lost” this summer and attaining (even occasionally) a daily temperature of 20 Centigrade, may have slipped past us, for this year. However – at the risk of coming across as selfish – I’m determined that will not be the case for your erstwhile author. Just a couple of weeks of vitamin D exposure will certainly give me a well-being boost, in preparation to face the light-starved days of November and December.

The above intention certainly pushes Cyprus towards the front of the current-holiday queue although – hold the front page – Turkey has emerged as a surprise front-runner. I say “front runner” in my case, because – being a territory where staging live concerts has always been fraught with “testing” logistical circumstances – Turkey generally never appealed to me as a country to visit, while in tourist mode. However, having taken a peek at the standard of facilities (and weather!) on offer, over there at the moment, I could possibly be swayed, folks!

Subsequently, I will be disciplining myself to devote a couple of hours, later today (with my good friend and neighbour, Sue – a “veteran-ess” of vacationing in Turkey) to taking a closer and detailed look at the realistic feasibility of re-directing my holiday plans towards Turkey – with the distinct advantage, over Cyprus for sure, that no negative Covid-19 test is required.

The decision process, in respect of Turkey, will revolve around whether I plump for a package deal (flights & hotel together) or – alternatively - I opt to book travel and accommodation separately. If that works out (either way) there’s a fair chance I’ll be penning next week’s entry from “abroad”. Remaining confident on this front, I should surely attempt to include an accompanying track this week, that reflects my endeavours towards getting out of here. So, here we go with the iconic Don Henley and “The Boys of Summer” – or “boy” in my case. XX

Sunday 30th August 2020

In the process of commencing my weekly diary entry in the earlier – rather than the later – part of the day, I’ve just overhead on the 8.00 am news bulletin that Scotland has recorded the biggest increase - over the last week - in new, confirmed, coronavirus cases. Not so good.

Here in Scotland, however, we should take heart that we have only recorded two deaths (as unfortunate as those are- two too many) within, I believe, the last month. Nevertheless, I certainly suspect an undercurrent of concern that certain countries (France, in particular, as I write) are experiencing, and reporting, a resurgence of Covid-19 outbreaks in their country.

Caution must continue to be the watchword, as we sit on the cusp of the ninth month of the year. We are continually (and correctly) reminded that this virus continues to slink amongst us, almost hell-bent on convincing us that all is good – when, possibly, only 2021 may be “good”.

At the risk of repeating myself (why did it concern me before?!) the key is the effective management of one’s downtime. I’m fairly impressed by my discipline, in revoking the SKY- TV subscription that I initially contracted at the beginning of July: during the month said subscription was in operation, with – admittedly – such varied and colourful content, I found myself fixed to the couch, from the moment the TV-remote was clutched in my sweaty palm.

I have, however, purchased a small “satellite ready” TV for the children’s bedroom (although when I’ll ever see either of the children take up even fleeting residence in that room – with both currently, semi-permanently, based in far-flung reaches of the globe – is anyone’s guess). The idea of the additional TV is to have an alternative location in which to park myself when couch-potato mode inevitably beckons, on the nights when my tired body precludes reading.

One day (sadly, palpably) I will find myself rooted more to my domestic location – for which times the Covid-19 lockdown, and ongoing restricted-travel weeks, could be construed as a “dry run” for the years ahead! As that period of life – more or less – is unavoidable (for us all) it arguably does no harm to ease one’s way into a “trial process”, to help soften the blow.

It’s time to appreciably lighten the mood: I can report clear skies this morning, from the office window, as far as my old eyes can see. This is a welcome improvement on the weather of the past week, which - I’m sure records would corroborate - has been the wettest of this generally disappointing summer: with September just around the corner, I fear we are running out of pleasant days, such as today. The year of 2020 takes yet another step towards infamy!

On the travel front, I’ve yet to receive the almost-expected e-mail from EasyJet to inform me that my (now, 9 th September departure) Cyprus holiday has been re-scheduled once again. I’m now almost of the mind that any country that requires me to arrive on their shores (Cyprus being one of those at the moment), clutching recently-validated negative Covid-19 test paperwork, is a country that I should be considering giving a miss - until the situation reverses.

There we go folks: the crawl towards normality continues. We must remain confident and hopeful of the day when we have finally divested ourselves of this virus. In the meantime - as dancing may be at least be one of our “escapes” – who better than Billy Ocean to get us up? X

Sunday 23rd August 2020

It’s very hard to believe (and somewhat disconcerting) to realise that, come this time next week, we are on the cusp of the commencement of September. Where did our summer go?!

As I may have previously mentioned I’m (currently) due to fly out - “at the third attempt”- to Cyprus on 9 th of September. If this holiday becomes re-scheduled again, I’ll be tempted to join the ever-increasing hordes of Brits now heading out to Portugal, since that country relaxed it’s Covid-19 restrictions. The UK has also taken Portugal off the “self-isolation” list.

However, I would surely do so, with certain regrets and reservations: the familiarity and “mini-road-trip” opportunity that Cyprus offers would struggle to be matched by spending the same amount of time in Portugal. Of course, I’ve visited the latter on several occasions over the last forty years of touring, but never travelled there on vacation – therefore would have to plan carefully to enjoy the full benefit of driving around from place to place, which I am more than confident to undertake while in Cyprus, as I know the island network extensively.

Prior to the date of the 9 th September, as mentioned initially, it’s my intention to efficiently utilise the twenty days up until then: by continuing to reduce an originally-cumbersome domestic “to-do” list, to the point where the balance of any work to be completed will focus mainly on the garden – which continues to be a work in progress (probably spilling into 2020!).

I do catch myself wondering - from time-to-time, since the Covid-19 restrictions came into place – how it has taken such a length of time to reach this point. However, when you consider I spent very little time here at the house in Dunbar since moving here (this is the first summer in nigh-on seven years that I’ve actually been home, in the height of the summer) there has been much to re-organise, re-evaluate – and redecorate. I may have mentioned I did actually take out a “Sky-TV” satellite subscription a few weeks back but then later cancelled it after discovering that the choice of programmes on offer were keeping me glued to the couch – and that’s not a habit that I want to be fostering, in future. I’m back to being a “Freeview” man!

Referring back to my gambit at the beginning of this week’s edition – and with my household commitments (save for the garden and outdoor areas) virtually under control – I will soon undertake a move to travel somewhere, with my feet becoming increasingly itchy: even if it’s a few nights in the north of Scotland - with the risk of very average weather – that would still suffice to break the “monotony” of having spent more time stuck at home, “unemployed”, for any summer as long as my fading memory can recall. Undeniably, I’m a “Travelling Man”.

So there you have it, this week: a sprinkling of diverse thoughts (not unlike many a past Diary entry!) that may allow some misty insight as to how my thinking/planning is slowly coming together - as a basis for a solid approach to steering myself through the up-and- coming years. I sincerely believe that this effective progress will enable me to reach the above point although, as a result of a minor Bipolar-2 condition, some days it’s not always as clear as that.

This week, as I’m coming to you in something of a reflective mood, I leave you with a track – the lyrics of which I can well identify with: Mr Bob Seger with “Travelin’ Man”. Loving y’all!

Sunday 16th August 2020

I’m here to today to advise you of a significant development (actually quite the opposite of “development”) in respect of this football agency side of my business: something, as you know, that I just “dabble” in from time to time, to give me an interest away from the music business.

As of yesterday morning, at 04.00 am (Saturday 15 th August), the UK government, off the back of a worrying rise of new Covid-19 cases in France, have decreed that anyone arriving from France must now “self-isolate” for two weeks, from the point they arrive in the country.

Unfortunately, as I deal almost exclusively with French players – when bringing young players to trial games and training periods, here in Scotland – that’s me essentially “scuppered” until the afore-mentioned restriction is once again lifted: an action that I now believe could (surely) be at least one month away. To quote a common UK expression, “all bets are now off”.

Not that the situation, at the start of this particular season – in this unprecedented environment – wasn’t proving challenging enough as it was: maybe (only from the point of view of several, extremely hopeful, young players who were precariously depending on me to find them an opportunity at a Scottish football club) this is “a blessing in disguise” for those lads.

Essentially, on the football front, that’s me at a dead stop, until French travellers (tourist or otherwise) are once again allowed to come into the UK “unhindered”: therefore I need to shift my focus back onto my domestic situation - specifically finishing up (although, you never really “finish up”, where home maintenance is concerned) the outstanding tasks, to the point where I can feel I have attained a “comfortable home”. I have to believe I’m not too far away now.

I’m currently in two minds as to whether the time has come to purchase a (used) car – as it must be a good four years now since I was a car owner. To date, not having a vehicle parked outside my front door has proved to be no major disadvantage, particularly with the extent of travelling that I have undertaken during that time. However, said travelling has tailed off markedly in 2020, so far: which has prompted me to now re-visit my previous calculations, based upon the annual cost of running a car (using the old S-type Jaguar as a “template” example) versus how many “rental car days” that translates to, based on a monthly average.

To date, the cost of originally running said Jaguar equated to around nine days of car rental a month, on average: so, up until now, there has been no reason to consider the purchase option – but, of course, will all this recent “forced” downtime, that could all be about to change, folks!

On a somewhat different tack, my proposed Cyprus holiday has been re-scheduled once again, as a result of further EasyJet flights being cancelled in the earlier part of September. My re-scheduled date of departure is now just under four weeks distant – although, there is no certainty that further restrictions may not come into place, during this Covid-19 situation.

The key here is to make disciplined, efficient and confident use of one’s downtime - rather than just take out another Netflix subscription (which I’ve not). On that subject, I’m wondering what I can “play you out on” this week. I have it: as an indication that this is very much a year of quiet expectation for me, I give you Curtis Mayfield with “People Get Ready”.

Sunday 9th August 2020

I probably didn’t mention that (maybe around six months ago) my daughter Jade conducted some elementary research into the ancestry of our family, both on my and Stella’s side. She made fairly impressive inroads with her initial forays: however with the demands of her work- at the time – and me being out on an extensive tour with Olly Murs (and therefore unable to concentrate on furnishing her with the additional family-history information she required to make further inroads) the ancestry trail – unfortunately- slowly ground to a frustrating halt.

However, thankfully (in one sense, anyway) – and mainly as a result of many of Jade’s clients being away on their annual summer holidays, we decided – championed by Jade, of course – to pick up the baton again and make a “serious go” of it. This, I can happily report, is now well underway: with one of the almost-immediate benefits being that I spent two hours on the phone last night, to my long-lost second cousin, Sandra (I hope I’m correct with my identification of our family relationship) whom Jade had doggedly tracked down, via her (Sandra’s) daughter, in Penicuik in Midlothian – which is located ten miles south of Edinburgh.

Penicuik, once particularly notable for being at the centre of a bustling paper-making industry (spread over a network of five paper mills, in the immediate vicinity of the town) – is where I spent the first five years of my life, prior to my family re-locating into Edinburgh, where my father took over the reins of a photographic business in the London Road area of the city.

I “left behind” a whole conglomeration (right word?) of family members, but – once old enough to be trusted to make a bus connection from close by to my primary school – my sister and I commuted out to Penicuik, most weekends, to visit with my grandparents, on my father’s side.

Regrettably, with the time-pressures - and extensive travel – linked to this career path that I have followed, it’s almost unavoidable that you start to lose touch with your extended family (as if it’s not heart-breaking enough that your time with your growing children is also repeatedly compromised). My profession is, of course, not alone in that respect: members of the armed forces spend considerable periods of time away from their loved ones – and probably in more dangerous environs than I did most of the time (although I can recall a few Artists’ backstage areas that resembled “war zones” following band member disagreements!).

Anyway (coming back to my conversation with Sandra) last night’s two hours indeed presented me with the opportunity to fill many gaps in my – now - stilted memory of my younger days spent living in – and latterly visiting Penicuik: sadly, when one has been out of touch for such an extended period, many older-generation family members have passed on. It’s the way of the world (as they say) but I have certainly had cause to reflect – over the space of the last 24 hours – that it’s a world that’s not infinite. Going forward, I will be making a particular effort to hook up (Covid-19 allowing) with several of my distant family members that I was relieved to find out, during last night’s conversation, and thankfully still alive and well!

