Sunday, 17 January 2010

Fri Oct 23 Wurzen ….Felt a bit rough when I woke up in Leipzig and found myself still wearing my suit in bed. I thought those days were over. Evidently not. Oh well….just another rock n roll morning. Smartly remembered to retrieve my passport from the reception safe and went to the Asian Diner. Friendly smiles greeted me. Rice and tofu got me feeling ok again. Across the way at the train station I ended up aimlessly rambling through the subterranean shopping area. A friendly looking bear sat smiling at me and I felt compelled to give the lady 10 Euro and thus rescued Teddy from shelf-life. I told him that in two days he’d be meeting Freja and his new home would be in Scandinavia.

Liquid refreshment was required, and the train station bar was the place to be as the radio pumped out an unusually good selection of songs, Them’s version of ‘Its All Over Now Baby Blue,’ old country tunes, Lizzy, Elvis.

Got on the train and arrived into Wurzen in Saxony, built on the rambling River Mulde. I met Igor and Melanie. The venue is the NDK and I’m made feel very welcome and there’s a real good vibe. Dinner, sound check, hang around, played the gig. A small crowd in, but I enjoyed it and the folks in the audience must have too, because quite a few bought CD’s. I met some good people, including the cool Rosa Martinez from Espania who took some great photos and Hempi, a local double-bass player and his pregnant wife. I’m sure we’ll meet again.

Sat Oct 24 Berlin…Igor had kindly boiled an egg for me. Also on offer, good quality bread and real black tea. What more could you want ?…A good start to any day, and a great view out the window of the apartment too over-looking the town, all ochre rooftops and towers. Grey sky trying to turn blue. Got into Leipzig hassle-free with an hour to kill. Onwards to Berlin and I keep surprising myself with my navigation skills….all the way from Berlin Haupbahnhof to Gartnerstrasse without one taxi !

Thai food was on my mind and I managed to find a place I’d eaten in before, but it was disappointing. A new chef perhaps. My stomach needed settling and finding a bar that sold cognac took three attempts. The gig was down at Artliners and was good fun with Anto and friends arriving. I got to meet Nora too, who I had a correspondence with for a while. Hung around and got into a taxi and went to the airport and got on the plane for Göteborg via the obligatory stop over in Copenhagen.

Sat Oct 31 Åmål….Samhain, festival of the dead, candles lit on the cold graves. The train ride brings thoughts of those who are no longer with us, the ones who made a difference. Bitter cold wind blowing in from Lake Vänern right across the town of Åmål. After dinner I met up with photographer Tony Berg, who is also an artist, music fan, guitar collector and all-round good guy. Chatted to Fredrik and crew, and some familiar faces and old buddies from the summer come down to say hello. A good night it was.
In the morning I found myself in a big rambling guest house where the guy on the reception desk wouldn’t accept money for my cup of tea and helped me with my bags as I got ready to leave, the hands on the great black clock read 8.25am. There are still good people in the world just in case you’d forgotten.

Sitting on the train, there I was minding my own business. I’d been awake for four hours so I thought it was acceptable to have my first drink of the day. Nothing fancy, a beer would do. The bar was on my carriage. ‘Can I have a bottle of Falcon please?’
’No’ came the reply. ‘We can’t serve alcohol until after 11.’ It was 10.50, but there’s no point in arguing or trying to cajole this guys into any sort of law bending compromise, they never see things the same way as you or I. So I sat down and read a few more pages of Guy De Maupasaunt. I’d read all his short stories before. Anne Marie Hourihan turned me on to Guy a few years back.

At exactly 11am I approached the bar once again. The barman smiled, and with an apology handed me the can of beer. ’It’s ok’ I said, ‘Your not responsible for these crazy laws.’
He was just a guy trying to hold onto his job, do things by the book, that’s the way that some people have to do it. It’s in the DNA, or maybe the truth of it lies in the bank account. Either way, my motto always is ‘live and let live.’ The time slipped away as the train slid down the track. Robert Forster songs running wild through my head, The Go Betweens, Crime And The City Solution, Bad Seeds, Fatal Shore….Oz has given us a few good bands.

Tues Dec 2 Göteborg…..Postman Pat brought me ‘Alphabet 1968’ the great LP by Black To Comm, they of the youtube video featuring the giant rabbits. While on the subject of all things black, Black Mountain’s album ‘Dog Days’ has been on a lot. Shanta has been on the phone several times, and I’ve also got about seven emails concerning tonights gig at Gamla Port. It’s a 40 minute affair, a short set in front of drunk students, and in theory it sounds very dodgy, but I timed it well, going on early before they got too messy, everything went really well, got the money and got out of dodge.

Sun Dec 6 Dublin…. Got over to Dublin on Thursday night and stayed with Les. Up early in the morning and we went to his new studio over on Lad Lane, tucked away behind an art gallery, a few installations in the yard, busy beaver artists getting ready for an opening. Al Cowan came down to play drums and we tackled two new songs. Later Les rode off into the sunset and Al, Mercedes and I went to Mario’s restaurant in Ranelagh for a late dinner washed down with red wine. Saturday afternoon we were back in the studio for overdubs with some Yankee roasting a pig on a spit outside the studio door to the horror of Les’s vegetarian lady. Later on I ended up at Horslips in the O2, their first proper gig in thirty years (with the exception of Belfast two days ago), and they were great ! Late drinks and dinner with Joe Wall in an Indian restaurant in Temple Bar. Sat on a sofa for a few hours, nodded off, got up , went to the airport and went back to Göteborg via Brussels, or was it Copenhagen ?

