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“Endless rain, endless rain”

22nd August 2015 | Juliet

Mostly there is walking along the fine river and sitting the sun outside Starbucks. Even Tim is now on the decaffeinated soya lattes.

It’s sunny along the river in Newcastle and Tim and I head up the hill to buy socks… M&S wont take Tim’s Manx fiver. It has to say sterling or something.

We hurry back to the hotel where Tim writes and sings for several hours. New lyrics are pouring out.
Finally we head off to the gig. It’s a bit of a drive and it’s raining quite a bit. By the times the band go on it’s full thunder and lightning, the whole audience drenched but giving it their all.

The dressing rooms are in Hardwick Hall. Amidst antique cupboards and shelves of antique fine china dogs and multiple vases, you find the band discussing the set list. The banqueting table is weighed down with enough food to feed the whole festival and their families. Fruit bowls are exploding with berries and the contents of Waitrose’s cheese counter has been carefully thought through, but there are no biscuits or knives. There are two expectant pineapples waiting in the corner.

Andy, no longer green, is tootling outside the dressing room in the corridor with his mute firmly in place, and a dripping leak from the roof is landing on a piece of fine wooden furniture beside him. The table is half-ruined already, but I move an antique blue tureen and catch the now gushing drip.

Downstairs in hospitality I bump into Liam Skin Tyson.

There’s been an all-day line up. 10cc were on earlier as were Razorlight…

Huge umbrellas appear, and we dash through the rain to mini bus and into the portakabin where production is set up. A big puddle all over the floor. Avert disaster, mop vigorously…

Our bouncy tour Manager Neil has set up the control centre in the only dry spot on the site. However there is no signal, no texts, no e-mail in this remote valley place. Not the easiest spot to organise from.

As the band go on, the heavens open fully and thoroughly into torrential. It’s proper monsoon. Lightning flashes, thunder roars under the stars, and then it’s all over and a lot of fireworks explode…not that any further sky centred effects were needed.

The aftershow starts in the banqueting dressing room. Jazzy Geoff is there and some of Dave’s mates and Saul’s many relations…

A lonely knife is found, and brie slithers shared with Lincoln biscuits found near the tea bags. (N.B. The rider was top class, we just couldn’t find any cutlery!)

Next day it’s hasta la vista as we go our separate ways. Jim leaves with Saul and his family in the overhot car that breaks down twice. The London team head off first class to do a couple of days recording in the studio.

Dave, Matt and I head to Manchester. It’s an overstuffed Sunday train running late “due to congestion”.

There is even more congestion when we try to take a cab across Manchester, from Victoria to Piccadilly Station. The streets of MANCHESTER are undergoing open heart surgery as well as major bowel surgery, and the taxi driver looks like we just said, “Fly me to the moon and let me swing amongst the stars,” so awkward is our request…

It’s something to do with sewers and trams all at the same time, and then there’s the plague graves they stumbled on in Cross Street, and that big deep hole in the road near Piccadilly. Whatever, it’s gridlock chock-a-block.

It’s been a great week.

See you in Edinburgh.

JULES

Up, up and away

21st August 2015 | Juliet

The next morning, Saul went a tad spare as they wouldn’t make him a proper coffee cappuccino. The question arose following a chicory incident.

After yesterday’s lengthy sojourn at Birmingham airport, we whizz out the hotel and arrive at Isle of Man airport in good time. All checked in we notice that there is only us and a couple of other passengers. It’s a small plane. Word gets out that the bags may not make it. But this is kept under wraps to avoid undue panic.

The equipment travelled last night and is magically already in Durham…

The captain plays an unusual safety video presented by a child and loads all oversize hand luggage at the back.

Lastly Andy has his trumpet taken from him by our captain.

It’s a 19-seater Jetstream turboprop… Chocks away, sandbags dropped and up we go, followed by an extended impersonation of the big dipper at Blackpool pleasure dome.

A Buster Keaton film is shown to distract us from whatever we need distracting from. Tim loves Buster and later says how much he loved the inflight entertainment.

Andy and me are on the back seat. His trumpet is stowed through the doorway behind him.