I’m now presented with a very unique (and timely) opportunity to re-unite with many of those “distant” family members. In recognition of this, I leave you this week with Mr Rick Derringer (from a long way back) to emphasise the importance – and the celebration - of these discoveries, giving a nod to a memorable track of his, ironically titled “Still Alive and Well”. X

Sunday 2nd August 2020

This past week, I’ve “returned” to dealing with the most important of subjects: my health.

Of all the areas of one’s life (particularly if you are aged within my demographic) that should receive prioritised attention, it is indeed one’s ongoing well-being. Provided you may be in the fortunate position to be able to do so, a comprehensive annual health check has to sit – bolded and underlined – smack bang at the top of any to-do list. Remember: your health is your wealth.

As I write, I hope to have an indication from BUPA, within the coming days, whether the afore-mentioned process will take place at either their Edinburgh or Glasgow location (or “further afield”, if need be, as I communicated to their administrative staff, when they called earlier this past week to inform me that – relating, of course, to the knock-on effects of Covid-19 - the two Scottish locations were only returning to “normal” operations on 1st August).

Maybe it’s just an “age thing” (and, surely, that has to be part of the reason) but once it even gently preys on your mind that you are not feeling at your best, that feeling rarely dissipates. At this time of life, various – minor/occasional – aches and pains tend to indiscriminately rear their heads, the majority of which are just (conveniently?) put down to the advancement of age; the gradual loss of “elasticity” within the body – and, of course, general “wear and tear”.

Furthermore, I have little doubt (and may also be – inadvertently – currently in this situation myself) that the mind can aid the body in believing that minor niggles are symptoms of darker and more distant maladies: such growing thoughts, can very easily then compound themselves.

If you are somewhere in the vicinity of your esteemed author’s demographic, then something tells me you may have experienced, to a lesser or greater degree, that of which I speak (and if you haven’t - then I’m ready to purchase your secret!). Subsequently, you are probably now forming a general idea of where the tone of this week’s Diary entry may have emanated from.

To add to this week’s “health journal” (and please hear me out on this one) is the glaringly obvious fact that my mattress is way past it’s best. In my stupidity (there are few more stronger words to describe the situation) I decided – en-route to disposing of my aged “superking” bed and its accompanying mattress – to re-model my bedroom space somewhat. In conjunction with the revised “bedroom 1” layout, I simultaneously took the decision to move the bed from the spare room – a “standard double” size – into my room, the latter to be ever-replaced by a bed-settee set-up. It therefore may have been an idea, at the time, to have canvassed Jade’s opinion on the comfort-level on the mattress on her former bed, as I – naturally – had previously experienced any past occasion, whereby I needed to make use of it.

Problem is that such a conversation should have been instigated before I enacted the “changeover”, rather than prior to the great swop-over (I sense you now have an inkling of an idea as to what’s coming – and you’re probably not wrong). One lumpy “replacement” mattress! “I could have told you that” said Jade, after the fact “if I’d known what you had planned”.

Suffice to say the new mattress is now on order (for September 24 th delivery!!) but this now gives me the opportunity to dovetail into a fairly relevant track, this week. Yours achingly. XX

Sunday 26th July 2020

As I start my Diary entry this evening, I do so rather later in the day than I have for many months: the reason for this comes down to having spent a week away in the North of England.

Finally sitting down now (8.30 pm in the evening) - with the multi-disc CD player on “random” mode, having offered up Elton John (“I Guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues”); Ray Charles (“Take These Chains From My Heart”) and Frank Sinatra (“That’s Life”) as the first three tracks that tumbled from the player, I am now buoyed to prepare myself for the week ahead!

You’ll recall I was in Whitley Bay, in Northumberland, last week at this very time. You have to (initially, at least) head for the areas where you recall – for whatever reason (some palpable, some ethereal – right word?) – having experienced a level of personal enlightenment and “regional comfort”, then look to broaden your wings – and venture further afield from there.

Hence, with the decent weather – and an “upgrade” at Cara’s Guesthouse, to a sea-view room, on offer, on Monday past – I elected to remain in the Whitley Bay area for a total of four nights: subsequently checking out on Wednesday morning past – and renting a car from a suburban Newcastle location. That car was returned yesterday, prior to my final night’s stay in the area – just north of Newcastle City Centre – before boarding the train home today.

I essentially just “followed” my nose for Wednesday through Friday evenings, electing first to stay in Alnwick (until you have visited “Barter Books” there – on the site of the old train station, waiting rooms and all – you haven’t lived my friends). Once in Alnwick – and scouring Google Maps on my laptop for somewhere to bed down on Thursday evening – I made the decision to motor out the short distance to the coast, and check into “The Old Ship Inn” in a small coastal town called Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. Once checked in, I was allotted a cosy little corner room that looked directly out towards the North Sea, while also affording a grand view of the town’s sweeping esplanade: again, basking in fine weather throughout Thursday.

In fact, so comfortable did I find myself there that – discovering the same room was available on Friday night as well (in conjunction with the various small coastal villages and towns that I planned to visit all being short drives – north or south – from Newbiggin-by- the-Sea) – I chose to spend a second night in the same establishment. Additionally, with the car rental location a mere twenty-five minutes from there – and the car not having to be returned until midday yesterday – the last couple of days just fell conveniently into place, as afore-mentioned.

Undoubtedly, it was most refreshing to break with the routine of having spent the previous four months hardly venturing out of Dunbar (and also the most “blocked” time that I had spent in Scotland for many, many, years). This past week has been the first (and one of three - possibly four) “holiday format” that I will be experimenting with over the coming months, as I look to the future when, undisputedly, I’ll find myself with much more personal free time.

By next Sunday, this last seven days (“Holiday Option 1”) will have been dissected, reflected upon – and costed! – before, quite soon, embarking upon “Holiday Option 2”, this time in Cyprus.

Tonight, I leave you with the very Frank Sinatra song that I listened to 30 minutes ago. XXX

Sunday 19th July 2020

Well, for the first time in nigh on four months, I can today report that I am composing the weekly Diary entry from a location, other than my hometown of Dunbar. In a moment of complete (but, not unknown) spontaneity – and certainly very much prompted by me having my imminent trip to Cyprus “cancelled” (more background to which, at a later date) I decided to take a wee trip down to the north-eastern coast of England: the upshot of which now finds me sat outside a Whitley Bay “B’nB”, with a most pleasingly, panoramic, view of the North Sea.

Not only that: but the glorious weather (well, 18C qualifies as “glorious” to the majority of us Brits) dictates that my mode of dress, while sat here outside, consists of shorts and golf-shirt. Therefore, such conditions make for this being a most enjoyable day here (well, so far).

A minor drawback (but, yet, probably half the fun at least) of such a “spur-of-the moment” impulse is that I have yet to fashion a plan for the rest of the week: I’m currently booked into this B’nB until tomorrow – Monday – morning, following which there are a few practical options open to me. Those consist of just hanging in here for the rest of the week, doing very little; renting a car tomorrow and checking out the surrounding areas, in particular some enchanting stretches of coastline within the locality; renting a car, relocating my base and finding alternative accommodation along the coast somewhere or – finally – “mixing and matching” a combination of two or three of the afore-mentioned options. Decisions, decisions.

Actually (with the time sat at 1.27 pm at the moment) I’m going to call a temporary halt to the Diary and go in search of a licensed premises that are screening the Derby v Leeds game!

Back to you now at just before 6.00 pm: I didn’t actually manage to catch the intended football game, showing at any of the local licensed premises, here in Whitley Bay. Although the social-distancing measures are somewhat more relaxed “here” in England (one metre distance is now mandatory - in comparison with the two-metre distance that is still required in Scotland) I doubt any bars or pubs, sensibly, will yet screen popular football games on their premises. Football fans, while congregated standing in the same “small” space are not used to (or probably able to) stand apart from their partisan colleagues. So, no game for Jake to watch.

Back to you now at just before 6.00 pm: I didn’t actually manage to catch the intended football game, showing at any of the local licensed premises, here in Whitley Bay. Although the social-distancing measures are somewhat more relaxed “here” in England (one metre distance is now mandatory - in comparison with the two-metre distance that is still required in Scotland) I doubt any bars or pubs, sensibly, will yet screen popular football games on their premises. Football fans, while congregated standing in the same “small” space are not used to (or probably able to) stand apart from their partisan colleagues. So, no game for Jake to watch.

This undeniably deems that the game is now being broadcast live on the small flat-screen TV, high up on the far wall of the room - although “far” only means twelve feet from the near wall!

My next task, after completing this week’s entry - and hopefully attaching an accompanying track that bears some relation to this week’s witterings (subject: indecisiveness?) – is to confirm my travel plan for the seven days ahead. Much will depend upon the remaining availability of such – local – key elements as hotel/B’nB rooms and car hire – and their costs.

I have it! This particular song was recorded almost forty years ago, when it featured as the Eurovision Song Contest entry: “Bucks Fizz” with “Making Your Mind Up” – which I must do! X

Sunday 12th July 2020

Thankfully, tomorrow begins the week when we see a little “normality” return to our UK lives.

As of Wednesday (15th ) many of the hospitality-industry businesses can now allow customers back inside their premises, albeit with the strict adherence to the continuing social- distancing measures (it remains two meters in Scotland, for the foreseeable future) that have been in place, since the commencement of lockdown on 23 rd March. Life is now looking better already!

However, with the onset of greater movement – in particular, in that respect - the revoking of the regulation which hitherto only allowed you to travel a maximum of five miles from your home base – I have actually reserved a rental car (collect from the airport) for this Tuesday.

Maybe I’ll just drive around and around the Edinburgh ring road/by-pass and savour this form of new-found “freedom” (taken totally for granted, previously, of course). I can recall having handed my last rental car back on March 5 th of this year: consequently, over eighteen weeks since I have been behind the wheel of any vehicle. “Watch out, folks – he’s coming through!”

Thinking about it (and dredging through the increasingly overgrown paths of my memory) that may in indeed be the greatest instance of such a “mobile sabbatical” since I first passed my driving test – not far off fifty years ago. Ouch. Suddenly that seems like a very long time ago.

Aye, well, back to the present with the hope that Cyprus will open their international border to incoming British nationals, within six days from now: otherwise, I’ll be activating something of a last-minute “turnaround” towards the end of next week and pushing my current Edinburgh departure (Saturday 18 th ) a least a week further away: which is looking the very likely option. In this particular respect, my most up-to-date information tells me that the Cyprus government will review the situation on Wednesday coming (15 th ) which – coincidentally – is the date, as referred to earlier in the entry, when Scotland further relaxes the measures.

Personally, I may never know for sure; however, I increasingly believe (particularly if the normal football season was in full swing, i.e. allowing public entry) I may never have “caught up” - domestically/personally/business-wise - with how far I had allowed things to fall behind.

It was crucial that I was able to “convert” my dwelling from a house to a “home” – and this is nigh almost completed. Right now, I can’t ever see myself moving from here and therefore – focusing on just one key aspect, property wise, for the moment – I need to be cognizant of the sense in “protecting” my single most valuable asset (and doing so in a comfortable fashion).

Equally important has been the opportunity to establish (if only in “draft” form, at the moment) some framework of a “homebound routine”, which can of course be fine-tuned to a more enjoyable advantage, once I vector back in the scope to be able to get out and about.

Therefore, all in all, a “satisfyingly productive” three months: albeit, it would be good to see the very real prospect of some work before the end of this year – but I won’t be holding my breath! For the moment, being most fortunate not to desperately need to work, I’ll leave you with an accompanying (fairly relevant) track this week from the lovely, Angela Strehli. XXX

Sunday 5th July 2020

I have to tell you that I’m thinking of instigating a civic proposal to twin Chicago with my little home town here, of Dunbar – on the basis that the former is not the world’s only “Windy City”: on nights like last night, with 50 mph gales blowing, we could surely stake our claim.

I’m sure I’ve previously made mention of the fact that at least 75% of my neighbours houses in this small cul-de-sac where I live, have utilised a strip of Sellotape or black electrical tape over the outside of their letterboxes, to combat the incessant “flapping” noise that is whipped up during such windy periods. Alas, Dunbar’s resplendent, natural, light makes the wind more than bearable, annually. I’ve witnessed some cracking sunrises and sunsets while living here!

