In the morning Neil and I had breakfast with Bob Carruthers – who was responsible for the first Bonzo revival and for the next 10 or so shows in November – all over UK. Another beautiful day – they only come in twos over here so we learn to enjoy them hugely. This is why english travelers have huge cases – they learn to be ready for anything. Sun, hail, light drizzle or snow on consecutive days or even the same day. But today definitely starts 3 off as a shorts and tee shirt kind of day. The drive to Wimborne was uneventful until our sat nav system brought us into a small bungalow’ed culde- sac where we were watched closely by homeowners ready to defend themselves against attack. The van is very big and very blue and Neil can look quite ferocious when he hasn’t shaved. We had definitely not ‘reached our destination’. So we hightailed out of this potential confrontation with no clue where to go. This is the problem with sat nav. If it goes wrong you are left somewhere you would never have been if you had not used it in the first place. It began to rain – a light drizzle followed by a torrential downpour. Thought of Barney and Max. Barney (youngest son) had offered to meet us at the airport and drive the van back to Suffolk- so he and son (Max) spent the day in London doing father and son kind of things – Natural History and Science Museums – rides on trains, tubes, buses etc finally fetching up at a very smart airport hotel where we were to meet them. We had assumed that because the gig was in Dorset that we would have to go without sleep in order to check in by 6am, but we had a happy surprise in that as JJ turned off the motorway to get gas, Neil realised how close we then were to both the gig and the airport, so instead of driving through the night we could actually check in at a hotel and have a couple of hours kip before the gig and a few after it, before the flight. Anyway we followed the signs and asked a few locals and finally made it to the Tivoli Theatre about an hour late for the soundcheck. But the crew were all sweetness and light – having coffee already brewing, sandwiches etc. No rush – the soundcheck was efficient and unproblematic. The Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne is one of those old English theatres manned almost entirely by volunteers who love the place. No grants of any kind, just relying on donations and any fundraising they can manage. They had raised enough money to restore this once derelict theatre, even getting seat colourings copied exactly.
Couldn’t get a decent photo but you can still get an idea of the effort that has gone in to it.The audience were warm and responsive especially this small group who had traveled up from Cornwall to see Neil. They had Neil, song lyrics written all over their tee-shirts and they were just the most lovely people.
Later we spoke to Charlie North Lewis, the manager at The Tivoli, who had actually run the actual theatre we are actually going to in Toronto, years ago.……..
Then back to the hotel and a quick last minute sort out of things to take and things to leave, and bed, having set alarms everywhere – mobile phones, backed up by TV alarm, backed up by the night porter if all else failed. Everything went off at 4.15 followed by a knock at the door so we were all up and ready to go at 5am. JJ drove us to Heathrow and we checked 13 bags including instrument cases – an enormous amount of gear giving us a £300 excess. Then Neil and I drove the van to Barney’s hotel to find them waiting outside, Max waving madly. They had had a brilliant time only slightly marred by the cost of the meal the two of them had had the night before, plus a mars bar and a coke, giving them a £90 bill after paying for the rooms. The rooms were cheap but airport hotels get you on absolutely everything else. Barney drove us back to the airport and we sat down at last for a very large coffee. Only one little cloud on the horizon. Just before we left had an email from the Canadian promoter, Mark Morrow, to say he might not be able to meet us at the airport and giving us the name of our hotel and directions to it. He is supposed to be supplying the vehicle with which we will accomplish that. So emailed back to ask where we would find said vehicle and then had to leave before the reply came through. So sitting here in the plane – not sure what will happen when we land – can’t connect with internet up here either. The steward said they still had gas lighting on the plane, it was so old. Think he was joking. Funny that all media for the tour were contacted at least one month ago, with a tour itinery so they could see when we were contactable . Many did their interviews then but quite a few left replying for interviews till the day we were leaving – even asking us to change our flights so we could do the odd radio interview on our way to Canada. They have no idea!!!!. All feeling sleepy but adrenaline still surging around so perhaps will have to wait for nod- off time. Arrived In Newark at 11 am – an easy flight except for the coming down bit during which I thought might see my breakfast once more. Then the long snaking queue to get through passport control at Newark, finding 13 pieces of luggage and the way to Terminal C aided and abetted by a very nice porter to whom we gave a huge tip. Then Canadian customs – the check in girl immediately saying what we didn’t want to hear – that we needed visas to come into Canada. We had gone into this in England and had been told that you only needed visas if you were playing in pub,s not concert halls. We thought that was odd but we had letters to prove it, so she quickly capitulated and we waited for the next thing. We were allowed to take a huge amount of handbaggage so I was surprised to see a very small plane – just 3 seats wide – all the large bits of handbaggage were put into the hold. I was still feeling slightly ill from the descent into Newark – didn’t feel much better after take off. Landed in Ottawa and straight into the longest snake queue I have ever seen. Took an hour to get from one end to the other – could see the baggage piling up on the carousel. We got through that easily enough and once again loaded up four trollies with the instruments, and thought we were home and dry. Was not to be. Suddenly we were told we needed a carnet and to get one we had to apply in writing etc etc. The guy was shooting a lot of questions at us and we really felt he would stop us because of this carnet. Luckily his superior turned up and said all Ok – better to get a carnet anyway but we could go through today. Felt like hugging him but might have made things worse. So out into the Canadian sunshine to meet Mark – patiently waiting. Next trial was at Thrifty Car Hire. The designated mini-van looked far too small for all our luggage.
But one of the employees refused to be beaten and almost single handedly loaded the instrument cases into the van, with Mark taking a few of the suitcases. And then we were in the hotel having been traveling for 16 hours. Had a meal with Mark and then slunk into bed to toss and turn for a few hours making tea and wondering whether we were awake or sleepwalking.