Saturday, 5th March 2005 in Road Trip U.K. 2005.
Today Birkenhead – also Neil and my 39th wedding anniversary – yes you read that correctly 39!!!!!! And he’s right the first 25 years are the worst!!!! He brings me breakfast in bed after a near fight with management of hotel who were confused by the idea of taking a tray to a room even if it was a ‘special’ day. We are definately not here to relax, eat, grab a little r+r, but simply to annoy them – so that is one hotel to avoid if you are ever drawn to the Liverpool area. There is a covering of snow on the ground, but again not the settling kind but we drive carefully out onto the motorway having deposited ourselves in various places, two to carry on sleeping, one to drive, one to navigate. This time JJ puts some CDs on to while away the time. He DJs from French crooners to classical stuff to heavy rock -never sure what we will be listening to next which pretty much keeps us awake till we reach Birkenhead. It is always easy to get from town to town – the problem comes as we try to locate the gig and it takes ages to find this one. We arrive late after fruitless efforts to phone and tell them. Our agents have not yet provided one useful phone number or one good set of directions– just box office numbers. But the crew are waiting and help with all the boxes. Then one of them shows us through to the dressing rooms and asks if there is anything we would like. We say the rider would be fine and he says ‘forget the rider, what would you like’. Instantly we feel good – he brings a huge assortment of sandwiches, drinks etc. We think back to theatres where even the meagre, water beers and a bottle of wine rider has been crossed out, and the bad feelings it creates all round which eventually has to effect the audience. That sort of theatre works only for itself. In contrast, with such good feeling around, the whole experience is happy. Mike McCartney introduces Neil. The set goes very well except that Neils ovation is detuning itself. To allow him some time to retune Neil gets Tom to recite one of his poems – he has produced a small book of poetry and is about to unleash one more to an unsuspecting public. A mixed reception but Tom enjoys himself hugely. The gig ends to long sustained applause and then its down to packing and stacking. Mike McCartney stays around chatting to Tom and JJ while Neil signs CDs. Mike has always lived in Birkenhead and is a lovely bear-huggy sort of bloke- Neil and I got to know him well during the Scaffold years when he, Roger McGough and John Gorman were working around the same circuits as Neil. Later they and Neil ended up working together as Grimms with Andy Roberts and Viv Stanshall. Mike insisted on buying some CDs and stayed around at the end chatting to Tom and JJ while Neil signed CDs. Then its back to the only slightly seedy hotel on the tour – a Travelodge (motel) behind a Little Chef and a garage. But its clean, I think, and we are all too tired to care.
Neil’s thought for the day –
‘‘there are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t and I’m one of them!’