So – where are we at, here in Bonnie Scotland, in respect of the ongoing ramifications of the current Coronavirus pandemic? Well, as a result of our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, having adopted a steadier approach than “Westminster” in easing us out of the comprehensive set of restrictions imposed back on March 23 rd – and while we should not immediately break into a full-on sprint, so soon after “finding our feet” – there are promising signs that Scotland has the measure of this “first wave” of the virus. At the risk of sounding like a second spike is around the corner, there is little doubt that – based upon the informed opinion of several eminent epidemiologists – this virus will visit us again in the not-too-distant future, albeit possibly more in the form of localised spikes - with this predicted to happen later in the year.

However, for now – even with the 2-metre social distancing stipulation remaining in place, here in Scotland (England reduced it to one metre yesterday – at their future peril!) – we are certainly heading in the direction of assisting our nation to return to some semblance of social normality: not that this will be the “normality” that we were accustomed to, prior to the discovery of – and the consequent proliferation of – the virus here in the UK. More an informed return to a way of life that dictates hitherto unknown levels of care and awareness.

Having said the above, is this a bad thing? I can’t comprehend (how could anyone?) the overall sense of loss, experienced over almost the last four months, of the family and friends of the 45,000 people who have passed away as a direct result of them contracting the virus: however, in the same breath, we cannot – daren’t – forget the additional countless thousands of our UK population who have lost their lives, because of an “indirect” link to the virus’s existence. This certainly needs more than a few minutes of sober reflection, especially from those of us who are more than fortunate enough to have escaped the clawing tendrils of this relentless virus.

The frustration – and palpable anger - that must surely be felt by a vast proportion of those grieving families and friends of those who are no longer with us - can only be imagined – especially when the degree of government mismanagement is vectored into the situation. Most glaring of the hindsight foul-ups (because, in this case, it calls for such an acid description) was releasing suspected (older) people from hospital – and, in most of those instances, right back into care home facilities – without them undergoing a Covid-19 test prior to their release.

In closing, I didn’t intend to devote the whole of this week’s Diary entry to this subject however, being that it has fostered further personal reflection, I’m glad I’ve done so. This week I have to leave you with a gentle track, which bears some connection to all of the above.

Sunday 28th June 2020

“Another half-year over – and what have we done (for most of it)?” to lean towards those infamous John Lennon lyrics. Hard to believe we are two days away from the year’s mid- point.

As far as the UK is concerned, the longest day of the year is also behind us now (last Sunday, in fact: unmentioned by me last week, as I didn’t realise it at the time). On the local weather front (not that I’ve checked this statistically, as yet) it feels to me as if the month of May enjoyed better average weather than what we have experienced so far, in this month of June.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic affects, directly or indirectly, nearly every part of our lives at the moment – and has a bearing on how we plan to take ourselves forward in the coming months. Here in Scotland, the restriction on local travel from one’s home base (five miles up until now) will be lifted next Friday, 3 rd July, to allow the public to venture further afield to visit close family members and relations. The next notable date in the “Scottish Diary” (as against my Diary!) is 15 th July, when the majority of the hospitality business – bars, hotels, restaurants – can open again for business: the most notable differences between here and England (who have dangerously elected to open “wholesale” next Saturday, July 4 th – with only one-metre social distance) is that our government is sticking with the two-metre distance.

One can only imagine the scenes in London, and the surrounding, heavily-populated, “Home Counties” next Saturday – when vast tranches of the attendant population will cut loose and reclaim some “pay-back” for being corralled close to their homes, for the previous 14 weeks.

As yet, I’ve not checked out next weekend’s weather forecast, however – being the time of year – its far more likely to be decent, rather than inclement: not that the inclement option is likely to dampen the spirits of pent-up revellers. One can quite easily imagine London turning into one “Metropolic” street party, with the likes of the central public parks being overrun.

Personally, I will be inconsolable with rage if this inept government’s handling of the crisis – in particular, just throwing open England next week – results in ushering in a second spike of the virus. If that happens, every European country – and many further afield – will almost instantly revoke the current “air bridge” arrangements that some of those countries have agreed in the last few days (allowing mutual, two-way, travel between our country – the UK as a whole, rather than just Scotland alone – and countries such as France, Spain and Greece).

God forbid the above were to transpire, as that could effectively mean that all foreign travel, for UK citizens, would be revoked until, probably, at least the turn of the year: hence my “inconsolable with rage” comment above, preventing me from visiting my far-flung children.

This time next week, with 24 hours+ of “England freedom” having been in operation (and of course the ever more tabloid-mentality press monitoring the developments like a hawk) I’ll be able to give you some indication of the initial reaction to how the English public have behaved.

For the sake of all the good people out there – in particular my fellow Scots (who have applied their best efforts to adhering to the current guidelines) – the title of this week’s accompanying track is food for thought. Here’s “Ace” with the almost-haunting “How Long?”.

Sunday 21st June 2020

Sitting here peacefully (and reflectively) it almost beggars belief that today heralds the end of the thirteenth week of the UK “lockdown”, with the next “revision” date due on June 29th.

This past week – specifically Thursday 18th – saw the Scottish First Minister announce further “relaxing” measures to the current lockdown, most notably to the advantage of people within the 70-upwards age group, who have been “shielding” (unable to step over their front door) since March 23 rd : those folks can now enjoy leaving the house for up to thirty minutes, daily.

Compared to the severe restrictions placed on those in the afore-mentioned “shielding” category, the rest of us have little to complain about – in terms of the restrictions we were under, during that same period. Additionally, after the recent (last Thursday’s) announcement those persons in relationships, but who were living in separate residences, are now able to spend “overnight time” with each other – and can drive any reasonable distance to do so.

Most importantly (and I’m with the First Minister on this) the “two-metre social distance” rule has been retained – due to be reviewed when “Phase 2” of the Scottish Government’s lockdown-relaxation plan comes into play, on June 29 th . There were other, incremental, “relaxation” measures announced on Thursday – again to be enacted on June 29 th (i.e. the re- opening of small retail shops – provided all government guidelines have been adhered to, in respect of the interior of said establishments) however the First Minister has yet – much to the chagrin of Scotland’s hospitality trade – to announce when the majority of restaurants, hotels and bars can make use of, annexed, outdoor spaces from where to serve the public.

There are apparently 220,000 “direct” workers in Scotland’s hospitality trade, the majority of them currently “furloughed” as part of the UK government’s scheme to make up 80% of their normal wages: however the furlough scheme will start “winding down” from the 1 st August – to the point that the government will only then be contributing – on average - 60% of regular employees’ salaries, with the discontinuation of such payments planned for on 31st October.

There is little doubt that a considerable amount of “licensed trade” businesses will not open their doors again, in spite of the government’s furlough scheme. In several cases (as I have gleaned from recent press reports) the cash reserves required to allow many smaller-to- medium licensed-trade businesses to “re-start”, have since been swallowed up in fixed costs for those same operations (rent, business rates, property insurance, etc) while they’ve been closed. When viewed in this way, one can appreciate the dilemma of many of those businesses.

As I have previously mentioned, I am so fortunate – personally - this pandemic has occurred at this later stage of my life, when I am no longer encumbered with monthly mortgage payments. Even once the country returns to some semblance of “normality”, the shock waves emanating in the wake of the damage to the economy, will reputedly be of seismic proportions.

In summary, there is definitely some initial light filtering through from the end of the tunnel, but it will be a long time before the “tunnel is open to regular traffic again”. We must however, as difficult as it is for many, foster a positive frame of mind and therefore this week’s accompanying track has to be one of an upbeat nature: with the iconic Ms Gloria Gaynor. XX

Sunday 14th June 2020

There I was, in the body of last week’s entry, documenting the incidence of the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations that took place in several major UK cities last weekend – most notably London and Manchester – only for it to happen again yesterday, but this time involving violence.

“Dark Forces” are definitely now at play here (in the guise of right-wing extremists and anarchists – to highlight two of those such movements) conveniently aided and abetted by the wildfire spread of social media frenzy: to the point that is a definite vendetta to “hunt down” and remove/destroy/deface any statue that can even be tenuously linked to UK- associated slavery, during the time the British Commonwealth was at it’s peak. This was initiated by the forcible removal of the bronze statue of Edward Colston from where it had stood in the central area of Bristol, since 1895. Said statue has since been recovered from Bristol docks – by local council workers – and will now be placed in safe keeping, at an unrevealed destination.

Very sadly, this “knocked-on” to several other statues (the “theme” here continuing along the racist/slavery line) to the point where – yesterday – the statue of Winston Churchill, in London’s Parliament Square, has been boarded up, ahead of yesterday’s “BLM” demonstration, as certain factions of the afore-mentioned “movements” have cunningly convinced the majority of the lemming-like demonstrators that Winston Churchill was known to have racist leanings. Absolutely astounding. Was Winston Churchill not the man who put paid to the rantings and ultimate intentions of, arguably, the 20 th century’s biggest racist: Adolf Hitler?

During such trying times – both nationally and personally – it takes a modicum of personal discipline to hold off on any initial sentiment of selfishness worming its way into one’s general outlook. I say that, based upon the palpable fear of a second spike breaking out in the UK – basically through irresponsible management of the “first wave”, and which would set this country back (untold) months. Such a development – and God forbid that is not the case – would certainly mean I would not be visiting my children this year (even with things the way they are currently, such a trip will not be taking place before September requiring, as it would, for both the UK & Vietnam to be “entry and re-entry free” in respect of quarantine measures).

On a personal level, there is maybe another two weeks of domestic “busy-ness” that I can occupy myself with, before I reach the stage that whatever house/garden tasks remain outstanding, will require the assistance of a handyman or a tradesman to complete the job.

Come the beginning of July, my plan is to call a halt to all physical domestic activities and turn my attentions to more personal tasks, such as frame-mounting select collages of the children’s early photographs; looking back years to document and illustrate past family holidays – and then putting time aside to the substantial amount of Amazon books I’ve recently purchased.

I intend to nevertheless stick to my “timetable” schedule -in place since the beginning of lockdown – specifically on four days: Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday. Without that plan of (documented) organisation, I would be looking back today, wondering where 12 weeks had gone.

Just enough time to squeeze in this week’s accompanying track, so please forgive me somewhat this week as I feature an iconic lament from Ian Drury: “Blockheads”. As most of them are.

Sunday 7th June 2020

I sit here this morning, stunned at yesterday’s crowd demonstrations (in relation to last week’s death, in the US, of George Floyd) that took place in certain British cities yesterday, London being the most notable. With respect to George, can’t this “solidarity”, initiated off the back of said tragic incident in Minneapolis – now over a week ago, wait until we, as a nation, are safely out of this pandemic? And the government “stood back” and let it happen. Wild.

Once again, as I touched upon last week (and while, of course, I recognise the gravity of the racism issue on a worldwide basis) these demonstrations nevertheless have their origin in American culture as much as racism, globally. Consequently - with several key, individual, options to allow us personally to “demonstrate” any horror/anger/severe dismay that we may be harbouring, at what happened in the States – legions of people (essentially yesterday’s demonstrators – the vast majority of whom do not understand the fundamental issues at play here) need to stand back from this, for the time being. We have a pandemic to deal with here.

With the crucial issue of social distancing very much still to the fore, in British society, in the fight to combat any further spread – and risk a “second wave” of the disease taking hold – should the government have intervened in some way (not easy, at all) to lessen the incidence of considerable amounts of people convening in very congested spaces? Or – surely not – have they (to a certain degree) “turned their backs” on any vociferous involvement at this time, which would give them a “way out” to lay the cause of the increase of any second wave at someone else’s (or many people’s) door. No way is Boris (politically) going to wade into this current – George Floyd initiated – racism movement; could that be argued as “irresponsible”?

The government owe it to millions of British people, who have lived - stringently – with almost three months of restricted Covid-19 measures, to continue to guard against any developments and events that would further – even to a lesser degree – put those peoples’ lives at risk. Of course, the Racism issue is continually a contentious one and – with political motives at the heart of it – it’s my view that our present government do not want to embroil themselves in such a potential “maelstrom” and have effectively let these demonstrations run their course.

Enough of all that. I don’t want to become pre-occupied with such personal frustrations: I want to undertake some form of travel! I’ll be happy to do so “domestically” for starters (i.e., for example, the south-west coast of England or our own Scottish Highlands) but even such initial forays away from one’s home base cannot be actioned, within the current lockdown measures - albeit that said restrictions have now been slightly relaxed, since 28 th of May.