Thurs Dec 10 Nörrkoping…A five hour bus ride got me to my far-flung destination in the province of Östergötland in eastern Sweden situated by the mouth of the river Motala Ström, at Bråviken, an inlet of the Baltic Sea. It was dark and cold. Several hundred candles lit up one of the parks near the bus station, streets more or less deserted, old factories, wooden houses, and old part of the city of medieval aspect. I would need to see the place in daylight to get a grip on its ice cold charm.
The gig was at a venue called Munken, nice place, nice folks. The sound guy did a good job and I hung out with the DJ afterwards, then took the 5 hour bus trek back west again reaching my bed at 7am. Job done.

Wed Dec 16 Nurnberg…..Every time I play Pegnitzbühne I have a good time and tonight is not an exception. Not many people showed up, but Marcus had taken the time to learn of 4 of my songs, so during sound check we nailed a few more an he joined me on piano and organ for a good few number and it added a lot of colour to proceedings. Tentative plans are made for a tour together, possibly next year. One of the cats shared my bed while the temperature dropped way below zero.

Thurs Dec 17 Stuttgart…. Got the train in from Muggenhof to Hauptbahnhof and had a beer as I awaited my connection. The guy beside me had his apple pie smothered under a mountain of cream and he seemed real satisfied. Transient people wandered around, a girl in the corner was crying her way through an argument with an older man who might have been her father. Bar staff looked worn-out, I caught my reflection in a glass, I just looked tired. The train took us through fields of snow, trees frosted and frozen and it was a long few hours. I was reading a biography of Robert Graves and sipping on a plastic bottle of mineral water. The gig was at a place I’d never played before called Kap Tormentoso. Bar / restaurant upstairs, venue in the subterranean space. I had a drink or two with tapas and rambled through the Xmas market. Nicol phoned saying he was on the way. I went back to base and we hooked up. Always good to see Nicol and Iris too. The gig was good fun, a wild bunch of interesting characters who bought CD’s and paid compliments and a good time was had by all.

Fri Dec 18 Villingen ……Apparently Nicol spent a lot of the night puking, and at one point was about to piss onto the radiator thinking it was the toilet but Iris showed him the error of his ways. I awoke feeling not bad at all. Took some vitamins, a cup of tea and found myself over at the second hand record shop on Charlottenplatz. At the street market I drank some Glogi, the German equivalent of Glögg, a sort of hot or mulled wine, but the Swedes do it best. Later, we drove up to Villingen, collecting Iris along the way. Café Limba is now under new management, and the vibe seems a bit different that previously but its still a good gig and Nicol blows some great trumpet and we all enjoy ourselves and Hartmut is DJ for the night. I got paid and celebratory drinks were had with Franz and nobody got hurt, nobody insulted anybody else and the snow continued to fall from the heavens and it was bitter cold as we walked through the lonesome streets of Villingen.

Sat Dec 19 Freiburg….Next port of call was Egon 54 in Freiburg via some crazy old hotel with very steep steps and no life. The temperature had dropped to – 14 and there was nobody on the streets, cars crawling by at a snails pace. Some more old faces, friends to greet, tales to tell.

Sun Dec 20 Frankfurt…. Arrived early, around 9am having not had the chance to see a bed. Slept a bit on the train and missed my stop but got things sorted. Frankfurt Airport is big and slow. Everything takes forever. The weather was really bad, things weren’t looking good and my flight was cancelled. Eventually at 5,30 I boarded a plane and promptly fell asleep, only to wake up 2 hours later and we hadn’t moved an inch. After a few announcements they confirmed this flight too was now cancelled. Got off the plane feeling bad. An 11pm flight was also cancelled so I made my way to a Hotel curtsy of Lufthansa. It looked posh on the outside, but was dull and cold inside. Checked in at 2am, got up at 6 to get back to the airport

Mon Dec 21 Göteborg…… I was on stand-by for an 8,30 flight but it I didn’t get on. I needed a drink and in the company of 2 perplexed Swedish guys I downed a few beers and wondered what to do. One of the guys even bought a CD off me…..after he had played a few tracks on his lap-top. To cut a very long story short, I managed to get on a plane at 12,30 and get to my humble abode by 6pm. (Lufthansa lost my luggage too )
Xmas seemed to have arrived in my absence and feeling more than a bit shook up, I dealt with the many people who were there in my living room, in the kitchen, and all the time in the back of my mind was the thought that I would get about 3 hours sleep before I had to get a flight to Dublin, but such is life. It could be a lot different, but this is the way it is, and most of the time it suits me fine. I’m not exactly 9 to 5 material.

Tues Dec 22 Dublin….Three hours sleep, made it to Landvetter in one piece, and off we went. By lunchtime I was having a glass of red wine in Copenhagen, by early afternoon, a pint in D4 Towers Hotel, Ballsbridge Dublin. A Robert Graves biography kept my brain active for a while.

Wed Dec 23 Rockfield…. Arrived at my destination, passing through a snowy Claremorris, a town that derived its name from Maurice de Prendergast, a Norman who came to Ireland in 1169. The town itself only dates from the 1600’s. History lesson over.
And so I had made it to my eighth town/city in eight days in three countries. It was what you might call a busy few days. It would be another two weeks before I was reunited with my luggage. Such is life. I like the Buddhist type philosophy of non-attachment / non-disinterest, which works equally well in the recording studio as it does with lost items……..and people.