Wednesday, 2nd March 2005 in Road Trip U.K. 2005.
Awoke at eight not sure where, what or how but Neil had promised to sign 400 CDs for Danny Barbour and he is to meet us at the hotel before we shoot up to Scotland. So we make a kind of conveyor belt – me opening CDs, Neil signing and Danny repacking. Then to MacDonalds – we have no choice – the hotel is right beside the motorway with nothing else around. We walk out of the hotel into a flurry of snowflakes and a couple of inches of snow which have fallen overnight, hoping it isn’t the settling kind of snow which causes traffic to divert, pile-ups, frost bite etc We are pleasantly surprised when MacDonalds offer us toast but it turns out to be soft and doughy rather than almost burnt and crisp, which is the way us Brits like it. The coffee is OK so gradually we come out of the haze and we join J.J. and Tom in the van for our next few hundred miles along the motorway, which by this time is dusted with snow –happily not the settling kind. We take turns driving – about two hours each- stopping for lunch at an ‘Olde English’ type of pub with a log fire, on which the manager keeps burning plastic bottles – he says it makes the fire brighter – ho-hum.
The converted van which is our home for the month has been fully customised by J.J. It has three areas. In the back is the instrument section with space for the double bass, drum kit, Neils flight cases and all the merchandise.. In the middle is the living area, carpeted throughout – even the sides- with a large ‘showbiz’ darkened window. Two reclaimed coach seats face each other and there are little alcoves for coats, drinks, magazines, a CD player and a TV. Eat your heart out Brian Wilson. No, actually, his is a little larger…. And I think his has a bathroom – J.J. is working on it. We discovered it is better to put the suit cases between the seats, rather than in the back, so we could virtually lie down when we weren’t driving. It gets cold, so we end up wearing just about every bit of clothing we possess and then a blanket. Funny how I thought the journeys would be long and boring, so bought all sorts of books and games which are used at the start of the journey. After an hour or so we either sleep or gaze out of the window in a sort of trance until we get to the gig and then have about a minute to get ourselves together before unloading all the stuff which a few hours before we had loaded up.
It has snowed all day and is still snowing but at least it is the melting kind of snow so we will be at The Carnegie Hall, Dunfirmline a couple of hours before the gig. We pop into the hotel, with views across the Firth of Forth – not from our rooms. They were at the back – cheap rate. I remember thinking while Neil and I were driving across parts of America how incredibly beautiful it was and how come we didn’t have scenery like that in England. Now I remember we do actually and it’s called Scotland!!!! Snow -capped mountains, deep green valleys warm welcoming pubs, friendly people. The Carnegie Hall is a big council- run theatre – looks austere and unwelcoming with a high stage and uncomfortable seats. But it also has the nicest sound and lighting crews you could meet. All the drinks were already in the dressing room and the manager was just about as helpful as he could be – no mention of commission on the merchandise. Suddenly remembered we were ‘over the border’ and no longer in England.
The band finish the sound check and then run through ‘Charlie Big Potatoes’ a couple of times just to see if Tom and J.J. can remember all the conversational bits, but decide they need a bit more practise. Then an hour to wait before the show. Neil sits in a corner with his notepad in his lap and his eyes closed. The show goes well –the only glitch being Neil’s ovation which has a tendency to detune itself. Tom performs a couple of his poems – he has written a small book of verse – during the few minutes it takes to retune. About 190 people have turned up all smiling and enthusiastic and again wanting the new CD plus Recollections 1,2 + 3. Also buying the T-shirts, mainly black, which is apparently the most popular ‘colour’. The manager sits right through the whole show just popping out now and then to check things. Neil signs CDs for about an hour this time and the crew show no signs of impatience. Then back to hotel around 12am watching the lights twinkling across the water. We expect the hotel to be in darkness and dry but we are in luck. There is a late party going on so we can order drinks and even sandwiches. We are all overtired so we stay far too long finally falling into bed around 3am.
Neil’s thought for the day
‘we all have the right to pursue happiness but what’s the point when it goes faster than we do’