Personally, I’m willing to hang on a little longer before I make any international travel arrangements – rather than be faced, upon returning to the UK (as is the situation, currently) with having to self-isolate for a “further” fourteen days: although how the government intends to effectively “police” such a system – particularly if “mass” UK/European travel evolves during July and August – remains a mystery. A classic example of too little – too late.

Let’s lighten the mood somewhat, shall we, before we part company today? This week’s track comes to you via a recently discovered favourite (for the second time), Ms Angela Strehli: this time with a very apt title, in respect of this current crisis: “Never Like This Before”. XX

Sunday 31st May 2020

May, May – please don’t go away! The particular reason for that plea? Well, long-suffering readers (many of you who may be beyond the shores of this Great Britain) the answer lies in the fact that, here in the UK, we have just enjoyed the warmest month of May, on record.

From, I would say (this failing memory syndrome catches up with us all) Thursday past we have enjoyed four particularly glorious days (here in “sunny Dunny”) – and I’ve taken full advantage of this to throw myself into a substantial host of garden/garage/outdoor jobs that have been sat “in park” for almost three years now. Obviously, nothing of an “urgent” nature, otherwise I would have had no choice but to enlist the assistance of experienced “tradesmen”: just the sort of tasks that are accomplished by most home-dwellers, by giving over a few hours of their time, every weekend. Therein, of course, lies the rub - where I am concerned: until now (over the six-and-a-half-year period I have stayed at this property in Dunbar) I’ve maybe only been around, weekend-wise, for 40% of the time. “Operation Catch up” is ongoing!

As of Thursday past, 28th May (and the last day of the second “lockdown’ period – totalling ten weeks to date) the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced a gradual easing to the “current” measures. Essentially, it allows family/friends to meet in an outside location, up to a maximum of six people – and without having to travel more than 5 miles to do so: this is provided we continue to adhere to the, ever-present, social distancing two-metre directive.

There are other “off-shoot” allowances where meeting other people are concerned: however, said relaxation of hitherto social restrictions will be a gradual and careful process. Without going into specific detail, regarding all aspects of the easing of the restrictions, suffice to say it enabled me to join my neighbour Sue, in her garden yesterday afternoon (again with a minimum social distance of two meters being observed) for fresh pizza, earlier ordered by Sue from our local “Big Blue Van” pizza company. Those guys turn out some fab combinations and even though the pizzas are delivered uncooked, it only takes 8-10 minutes of oven time to rectify that! Having lost 20 pounds since the start of lockdown – and determined to hover around the 11 stone 9 pounds mark (163 lbs) for the foreseeable future (and definitely feeling a whole lot better – and energetic – since having accomplished that) I’ve learned that I can allow myself the occasional “treat” such as yesterday’s pizza, provided I stay away from sugar!

Another advantage of the gradual relaxation of certain aspects of the lockdown regulations, has been that restaurant take-away operations have been informed they can now trade that side of their business, if they so wish. This, on a local note, has signalled the re-opening of one of my favourite coffee/snack outlets, here in Dunbar, called the “The Wishing Tree by the Sea” which is located within Lauderdale Park – a small, cosy, sun-trapped park, a matter of five minutes’ walk from the east end of the High Street. At the moment they are just operating from their take-away hatch – but I can’t tell you how good it felt to cycle over there on Friday morning and enjoy my first “non domestically prepared” coffee in ten weeks.

While making productive use of my time during this restrictive period - I’m still slightly itching to be on the move again: however, I reckon that’s at least a month away yet, if it’s continental travel that I have in mind (and I do!) so until then I’ll just keep myself busy around the house, cycle every day, and leave you with appropriate tracks such as this from The Foundations. XX

Sunday 24th May 2020

Well, blow me away – and yesterday the gale force winds here in Dunbar, did almost that!

There I was - keeping an eye on my drying laundry, from the kitchen window (with each item having been accorded at least three clothes pegs) to ensure none of my “smalls” decided to fly off to pastures new, when I was galvanised into action at the sight of the laundry basket – tumbleweed style – trundling across the garden. Knowing that it would not take the laundry much time to dry, in such blustery conditions, I had just perched the empty basket atop the garden-refuse “wheelie bin”, pending its re-use. Gives you an idea of the extent of the wind.

Thankfully, as of this morning’s weather conditions, relative calm has returned and “Sunny Dunny” looks likely to live up to its name, for the remainder of the day at least: I have yet to partake in my daily cycling routine which, on a Wednesday and Sunday, features an extended routing, taking me via the town centre, down to the harbour and the Sunday- newspaper shop.

Yesterday proved to be refreshingly constructive for me, as I finally managed to mount about a dozen framed prints, on the walls of the house, to which they had been designated, many moons ago. This task had the double advantage of also clearing Jade’s bedroom, where afore-mentioned prints had been stacked around her room, awaiting their final resting places. This particular exercise has one final phase to be completed: being the placement of several “commemorative” (gold and silver) record awards – directed to yours truly – on the ascending, left and right, staircase walls. It does my bi-polar(2) self no harm to be pleasantly reminded of the fruits of my (relative) success, from time to time. As they say: “It works fine for me”.

Of course, the current “lockdown” situation must merit a mention – if only to bring you guys up to date with where we currently stand. I’ll deal specifically with the Scotland situation.

As of this Thursday coming (28 th May, and the end of the current three-week extension – taking the period to a total of almost 10 weeks) the Scottish government will begin a carefully-monitored easing of certain aspects of the present guidelines. Now …. I need to read up a little more on the specifics of those measures, when I pore over the Sunday newspapers, a few hours hence, however, generally, I believe members of the public will be able to meet up with other (non-direct, i.e. not occupying the same household) family members, providing such meetings take place outdoors – and the two-metre social distancing stipulation is adhered to.

In addition, it is my understanding that such premises as garden centres and all those operations offering takeaway food/drink will be able to resume operation, again with strict adherence to social distancing measures. I will make a point of being more specific next week!

This is most welcome news, especially to the considerable sector of the UK population who have had no access to any private/shared garden amenities for well over two months now. How can we parents of grown-up children relate to having youngsters under our feet all that time?

With that previous thought in mind, let this be one of those occasions where the week’s accompanying track bears some resemblance to at least part of the same week’s narrative: on that note, I leave you with the enchanting Alison Moyet singing “All Cried Out”! Stay safe. X

Sunday 17th May 2020

Only a matter of minutes ago, the very track that I will include with this week’s entry just happened to be playing on my stereo system: it may have been a sign, folks. More of this later.

In further “streamlining” my home-based office, I’ve made that much progress over this enforced Coronavirus “lockdown” period (day 56 today, if I’m not wrong) that I’ve actually reached the point whereby I found myself, yesterday, checking through a stack of apparently blank CD-R discs. My suspicions were confirmed when the majority of them proved indeed to have not a byte of recorded information on them. However, I did discover that four (out of an approximate total of 15 discs) were actually playlist discs, with uplifting selections thereon!

Next move was to take the four of them (one of them actually labelled “Jade at 21”!), locate them in four out of five of the slots in my CD Multi-changer, in the hope that the machine was not that old (can’t even think back to when I first bought the CD unit: at least ten years ago) that it would only recognise “pre-recorded” discs. As luck would have it, with the machine set to “random play”, all the CD-Rs appear to be compatible – and it was during this exercise that I overhead this week’s track, that suddenly took on a particular poignant air this morning.

Back to the above, within the last paragraph of this entry. For now, let’s take a (possibly reflective) wee look at where I find myself this week. As alluded to, above, today marks the end of the eighth week of the UK lockdown. Thankfully, I have updated my weekly “To-Do” list as a computer file each week throughout (it’s the next task, after finishing – and “posting” - this entry): otherwise I could certainly foresee a situation where I would be questioning myself, along the lines of “what have I actually accomplished over the last two months, stuck at home?”. However, when I tell you that I’ve unearthed – from a couple of garage archive boxes labelled “Photo Index” and “Family #1 – photographs that are either, at least, 25 – 30 years old, or completely “new”, being so long since I have seen them, in the case of the latter.

My plan is to utilise around 5/6 standard “IKEA” frames and apportion all those pics to appropriate family collages (Jade; Bradley; Jade & Bradley; Family; Rock ‘n Roll touring) and then locate them on the walls of the spare room, where Jade & Bradley have both stayed on their occasional visits here. Such vibrant memories just can’t be consigned to archive boxes!

Looking forward, we are 10 days away from the next “relaxation stage” of the current (Scottish) lockdown period: in the past two weeks the Scottish First Minister, has sanctioned “unlimited” daily exercise periods outside the family home – but only with family members.

Those closest to me will be familiar with my “I’m never as happy as when I’m on the move” doctrine - which bears much truth, folks. There are probably a few key reasons – though - that can be linked to: the least of which – if you’ve been subject to the amount of travel that I have during one, continuing, lifetime – being that “itchy feet” invariably comes with the job.

So, to the choice of track, this week: I may have often made mention of the fact that – while I’m generally motivated by natural light (and heat!) - once night falls I’m not so able to buoy my spirits (happy to expand upon this, going forward). Hence the poignancy of the background track earlier – which I now leave you with: The Trammps and “Hold Back The Night”! Indeed.

Sunday 10th May 2020

Hard to believe that today marks the 49 th day of the Covid-19 “lockdown”, here in the U.K.!

In conversation with Alice yesterday, while generally mulling over the current Coronavirus situation, Alice asked if I was “scared”, personally. Paradoxically, I had never really given it too much thought, absorbed as I am – making the best of this extensive period of “downtime”.

As I detailed last week, my office filing and records had fallen into seriously inefficient “disrepair”: with such mitigating factors as my manic touring schedules (when I actually tour!); my OCD preoccupation with never discarding paperwork that – in my belief – could later prove of use to me and, none-too-inconsiderately, the “time involved” with residing on one’s own.

Having said all of the above, I can confirm that I’ve made impressive (well, impressive to me) progress since we last “spoke”: certainly, where the mountain of filing redistribution / editing / shredding is concerned. Late last night, I packed off my fourth 30-litre trash bag of shredding to the garage (awaiting the re-opening of the local “dump”) subsequently, proudly, re-locating the shredder back to its rightful place, in the office. Never to be removed again.

My personal plan going forward continues to be anchored around a “doing what I have to do – to be able to do what I want to do” approach. That does not, necessarily, mean that I’m finding the former to be laborious: the pragmatic side of me knows that I’ll never have a better opportunity – than over this extended lockdown period – to re-order my “administrative life”. Many of those related tasks will now be “off my desk”, never to be revisited for many a year.

Tonight, on nationwide television, the British Prime Minister - Boris Johnson – will detail the manner in which the UK lockdown will continue, for at least – I would anticipate – until the end of this month. The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (in a timely fashion, Thursday past, when it was actually meant to be the day to do so – for Westminster as well) has already informed the Scottish nation that the current lockdown restrictions will continue for a minimum of another three weeks at least. If Boris Johnson indicates otherwise, by way of this evening’s television address, then there comes the real possibility of minor confusion – in respect of Scotland – as to which “dictate” we should ultimately (and legally?) be guided by.

Workwise, all that is (understandably) still pencilled into my touring diary is the JLS “Reunion” tour, scheduled for November and December later this year. A most reliable crystal ball could undoubtedly be put to sterling use at the moment, to determine if those shows will eventually go ahead. I sincerely hope that is the case - particularly as the lads were always a joy to work with – therefore, that is definitely an experience that I would be eagerly looking forward to.

For the time being then, it continues to be a matter of utilising this current period efficiently and constructively, while we look to see a way forward – and a return to some semblance of “normality”. However, there is little doubt that Covid-19 will herald profound, future, changes.

In looking to maintain an upbeat outlook, to deal positively with whatever life now has in store for us, allow me to indulge you with an accompanying track that - I discovered yesterday – perfectly matches a robust walking pace: Donnie Elbert with “Where Did Our Love Go”? XX

Sunday 3rd May 2020

Another week in lockdown here in the UK: which, if I’m not wrong, makes it six weeks so far.