Ten minutes into the ride Andy has turned very green… Luckily it’s a short flight and we soon land. Andy and his trumpet are reunited by the multitasking captain.

Reunited, but still green, Andy hugs his trumpet.

Newcastle is where we landed and off we go to the hotel by the river, overlooking some of Britain’s finest contemporary architecture in the field of bridges.

The bar serves soup… It’s leek, potato and haddock. They forgot the haddock, but it is soup.

The band head off after a small rest to do another lengthy rehearsal and soundcheck.

Tomorrow’s gig is at Hardwick Hall.

Meanwhile back at the hotel, Saul’s family arrive and it’s Vinnys birthday today. We go along the river to buy a chocolate cake. Tesco’s finest.

A three-legged man and the Stairway to the Nineties

20th August 2015 | Juliet

We fly finally after a two hour delay to our already over tight schedule. Luckily super crew Mat Skinner is there, having flown in from Manchester, and has set things up on stage… Even so, the delay means that the V.I.P. thing turns into the soundcheck proper.

The Villa Marina is a lovely old theatre, just a stones throw from our elaborate seaside hotel where dinner is being served on white starched tablecloths. But there’s no time for dinner today.

Out the window we can see the sea. It’s a bit grey. There is a sign of a three-legged man on a post by the road. We are in the Isle of Man. Is it part of England or is it? Where are we?

This summer festival season has been partly about the islands off the coast of the UK. First Isle of Wight, then forever sunny and deluxe Jersey where we sat beside the plage eating al fresco fruits de la mer. Now it’s Isle of Man, which seems old school charming.

We hope to go to Shetland to see the ponies some day, oh and do a gig…

When schedules get tight, food can be an issue. How to fuel and do the gig with 2 hours between for digestion?

Tim orders a starter and gets brought a rack of glazed pork ribs, enough to feed a family of 11 with chips on the side. “What am I going to do?” he says. “Have a go,” I say…

My room, and some of the crew, are on the other wing of the hotel. We approach the lifts. One is called the blue lift and one is called the green lift. Then a sign that says “LIFTS TO ROOMS WITH ‘7’ AS THE MIDDLE NUMBER.” and an arrow. Strange, but true.

My room has a “7” in the middle of its number. Situated about a mile from the tray of pork ribs. It looks out over an atrium of tropical plants like something from the Raj, all wicker and glass ceiling domed Victoriana… I was hoping to be woken by a honky-tonk piano playing gently rousing breakfast music or an evening medley of Noel Coward, but sadly it didn’t happen.

Saul’s room had a sign leading him via the “stairs to the 90s”. Saul said the signs gave up and he had to go back to reception to seek assistance.

There is a fine china spaniel on the windowsill and a Corby trouser press.

The gig went swimmingly, and later at 5am, Andy and Matt go swimming across the road in the grey waters, to celebrate life and being beside the seaside.

Rainbow Haze at 10-1

19th August 2015 | Juliet

Horses are galloping across the track as the mini bus pulls up in the drizzle. We are in Worcester at the races. It’s “James Live after Racing,” an equestrian event and a gig to follow. All for a mere £25.

When all the horses have shot past, including the riderless, we are allowed to go forth into the dressing room where Jim and Mark are having a flutter on the next race.

For a small outlay Jim manages to win a princely sum of £100, just like that.

It’s showtime. All goes well, a bottle of champers is opened and even Tim celebrates with a glass. Everyone is happy.

Jim’s daughter shows up with her pals. They are now wearing jeans and wellies but had turned up dressed properly for Ladies Day (no hats or fascinators), but had to pop back and change. None of the other ladies had bothered. Tsk. Grr.

Then it’s back to the hotel in Birmingham.

Over dinner there are discussions on politics arts and culture. It’s like The Late Show hosted by Saul.

Splendour In Nottingham

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Delamere Forest

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Folklore, Jersey

14th June 2015 | Larry

Isle of Wight Festival

13th June 2015 | Larry

Bearded Theory Festival, Catton Hall, Derbyshire

24th May 2015 | Larry

Open Air Theatre, Scarborough

22nd May 2015 | Larry