As alluded to in last week’s entry, the confinement has given me the opportunity to (literally) sort my life out: so much of the domestic side of said life has “fallen by the wayside” and that can probably be attributed to three particular aspects, during the time I’ve lived in this house:

  1. Being away on tour a fair amount of that time, when – paradoxically – one’s personal life and personal progress is relegated to the “back-burner”: which is why touring pays well
  2. It is only now – within those past six weeks – that my pre-occupation with my interest in my football business has brought me to the realisation of over-involvement, time wise
  3. As a result of Alice being posted, with the military, to the sun-soaked island of Cyprus, in 2017, it was too tempting not to zip out there. when I was not committed to touring

The combination of those above three criteria means that I’m lucky if I’ve been in residence, here at the house in Dunbar – physically, for three out the six years, since I moved back up from the English south coast. When you live on your own, you learn you must stay on top of your domestic responsibilities because – literally – there’s no-one else to clean up behind you.

Added to the above, of course – being a “freelance” operator – my office has always taken up one of the bedrooms in my house. Coupled to my (minor) “OCD” side – whereby my attention to detail, while very much my “trademark”, has been known to drive business colleagues to distraction – I have, to date anyway, allowed myself to become way too immersed in the minutiae of, mainly, my business life. I’ve probably filed away half a rain forest, in my time.

Therefore, to hark back to the second paragraph of this week’s entry, I have been presented – in the last six weeks (and more yet, I suspect, with the UK government announcement this coming Thursday, which will surely only further extend the lockdown period) - with a rare, gilt-edged, opportunity to bring my life back to the sort of order that has eluded me in the last thirty years. I would estimate that I’m “only” three weeks away from this crucial juncture.

Certainly, I sense an excitement at the prospect of finding myself unfettered by the administrational tentacles that have (invariably) dragged at me – not unwelcomely, I have to say – throughout my professional career. Now, I relish welcoming an awaking of my creative side: not so much in an Artistic vein, but more so in diverting myself towards associated business opportunities, linked to my long and varied touring career: but what next, I wonder?!

So far, this year, I have “lost” both The Who tour (re-scheduled to next March), closely followed by the cancellation of the projected summer Little Mix outdoor shows: however I’m very fortunate that I’m able to “wear” such a substantial financial hit, at this career point.

So, there you have it, dear and loyal readers: I’m making worthwhile and rewarding progress and if, come Thursday - even if I find we’re all facing (say) another three weeks of “lockdown”. Now, in relating the week’s attached track to the context of the Diary entry that it accompanies, how’s about this kick-ass rocker from those (then) wild Rolling Stones? XX

Sunday 26th April 2020

Following on from some of the sentiments expressed in last week’s Diary entry, I’ve once again used the “opportunity” of the current Coronavirus lockdown restrictions (meaning, of course, that I’m essentially anchored to the house – save for my morning, 30 minute, cycle and my visit to the Asda food store on a Thursday evening). There is much for me to be working on.

While I have mapped out a daily timetable for the days of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (Wednesday is my “un-scheduled” day) on an hour-by-hour/”Task Title by Task Title” basis – with Task Titles such as Health, Office Admin., Household Organisation, Communications and Internet Research being the main areas of application – Saturday and Sunday are given over to house cleaning, the garage and the garden: so, outside for the most.

Those last three subjects – as a result of a backlog of “unimportant” jobs up until now – are turning out to comprise of a considerable amount of work, mainly physical of course, that has easily filled out the last three weekends. Sure, I have time – both in the middle of the day for an hour, and for an hour prior to dinner – on both those days to take a little time to myself: I’m not at it eight hours a day at the weekend, however there’s a fair bit to do.

Example, in point, where today is concerned: I have a small semi-circular pond in my garden (think of it as two “arcs” of a half circle) with a middle flagstone separating both arcs. In the six and a half years that I’ve now lived at this house in Dunbar, I’ve paid no more than a total of one hour’s attention to that garden pond. It always seemed far down the list of priorities.

However, now having made impressive (I think) inroads into clearing much of the backlog of office and domestic tasks, that have increasingly been vying for my attention, I’m able to finally apportion some time to bringing out the best in what is a decent-sized garden, for a modest, three-bedroomed, house, with the starting point being this mucky, overgrown, pond.

Today – over the space of four hours (and only concentrating on one of the two “arcs”) I reluctantly made a start to the process of, initially, removing a substantial glut of tangled and “caked” vegetation – most of which was congealed into the one solid mass. Every time I attempted to slice into this heavy lump of floating mulch - with my garden spade – it just submerged itself in the direction of the bottom of the pond. More by way of brute force and ignorance – rather than any studied technique – I manged to “land” afore-mentioned tangle of vegetation onto the flagstones that border the pond. That initial task took an hour, alone.

That left me the back-breaking job of emptying the water down the garden drain (with a 25-foot gap between the two). Thankfully my next-door neighbour was kind enough to furnish me with two, 3-litre, water buckets (way more capacity than my one, puny, plastic kitchen “pail”) however before that first arc of the pond was finally left free of water, it had probably taken me around thirty “double-bucket” trips to the drain. Which has completely drained me!

As I’m running out of space this week, it’s time to nominate an accompanying track and – as is occasionally the case – this week’s choice has no bearing whatsoever on this week’s narrative. None the less (and I’ll expand upon this next week) I leave you with Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge with a beautiful composition – from back in 1973 - called “Hard to be Lovers”.

Sunday 19th April 2020

A fine Dunbar welcome to you all on this Sunday evening, twenty-seven days into the UK “lockdown” arrangements with, as of Thursday past’s government announcement, another eighteen days to go to see us through the second three-week spell (I make it 47 days in total).

What will happen, come Wednesday 6th May, when this second three-week period has run its distance? Well, dear readers, that is indeed the subject of much conjecture currently – with the government (understandably) eager not to relax their lockdown restrictions too early.

For my part, I continue to keep myself busy, checking off a host of subdivided (by category – old habits die hard!) tasks, both domestic and business. Over this last week, I have continued to catalogue a veritable plethora of tour itineraries, both in A4 and A5 bound- booklet format.

Now, I could forgive you for figuring the above job to be one of a straightforward nature and – on the face of, in a purely administrative sense – that would be a correct observation. However, folks, all those itineraries are a reasonable summation of my last forty-seven years in the business, many relating to touring projects that had slipped from my “recent” memory.

Therefore, I (naturally) found myself leafing through certain of the itineraries as I worked through the task of cataloguing them into an appropriate computer file. Well, of course – in some cases more than others – all that served to do was to whisk me straight back to times gone by – and many poignant memories: but, much “meanderings” makes for slow cataloguing!

It’s at such a juncture in this process of office re-organisation that I am prone to bouts of amazement concerning my (then) stamina, in relentlessly “dragging” Artists from city to city and venue to venue, tour after tour. Of course – as I’m sure you are aware – my patience did eventually run out for “Artist World” and, over a period of 12 – 18 months (after an extensive – yet most enjoyable – four years with Paul Potts) I gently slid over towards concentrating almost exclusively on the Tour Accounting side of the business: and there I have “remained” for the last (almost) ten years. The one exception, during that period, probably being “Ant ‘n Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway Live” tour of 2014, where I undertook to cover both roles.

As I touched upon last week, my involvement with The Who has now been shunted (re- scheduled) into March 2021 - specifically their UK and Ireland arena tour. As I write, I am naturally hopeful that the “Little Mix” summer outdoor dates will yet happen. Much will depend – I believe – on how the “land lies”, once this second three-week period of lockdown expires. That - in turn – will be dependent upon how the statistics are reported back, during that time.

As I alluded to, a few paragraphs back, I am utilising this “time of containment” to deal with a host of – until now – unattended administrative jobs, mainly emanating from my home- based office: the shredder continues to work overtime, as I laboriously work my way through suspension file after suspension file, from the equivalent of three, four-drawer, file cabinets.

What accompanying track would be fitting to pair with this week’s disjointed ramblings? Well, as I have ordered a fair clutch of classic CD’s (once owned, but now missing down the years) I leave you with a classic track from one of them, in the shape of Steely Dan and “Josie”. XX

Sunday 12th April 2020

Thank you for joining me on a day that started well, weather-wise, but has certainly turned chillier this evening - the very evening prior to the end of the three-week UK lockdown.

From my point of view, with a major “gutting” of my office in full flight – therefore keeping me well occupied those past three weeks – the time has not appeared to drag, at all. Much has been accomplished (mainly, as I say, surrounding the complete re-organisation of my office: aka bedroom three in the house - and there’s only a total of three bedrooms!) and I can truly say this is the most ordered my life has been personally, easily since the time I have been living in Dunbar – and probably stretching back close to ten years, or more, in total. I have enjoyed a long-overdue insight into the past forty-seven years of my professional life, off the back of sorting through several of my personal diaries - over the course of this last week.

For example - and this is the regrettable legacy of a waning memory – it had clean-slipped my mind that I toured with the “J.Geils Band” back in 1980, commencing with one show at Manchester Free Trade Hall, on June 2nd that year (supported by a band called the “Q- Tips” whose lead singer, one Paul Young, went on to follow a successful career as a solo Artist) then London – then onwards to Europe for a further eleven shows. If the name “The J.Geils Band” doesn’t ring a bell, then I’ll introduce them to you, by way of next week’s accompanying track.

Why not this week, for the afore-mentioned track, you are maybe wondering? Well, as I sit here peacefully, reaching across the world to a veritable legion of readers (I can always dream) I have, playing in the background, one of my favourite Rod Stewart albums, namely “Human” therefore – having re-acquainted myself with its quality track-listing, off the back of re-cataloguing my CD collection - one of those tracks that will accompany this week’s entry!

Here in the UK, just to hark back to the (understandably unavoidable) subject of Covid-19, all eyes and ears are trained upon the imminent government announcement, due at some point over the upcoming week, regarding the – inevitable – decision on how long they will extend the lockdown. My personal opinion is that – even if the government privately anticipates the need to continue this state of affairs until (say) the end of May – there will be another bite at the cherry, in the form of an announcement to extend for a shorter period. Until the end of April?

The public suffering and small-business stagnancy are staggering to comprehend, and the ripple-effect on the British economy will surely require a period of years, hardly months, to steady itself onto any sort of vestige of a stable footing. Sadly, much hardship lies ahead. We must rely on the majority of the well-intended British public to continue to heed the “Stay at Home” regulations: however, surely, a thin line of frustration and anger will creep in.

I dread to think how I would have been coping with this crisis, had it befallen the UK nation when I was at my lowest financially – back in the 1998/1999 period of my career, when I was down to thirty-seven pence and eternally grateful to my dearest caring friend, Loraine Trent.

One day, I’ll tell you more about Loraine, but it would take two consecutive Diary entries to record her major contribution to “saving my life”. Actually, this week’s Rod Stewart track now bears significance to both Covid-19 and Loraine herself: “It Was Love That We Needed”. XX

Sunday 5th April 2020

Today signals week two of the “lockdown” restrictions in the UK: as alluded to in last week’s entry, I am fortunate in now having the opportunity to “gut” my office – and it’s still not done!

Possibly preparing for the years ahead when, undoubtedly, I will spend more time based in Dunbar (but only over the spring/summer months, if I have my way) I have worked up a weekly schedule: still in its infancy, I have been editing and updating the initial “A4” draft, since committing the template to print, last Monday. I can see much promise in this new approach.

Essentially, I have blocked off each of the “working” five days of the week into hourly blocks, dedicated to work segments such as Office/House/Computer/Reading/Garden/”Talking”.

A brief note of explanation as regards that last item (“Talking”). It’s actually down on my schedule as “Communications” but the use of that particular word caused the previous paragraph to “wrap” onto the next line – and of course that just doesn’t sit with Mr OCD here.

However, back to the main point of the exercise: I’ve allocated hourly “blocks” to each of the afore-mentioned work headings and (for the time being anyway) – when preceded by my 30-minute cycle first thing, then shower and breakfast (total one hour) I am endeavouring to finish each weekday by 6.00 pm to take in the national BBC news. By 6.30 pm, that neatly rounds off my “working day”. I should add that after the news, I pop out on the bike for another 30 minutes or so (at which time, if required – but not every evening – I swing by the Asda food store, for any essentials). The rest of the evening is given over to my “downtime”.

What have I learned this “first” week of this new approach, where at times I have struggled to summon the discipline to change tack every hour, is to discipline oneself to religiously move on to the next “subject”. However, it is definitely showing progress as the basis of a workable schedule which – once fine-tuned – will enable me all sorts of benefits on the domestic front.

I can honestly say that in the (almost) six and a half years that I have been living here in Dunbar, my office is currently in the best shape, over that whole period – and I’m not finished yet. I suspect there will be an announcement, before this time next week (there will have to be, as the initial three-week period comes to an end at that point) as to the extent of an extension to the current lockdown period. My money says that will be until the end of April.

I can easily fill another two weeks, based on this new domestic structure that I have put in place: ideally, I would like to see myself at a juncture – three weeks from now – that the only jobs requiring fulfilled on the house (gutters cleared / new kitchen shelf / TV relocated upstairs, etc) – that are beyond me - will then require the expertise of a local “tradesman”.

I can honestly say that if The Who tour had gone ahead (I would be penning this from Liverpool, if that had been the case!) I would not have accomplished all that I have, over the past two weeks: so, who knows (so to speak) when I would have eventually gotten around to it.

In closing, let’s not forget the real heroes of the piece: The National Health Service. It is therefore only fair this week’s track goes out to them: “Every 1’s a Winner”. Stay safe. XXX

Sunday 29th March 2020

I have found it enlightening just how much you can accomplish when you can’t leave the house.

Certainly so, for yours truly – off the back of six years in Dunbar, but lucky to have spent half that time actually in situ, here in the house. Consequently, countless small (and some not so small) tasks have slowly - and surreptitiously - created a formidable backlog: meaning that I can most definitely make efficient use of the remaining(?!) two weeks of the UK lockdown.

It follows, I wish I had found two clear weeks by way of any other circumstances - other than the consequent fall-out from the Coronavirus pandemic: however, it is what it is (as Michael Richardson, our Security Chief with “The Cult” would often remind me) and I should feel no inherent guilt, associated with grabbing this opportunity with both (thoroughly washed) hands.

Tomorrow commences week 2 of the “lockdown” here in the UK with the general medical and scientific opinion being that, yes, we agonisingly have worse times (and fatalities) to come.

I’ve no doubt that the question on the lips of the majority of the British public is: whether we can exit the current lockdown at the end of this initial three-week period. Of course, the government (understandably) will hold off at least until the end of the upcoming week – I reckon – before making any “continuance” announcement. It’s looking like that may be the case.

Surely, if they are even in the smallest, lingering, doubt (despite any possible “slow-down” in the casualty numbers) the government will extend the current lockdown, probably for a further two weeks. Any more than that and it’s going to have a noticeable strain on the British public. Five weeks (say) being unable to visit close family members is going to render large sectors of the public increasingly frustrated - testing their patience to a worrying degree.

As I sit here with Ray Charles’s greatest hits on “shuffle” in the background – taking me back to memorable times when I attended his concert, with a full orchestra, at a beachside location, within spitting distance of San Tropez – I realise I have not a complaint in the world.

Acceding to my opening paragraphs, I have ploughed through a substantial amount of domestic (household) work this past week. Unfortunately, for the “tradesmen” jobs, I will just have to “bide my time” until the lockdown is relaxed, to enable the carpenter, the plumber and the gardener to be able to make it over to the house. Such jobs hardly, currently, merit the “essential” tag - and even tradesmen are being sensible enough not to flout the temporary government regulations. Not sure what I would do now, if my central heating boiler packed in!

Having gained my second wind over the past seven days, I’m now poised for “lap” 2 of 3 (with laps 4 & 5 – extending the lockdown an additional two weeks – a very realistic possibility) with an emphasis on the office and the garden in the upcoming week. As a result of the fact that I’m on a roll here (and being used to living alone) the “isolation” has come as no real hardship.

Unsurprisingly, I have music playing in the background most of my “working” day - at the sort of level that, thankfully, a detached property allows. As Ray Charles has “accompanied” me most of this evening, let’s return the compliment, with a fab song: “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.

Sunday 22nd March 2020

Another week of unprecedented changes in the world as we know it: and it hasn’t stopped yet.

As of Friday night past, all bars, restaurants, theatres, gyms etc (in other words, any facility that “encourages” gatherings of – now – even 100 people) have been instructed to close by UK government request: soon to be government “order”, I suspect, for those who don’t comply.

Undoubtedly the greatest “disruption” to the British nation, since the second world war. These developments of the past two weeks, specifically here in the UK, have surely given the post-war demographic population just a microcosm of insight as to the anxiety such a chain of events can induce. Difference being, back then, there was not the “advantage” of television.

Undoubtedly the greatest “disruption” to the British nation, since the second world war. These developments of the past two weeks, specifically here in the UK, have surely given the post-war demographic population just a microcosm of insight as to the anxiety such a chain of events can induce. Difference being, back then, there was not the “advantage” of television.

I use the word “advantage” from the point of view of being able to publish the variety of moving images that assist to convey the severity of the current situation - almost instantly.

Even as I write, within the last two hours, Spain (which had already announced the same, two weeks ago) has just extended their country’s “State of Emergency” for a further two weeks: although, sadly to say, it is the country of Italy that is – currently – in the most feverish grip of this current Coronavirus Pandemic. Almost 800 of the population died, yesterday alone.

The UK government appear to have been very “generous” with the financial rescue packages they have planned, both for UK commercial businesses and the majority of salaried workers, particularly those in the lower-paid brackets. Even though my own business is accountancy related, I’m nevertheless staggered that our economy can weather £350 Billion of loans to ailing businesses – and then promise to shore up salaried workers income to 80% of normal.

There is a definitely an undercurrent of belief that the government will take further steps to ramp up the efficiency of their recently-introduced social isolation policy – to the extent (much as the current situation in Italy and France) of stricter self-isolation stipulations. Should that become the case, it will call for a positive, concerted, commitment from the British public, as a whole, to ensure that – as a nation – we irreversibly beat this thing down.

Unless the majority of the finest scientific minds, drawn from the highest echelons of the British medical profession, have their collective research and calculations markedly wrong – then the worst is yet to come for our robust island. Just thinking out loud here (this thought has just come to me): maybe it’s the “relatively few” deaths – when taken against the country’s overall 71 Million+ population – that has seduced a considerable amount of our people into viewing the situation with less gravity than they should. I sincerely hope that’s not the case.

So, here we are in the UK: heading into next week, in a “restrictive” national environment, the likes of which – even remotely – we have not experienced for seventy-five years.

So, here we are in the UK: heading into next week, in a “restrictive” national environment, the likes of which – even remotely – we have not experienced for seventy-five years.

We are at a time when we all have to remain disciplined, determined – and positive. Which requires that this week’s accompanying track be equally positive, while nevertheless bearing some relation to this week’s subject matter: so, yes, “Let’s Work Together”. Stay safe. XXX

Sunday 15th March 2020

Well, the last seven days may change life as we know it, in the UK, for several years to come.

I speak of course in relation to the spread of the Coronavirus, within these UK shores (and, sadly – but irrefutably – gathering speed, even as I write) which has escalated significantly, since the penning of last week’s Diary entry only seven days ago. We know not, what lies ahead.

By the time I am once again in communication with you, seven days from now, I have little doubt there will have been some drastic changes over the ensuing week. Later today, I’ll pick up a couple of quality Sunday newspapers (whose journalistic staff will have typically gone into the current, and future, ramifications of the Coronavirus situation, in informative detail).

The anticipation is that one or two other airlines (off the back of a serious reduction in international air travel – even just over the last few days) are going to follow the recent demise of “Flybe” - although ironically they went out of business for reasons totally unrelated to the now current situation. Interesting to note that several UK-based airlines lobbied the UK government, last week, not to come to the aid of Flybe with any financial rescue package: now some of those very same airlines are preparing to approach the government, cap-in-hand, to seek interim financial assistance to see them through the worst of this Coronavirus period.

Indisputably, uncertain times lie ahead over the next few months: of that, there is absolutely no doubt. A complex cocktail of ailing businesses and organisations – at every level - and disadvantaged (unknowing?) consumers is destined, for the next three months anyway, to have an unprecedented effect on normal everyday life in the UK, as we Brits have come to know it.

As with most of the general public, I don’t have an informed “handle” on where this is all leading – however I suspect, in a myriad of diverse ways, that “we” may need years to recover.

Coming now to this week’s accompanying track, I certainly want to avoid stoking the fires of impending gloom, so anything overly morose is out. However, after careful consideration – but with my normal wish that (generally) any tune that I attach to a Diary entry should bear some relation to the week’s content, I leave you with the iconic Slade, and “How Does It Feel?”. XX

Sunday 8th March 2020

You may recall, from last week, that the minute I landed back in the UK (Sat 29th Feb.) I immediately rented a car and headed up to Stenhousemuir to take in a football game. Upon reflection, possibly not the best course of action – as I picked up a stinking cold on Thursday.

Within the space of eighteen hours, I had gone from 34 ℃ heat to 7 ℃ “cool” – while also still attempting to shake a minor bout of dehydration, initially contracted on the flight down to Vietnam, two weeks earlier. The sensible option would probably have been to drive back down to Dunbar and rest up for a bit. Regretfully, the old (stubborn?) rock ‘n roller in me – having withstood a litany of tough travel schedules throughout my career – thought nothing of it.

Spin forward eight days to today and I am now – just – recovering from said heavy head cold, that took a fair grip of me four days ago: another glaring reminder of the importance of heeding all related aspects of one’s health, particularly in the shadow of one’s advancing years.

Of course, having only been home from Vietnam for a few days, since the cold symptoms made an appearance – and when there’s a “flap on” (as they used to say in the wartime RAF) with the current spread of the Corona virus – I obviously had reason to believe that maybe I had come into contact with said virus, while I was out in Vietnam. Therefore, with The Who tour just “over the horizon”, you can understand that I wanted to nullify that possibility, sharpish. A quick call to “NHS 24” confirmed that my symptoms were not linked to the Corona virus!

Nevertheless, I loaded up with certain proprietary medicines knowing – from experience – that my “annual” cold would take three to four days to shift. As I sit here, this Sunday evening – four days since my first “sniffles” – I’m pleased to announce that the cold virus has all but deserted your intrepid writer. Further care is required in the future, to avoid any repetition.

In years gone by, I can vividly recall being struck down by said “annual cold” on: an Oasis tour of Europe; a JLS UK tour – and a Paul Potts North American tour. In all three cases, it encompassed no more than a four-day stretch: however, in spite of 14 – 16 hour days that are “part and parcel” of life on the road, you have no choice but to stumble your way through it.

I should possibly apply some careful thinking to my next proclamation, however I do believe I’ve never lost any touring days, as a result of temporary or debilitating illness: sure – as alluded to, above – I’ve endured some horrific days on the road when (mainly through suffering with a heavy cold) I’ve just had to battle through the gig and later crawl into my tour-bus bunk, at the earliest opportunity, hoping for at least six hours of recovery time ahead of me.

You will have noted from certain mentions in relatively recent editions of the Diary that I’m (sensibly) increasingly paying due attention to health matters and therefore a little, long- overdue, research into staving off even the annual heavy cold will, literally, do me no harm.

With the slant, this week, towards preventative health measures let’s see what I can come up with, in the way of an appropriate track: best to take the advice of a doctor here, and who better than the (once) undisputed “Doctor of Funk”, Mr James Brown – a man with no equal in the annals of the music industry. So, what more fitting track than “I Got You (I Feel Good)”?

Sunday 1st March 2020

Back from Vietnam, as of yesterday – and immediately bemoaning the lack of temperature.

But, c’mon – you can hardly blame me: yesterday it was 32C and today it’s languishing at 7C!

This is what can happen when you cross continents in a relatively short period of time, at a particular time of year: one day, shorts and T-shirt, reading on the beach. The next day, overcoat, gloves, scarf and woolly hat – wrapped up against the elements, watching the Stenhousemuir v Cove Rangers game. Welcome home to the rigours of the Scottish weather!

Stenhousemuir were always going to be up against it, playing the League leaders, who are undoubtedly heading towards League One for next season – and they only entered the professional SPFL league system at the beginning of the current season: some feat, indeed.

By the time the game had finished yesterday, and I had dropped my player Abdel back at his apartment in Falkirk, I was feeling pretty bushed, on the drive back down to Dunbar. Once back at the house last night (around 7.00 pm), I re-enacted my occasional, infamous, “out for the count, fully clothed, on the bed” mode – not seeing the light of day, until around 10.30 this morning. How to completely disorientate oneself in a matter of only thirty-six hours!

However, as of lunchtime today, I’m back on the “up and up”, with a plentiful supply of domestic tasks awaiting my attention. With the daylight hours slowly increasing here in the UK as, suddenly, the third month of the year is upon us, I can sense my energy level heightening, in equal measure, to meet the longer days. Arising in the hours of darkness is just not my thing.

In the middle of this month, I’m off to Manchester, to commence a month’s touring with The Who, mainly within the UK border – but including one show in Dublin. If you are a regular reader, then you will recall - from previous Diary entries – that The Who is a most enjoyable touring experience for me: live musicianship and a bunch of technical guys, ages with me. “Trouble” is, they don’t tour often enough for my liking: witness the fact that it’s four years now (hard to believe – I had to double-check that) since I was last out with them, in 2016.

That’s not to say the band have been inactive throughout that time - as I only undertake their Tour Accounting on this side of the world (there’s another gentleman that looks after all the Stateside Tour Accounting). To be honest, I’m fairly sure that my US touring days are over, although it remains one of my all-time favourite countries in which to spend time – such is the diversity of landscapes, cultures and experiences that exist within that one vast continent.

On that very subject, I have – of late – been hankering to spend some time back there, just ambling through several of the more attractive/memorable states - to my heart’s content. It’s another fact that such trips now have a “deadline” attached to them – keeping in mind the idea would always be to be behind the wheel, in complete control of my Interstate destiny.

While I allow such thoughts to permeate my current thinking, let me leave you this week with a fabulous, Sunday afternoon, blues tune from Toni Lynn Washington (another recently-discovered singer with a cracking voice) called “Back Water Blues” – ‘cause I’m going back!

Sunday 23rd February 2020

Even we sunseekers have to admit there’s a point when it can become too hot for comfort.

It’s therefore only natural that I’m going to continue, at the onset of this week’s diary entry, by pronouncing today as one of those days: 37 degrees centigrade, but with a welcome breeze.

Since we last “spoke” on Sunday 16th, I’ve taken the long & slow (never above 50 mph!) train ride up to Na Trang, northwards seven and a half hours, on Tuesday morning past. I may have mentioned last week that Jade’s two “quietest” days of the week, in respect of the work she does out here, are a Sunday and a Monday: hence the reason I came away from Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday morning, to spend a total of four nights in Na Trang, arriving back into HCMC, last night – just before 8.00 pm. The train journey southwards was over an hour longer, the reason being (I worked out) to allow for the “by-passing” of slow weekend freight trains.

You will therefore have deduced that (similar to many countries in this part of the world) – and down to the distances incurred in connecting far reaching cities – there is only the one main physical line, necessitating that “passing” trains must utilise certain station “sidings”. It cannot claim to be the most picturesque of train journeys I have ever taken (the Canadian Pacific from Calgary to Vancouver immediately comes to mind – oh, take me back there!) but it rumbles along at its own sweet pace, allowing a glimpse of life at a possibly bygone tempo.

This was my second visit to Na Trang, the previous occasion being on holiday several years ago (and prior to Jade having taken up residence in this country) when we stayed south of the city, based at a large resort which – at one time previously – had also been annexed by an extensive “Amusement Park” (Vietnamese style) which, by the time we stayed there, had been eclipsed by a purpose-built, theme-park island, reachable only by cable car, called “Vin Pearl”.

Back then, Alice and I took advantage of the complimentary bicycle hire at said resort and – at our own leisurely pace – just biked around this ghost-town of a once-vibrant family park. I’m sure if I trawled back to the time of that holiday, I would definitely have made mention of it then: I certainly know I have a bunch of zany photographs from then, in my iPhoto library.

This time – possibly as much because I have been nursing a mild case of a stomach upset since arriving here (initiated by a bloated gut, off the back of the long-haul flight) – I did not feel too comfortable about indulging in the street-food culture, as I normally would have done. This minor mishap - accompanied by an initial bout of constipation upon arrival in Vietnam (I cannot hide such truths from my loyal readership!) - has poignantly highlighted the increasing emphasis on paying close attention to one’s health. More water Vicar – and then, more again!

Bringing events right back up to this very minute (and feeling much better over the last couple of days) I have – today – spent a very relaxed time in Jade’s company, in particular visiting an enchanting parkland area, bordering one of the other HCMC ex-pat areas, namely District 7.

In closing this week’s entry – and having informed you all last week (or the week before!) of stumbling across three hitherto-unknown female blues singers – this week sees Angela Strehli taking the floor with a track (that I can certainly relate to, of old) called “Go On”. And I did.

Sunday 16th February 2020

Slight change of location this week from Dunbar .. hello from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

If you are a regular reader of my Diary entries, you will have (correctly) deduced that I am down in this “neck of the woods” to visit my daughter, who is based (and works) in Vietnam.

In fact, Stella (Jade’s Mum – and that of Bradley’s as well!) only mentioned to me the other day that Jade has been down here in Vietnam, for two years come this August - although Jade may correct the both of us, on that point. If Stella and I were to enter a memory test, I’m sure Stella would agree that it could be a close-run thing: inevitable, for the majority of “us”.

I actually left Edinburgh last night at 7.05 pm, on the first leg of a two-part Emirates flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Percentage wise, the Edinburgh to Dubai leg was certainly busier than the Dubai to HCM City leg: however, I reckon, the Corona virus is surely the reason for that. There’s certainly a large (75 – 80%) proportion of the Vietnamese population constantly wearing face masks at the moment – a proportion that would normally, based upon my past travels here, be around the 60 – 65% mark, the majority of those being bike (moped) riders.

Jade’s downtime with her job here, as a Speech Therapist, is generally the days of Sunday and Monday: therefore, I’ve planned my “gallivanting” around Vietnam, over the next twelve days, to allow for me swinging back through the city on those very two days of the week. Outwith Sunday’s and Mondays, while I’m here, I’ll be nipping up to Na Trang (as visited by Alice and me, about five years back) then probably back out to Vung Tau for a few days, just prior to me returning to the UK. Gotta get back and earn a crust, to pay for all this travelling.

I’m going to give Vietnam every opportunity to give Thailand a “run for its money” in terms of my favoured environment, from the two. I feel myself veering towards the latter: however, to be fair to Vietnam, I have travelled to various areas of Thailand (must be nearing ten trips in total) over the past twelve years – and therefore have experienced far more of the country and its peoples. Suffice to say at the moment, in an attempt to articulate what’s in my heart, that I’ve never felt “cut-off” in some of the more remote areas of Thailand – meaning certain of the islands in the Gulf of Thailand that I have visited. Whereas I’ve yet to (want to) leave the more built-up areas of Vietnam, as it just doesn’t have the variety of islands on offer as Thailand does. Maybe, by this time next week, my Vietnam thoughts will have become clearer.

Certainly, there is now a marked increase in Russian holidaymakers in Vietnam, particularly here in Na Trang, definitely since my last visit here - when we experienced only a “sprinkling” of them. My theory behind this must surely, to some degree, hinge upon increased “internet air travel” possibilities - in conjunction with a probable relaxation of immigration procedures.

As we head towards the point in the Diary where I make note of an appropriate (not always!), accompanying track, I have to confess to “ravaging” the iTunes store last week, off the back of discovering three great female blues singers, namely Angela Strehli, Kate Bohler and a fabulously enjoyable Sweet Angel (still researching her real name!). This week we will give the floor to Sweet Angel with an almost hypnotic funk track on which she narrates more than she sings, but nevertheless carries the track (called “A Girl Like Me”) very well. Go babe!! XX

Sunday 9th February 2020

A stormy (Storm “Ciara” to be exact) good afternoon from the East coast of Scotland.

We are currently being battered by 90 mph gale-force winds although “we”, I’m sure, doesn’t encompass the whole of the country (Scotland): it’s just that, positioned where my home town of Dunbar is (almost on the “corner” of the coast) it almost gets it from both sides. However, on a more positive note, we also benefit from exceptional light on many occasions – and this must also bear some relation to our geographical positioning (hence the “Sunny Dunny” title).

Last night I attended a televised (hence the 7.20 pm kick-off, on a Saturday evening) Hearts v Falkirk Scottish Cup game, the entirety of which was played out in the presence of torrential rain and howling wind, worsening as the game progressed. Hearts “stole” the 1-0 result, the goal scored from a penalty, following a needless foul in the 18-yard box, by one of the Falkirk defenders: I don’t think the Falkirk coaches will be too pleased with that particular defender, being that the Hearts player was actually “heading away from the goal” when he was fouled.

There are two remaining Scottish Cup games to be played today, after which the draw for the next round (the “quarter final”) will be made live on television, with eight places remaining “up for grabs”. Of course, the majority of Scotland’s football fans (including those of Celtic and Rangers) are hoping that Celtic and Rangers are paired against each other in these upcoming quarter-finals. For several years, in my early days of seriously following football, there was the cynical “rumour” abounding that when the plastic numbered balls were drawn “out of the hat”, certain balls were “heated” and others not, the theory being that Celtic’s nominated plastic numbered ball would be “warm” – and Rangers plastic ball on the cold side!

Folklore, of course: however the amount of times over the years (keeping in mind, that in 90% of the cases by – say – this quarter final stage, both afore-mentioned teams were invariably still in the draw) that Celtic and Rangers have avoided being drawn against each other, did cause many football fans to wonder and question. Actually, because I’ve just taken a few-hours break in penning this week’s Diary entry, I’m actually listening to the next-round draw live on the radio, right now. All the teams have now been drawn and, yes, once again, Celtic have avoided Rangers! My team, “Hearts” (Heart of Midlothian, to give them their full name) have actually drawn Glasgow Rangers at their home ground of Tynecastle in Edinburgh.

Oddly enough – even though they have reached the last eight of this season’s Scottish Cup – Hearts are having one of their poorest League seasons, for many years: the irony is, however, that although Hearts have only won four League games this season to date, one of those wins was against Rangers, within the last two weeks! This makes their game “the tie of the round”.

As I’m off to visit my daughter in Vietnam from next Saturday (for ten days) I may actually make it back to attend the Hearts v Rangers game, although finding a ticket for that fixture may prove a challenge. Can Hearts now “turn Rangers over” twice in the space of two months? I would hope so, but Rangers will definitely come looking for revenge, from the recent result.

Having endured notably stormy weather over the last 48 hours here in the homeland, let’s plump for those old rockers, AC/DC, for this week’s track - “You Shook Me All Night Long”. X

Sunday 2nd February 2020

Well, there goes January: little less than a flurry of footballing activity for your author.

However, the transfer window is now closed – effectively rendering the situation of finding a talented young football player who is “free”, fit and forthright, definitely something of a long shot. Approaching football clubs, believing you have such a player “up your sleeve”, only – understandably – elicits the response from an interested club, along the lines of “why – if this player is everything you say he is – is not already playing with a club?” Hard to refute that.

Might I just interject, away from the football thread (although you know I’ll wander back there, given any “dovetailing” opportunity) to mention that my – ageing – Multi-disc CD player, which I set to “random” before commencing my Diary, has become stuck on one of the five selectable CDs currently housed in the player. All is not lost, however, as the “stuck” CD is none other than the iconic Ray Charles and I’m once again marvelling at the vast and diverse myriad songs which he composed – one of which will be ultimately chosen as this week’s track!

I’ve just heard a line in one of the Ray Charles tracks (the title of which escapes me) that goes something like: “I love my woman through and through / but if I catch you messing with her / I’m gonna do some work on you”. Brilliant. Not that I’m condoning such an approach. It’s no secret, of course, that Ray – aside from being a prolific songwriter and accomplished performer – was indeed a bad boy during certain times of his career. Drugs, alcohol - and a notable penchant for the fairer sex, the latter a “mystery” when he never actually “saw” them!

I’ve just heard a line in one of the Ray Charles tracks (the title of which escapes me) that goes something like: “I love my woman through and through / but if I catch you messing with her / I’m gonna do some work on you”. Brilliant. Not that I’m condoning such an approach. It’s no secret, of course, that Ray – aside from being a prolific songwriter and accomplished performer – was indeed a bad boy during certain times of his career. Drugs, alcohol - and a notable penchant for the fairer sex, the latter a “mystery” when he never actually “saw” them!

I’ve just heard a line in one of the Ray Charles tracks (the title of which escapes me) that goes something like: “I love my woman through and through / but if I catch you messing with her / I’m gonna do some work on you”. Brilliant. Not that I’m condoning such an approach. It’s no secret, of course, that Ray – aside from being a prolific songwriter and accomplished performer – was indeed a bad boy during certain times of his career. Drugs, alcohol - and a notable penchant for the fairer sex, the latter a “mystery” when he never actually “saw” them!

Then there’s the obvious connection of the blues as “working (struggling) man’s music” – maybe it further appeals to the minor bi-polar side of my character. I’ll flesh that idea out, soon!

The times I’ve spent motoring through the southern states – with their strong connection to the origins of blues music – have been some of the most enjoyable periods of my life. During my working life, I have made a good living from being associated with some very “commercial” entertainers – but yet have been equally fortunate enough to have experienced some great “undiscovered” bands and singers, while on my worldwide travels (but particularly – as mentioned previously – the southern states), - the latter who perform for the pure love of it.

Increasingly, I feel the need to be back out there (the US) just following the “Blues Trail” to my heart’s content. This week’s musings can be complimented by the music of one man only: Mr Ray Charles. So many tracks to choose from, but this one conveys where my head’s at ……

Sunday 25th January 2020

Today’s Diary entry comes to you from a rather busy, very popular, Dunbar Garden Centre.

I arrived here at least an hour ago however, as I am currently engaged in the process of finding suitable accommodation in the Falkirk area for the young player who recently signed to Stenhousemuir, that little task had to (initially) take precedence over penning the Diary.

It would now appear that I have a couple of credible options for Abdel (the afore-mentioned young football player, of Moroccan origin) so hopefully we can have that sorted over the next forty-eight hours, while he is back in France collecting more clothes and personal belongings.

Abdel arrives back into Scotland on Wednesday; therefore, I don’t have too long to sort out all the necessary arrangements, involved with him settling back into some form of domestic routine over the next four months – for playing and training - of his stay at Stenhousemuir.

He actually made his debut yesterday, for Stenhousemuir v Edinburgh City, although for all of four minutes! Obviously, a rather inconspicuous start – however, at least, he can hardly play less of a part in this Saturday’s game (“away” to Annan Athletic, in the south of Scotland, less than thirty minutes’ drive from the English border – but two hours’ drive from Dunbar).

We need to keep in mind that Abdel is only 18 years old, living on his own in a foreign country – dealing with culture, culinary (he is of Muslim religion) and climate differences. The next four months will be the making – hopefully, not breaking - of him: good character- building experience. If he can look after himself in a small flat in Falkirk, then a bigger one in Glasgow should not prove to be a problem. I cautioned him not to forget me when he signs for Manchester City. Once a young footballer demonstrates admirable potential, you can quite imagine that all sorts of undesirable charlatans suddenly appear from the “football mists”.

With all of this going on in the lad’s life, he needs to be of steely resolve not to allow any aspect of it to encroach upon his concentration, when he takes to the field of play. However, I have to believe – and I am slowly gaining that belief, as I monitor his progress, and his attitude, at every turn – that he will deal with all these changes currently prevalent in his life, and become both a better and stronger individual, not to mention a footballer of great ability.

Next week, I can just sense (as a result of having “been to this movie before”) that at least two days will be swallowed up by the various time-consuming tasks involved with “stocking” an unfurnished property. Key to all of this will be a functioning Wi-fi service as – let’s face it – young people of Abdel’s generation almost treat it as a lifeline. In fairness, he is also far from home, with a large family base back in Paris: therefore good communications is crucial for him, at this early stage. Having said that, finding a four-month domestic broadband deal, that doesn’t tie the renter (me?!) into a plethora of conditions – and penalties – may not come easy.

Deep breath. I’m prepared to hire a car for next Tuesday and Wednesday, to allow me to ferry the required house contents from various domestic stores – and the odd box or two, currently buried deep in my garage. By this time next week, the worst will definitely be over and, with that in mind, allow me to leave you with Ms Denise La Salle and “Down Home Blues”!

Sunday 19th January 2020

Dear, enduring, world-wide(?), readers: I come to you today with some rather good tidings!

Although the football team that I support, Heart of Midlothian (based in Edinburgh, of course – and known to their legions of fans simply as “Hearts”) are struggling badly in the Scottish Premier League, yesterday they beat Airdrie 5-0 in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup!

Although the opposition team, “Airdrie” (Airdrieonians FC, to give them their full title) are promotion contenders in League One (two divisions below Hearts) the Hearts following were nevertheless a little edgy, regarding the final outcome of the game: being that Hearts had not scored a win, in the Premier League Championship, in their last four games. Added to that statistic is the fact that Airdrie have proved something of a “bogey” team for Hearts over the past fifteen years, having (as best I can recall) eliminated Hearts from the Scottish Cup on two previous occasions, during that time. As this occurred at “semi-final” stage, both times, you can sense the overall trepidation that was lingering in the minds of 90% of the supporters.

Anyway, although something of a shaky first half, Hearts went in at the break, leading 1 -0. Thankfully, the tempo and commitment in the second half breathed new life into the players, meaning they eventually ran out 5-0 winners. I was so pleased for the 13,000+ Hearts fans who attended the (“home”) game, as they have experienced much disappointment this season so far, with the club having lost or “drawn” many more games than they have managed to win.

The main thing is that we are in the “last 16” of the Scottish Cup and we already know that we have an “away” tie against either Falkirk FC (League One) or Arbroath FC (Championship), which gives Hearts a very good chance of progressing to the “last eight” of the Scottish Cup, by which time the likelihood is that only Premier League clubs will remain in the competition – essentially meaning that Hearts will then be facing a tough game to make the “semi-finals”.

Sticking with the football theme, I have managed to unearth what I believe to be a fairly talented young French player, as a result of my last two trips to Paris - who is currently training with the League Two team, “Stenhousemuir FC”, in the hope that the player can help the other players stave off the prospect of becoming involved in the relegation play-offs.

If the club believe he can do a job for them, then there’s the smallest chance he may earn himself an Amateur contract until the end of the season – and, equally, that I may be penning next Sunday’s edition of the Diary, having witnessed his first game this coming Saturday.

Sure, if you find the right player in this business, it can prove to be a very lucrative “investment”, a few years down the line: however, between now and then (presuming that the lad does enough to land himself the afore-mentioned, small, contract) there is the “Boot Camp” of Semi-Pro football; a differing culture; a new language – and some gung-ho football!

Well, this week’s “Diary from the Road” – as it was originally named – has not dealt at all with any aspect of me being on the road! However, readers, I believe I can make up for that within next week’s entry, giving you an insight as to what’s coming up for me, touring wise. With a gentle nod to next week’s entry, please welcome Mr Tom Robinson with 2-4-6-8- Motorway. X

Sunday 12th January 2020

Only twelve days into the New Year and - although certainly not the “long-awaited” epiphany - it’s (finally?) gently dawning upon me that my football interests are eating into too much of my personal time. In recent months, my line of thinking has undoubtedly been heading that way, and prior to travelling out to Paris the last time (pre-Christmas) I re-edited and updated my “Only The Strong Survive” document to fine-tune the original player requirement criteria.

The discipline is to stick to it now, but my recent shift in policy thinking (as noted above) is certainly easing me in the right direction. Added to which there is so much needing done in my house – and many of those tasks do not come under the heading of unenjoyable, especially as said tasks are instrumental in protection my most valuable asset: the house that I live in.

Earlier today I was paging back through my laptop-based i-Cal programme, to check on a touring period from a couple of years back in an effort to bring the CV section of my website up to date, and I was suddenly acutely aware of all the days that just had a “Dunbar” label on them, signifying that I was based at home on those days: however, what was I actually doing?!

Just dealing with the domestic side of life I guess; visiting family; preparing for the next tour; tidying up after the last tour and, yes, occasionally dabbling in football related activity.

In saying that, with the transfer-window system offering limited periods in which to introduce young, foreign, players to the UK market, football can now only take up certain months of the year – and that, provided I have no touring business going on at the same time.

Consequently – especially if I adhere to my revised “player criteria” guidelines – my football business is going to naturally slow up, as there are very few young players (by the law of averages, based upon my past experience) who can last the distance, to finally make the grade.

This all means that I’ve reached a comfortable balance with my footballing activities, to the extent that, from here on in, it will be quality, way ahead of quantity – not that I was dealing with a whole host of players at once, before: but now we are homing in on the “chosen few”.

Within the next week, I’ll be concentrating on formulating a new domestic schedule and a new personal structure for myself. Afterwards, if I receive a call about a prospective young player I will only respond according to my revised criteria. I may not have spoken too much to Nicky Byrne over the last couple of years, but well I remember his words of wisdom (for one so young!): “Your Health is Your Wealth”. First order of the day: dropping ten pounds in two weeks. Not impossible, because I’ve done if before> however it requires serious application.

Keeping physical health concerns to the fore, we nevertheless all need to give some time over to the maintenance of our mental health, naturally some more than others, with me probably in the “some” category. Time to attempt to level out those, oh-so-familiar, peaks and troughs.

So, there you have it, long-suffering readers: a rambling Diary entry this week, coming to you just as it fell right out of my head, and on through my mouth. Reading it back, makes me more determined to affect the change sort of required, therefore over to The Lightning Seeds …..

Sunday 5th January 2020

“Another year over – and it’s only just begun”. No prizes for this week’s accompanying track!

Surely, as each successive year dawns, people in my demographic lean on that particular line in John Lennon’s song: indeed. tragically, so “prophetic” at the time for the great man himself.

Many moons ago, I made mention (well, I think I did anyway) of my late father’s long-held notion that Lennon & McCartney were in cahoots with a small, select, group of “ghost- writers”, as he claimed (not without a vestige of substance, I would argue) that it was surely nigh-on impossible for two individual songwriters – albeit collaborating cohesively – to pen such a diverse and exhaustive amount of memorable songs. Having said that, something tells me they actually DID compose all that wonderful music - that were just incredibly gifted individuals.

Speaking personally again, what makes the Beatles myriad of musical contributions even more poignant, is that I lived through their era! I was “there” to marvel, in real time, what they accomplished and produced. On the subject of “produced”: let’s not forget Mr George Martin.

Trust me folks: there is such a great amount of music out there that we will never hear, because – frankly – we just don’t have the required time available, in most of our busy lives, to listen to even a small percentage of such “undiscovered” songs. Unless we find that time somewhere (e.g. in retirement – and I’m not there yet!) – there’s the very real possibility that some incredible music may never reach our ears. Personally, I’m now trying to correct that.

A great tool to be able to do so (even though I am not convincingly enamoured with the rampaging speed of all things internet-related) is the “listeners who liked this Artist, also liked this Artist …..” function on iTunes, whereby, as I personally discovered – in relation to researching the work of a previously unheard blues musician - I am encouragingly directed towards other Artists and music of a similar vein. I have thus happened upon some fab music.

In fact, once I find myself lured into such a “chain”, I can literally be stuck at the laptop for hours on end – and many a time with a most gratifying and rewarding conclusion - as I stumble upon an album by a (for me) hitherto-unknown Artist. They’re “out” there folks, believe me.

Of late – and possibly why I’ve wandered on to this subject today – is the growing feeling that (even this far down the line in the business, as long as I have been doing it) music now seems to, increasingly, be serving to shore up the spiritual side of my character. Can you pick the bones out of what I’m getting at here? My thoughts beg for clearer articulation I know; however, I suspect I may not reach that stage, within the confines of this week’s diary entry.

For the last few available lines of this week’s meanderings, I should probably hark back to my initial observation, relating to the New Year and, indeed, the New Decade: I sincerely hope I am around to witness the next decade however I suspect (I’m doing a lot of suspecting this week, am I not?) I’ll need to consciously be taking better care of myself to accomplish that.

And so (grammatically incorrect as that is) ….. to the music, and the man himself, Mr John Lennon. This is one of those songs that conveys sentiment, long beyond the words alone. XX

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