It’s Monday 2nd February, and finally I’ve got myself to sit down and write. Here I am, at the Roundswell Services Travelodge, just outside Barnstable in Devon, a location we reached after something like an hour and a half on the road after last nights show in Yeovil. It was an easy drive; it usually is at such late hours; the only notable features of the journey were twofold, first the display of mortality by way of a large number of badgers and foxes laying lifeless on the country roads; and secondly, the swirling powder-like movement of snow in the headlights as the extreme Siberian weather conditions moved over and into the entire United Kingdom. As luck will have it, I do believe that we, ‘we’ being Phil and myself, have actually engineered events, by chance, in such a way to have avoided the heavy snow that the rest of this country appears to be witnessing today; mind you, it’s still damn cold and windy out there.
Lets see … the shows so far, four in all; they have, with those inevitable moments of scratchiness, been good, and, as one would hope, have been getting better. Night number one was Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. The venue was The Roses Theatre, a fairly small venue as venues go, or, I should say - as ‘theatres’ go; I’ve played much smaller, but for bands like Steeleye and Fairport the theatres are generally larger. But as they say, size is unimportant, and The Roses has a unique character to it; it’s cosy. it feels comfortable and welcoming, and the staff usually have smiles on their faces. When I chatted briefly to Simon (Nicol) before the show, asking how he felt about the new songs in Fairport’s set he said he was suffering third night nerves, I didn’t pursue the subject, nevertheless I sort of understood. I wouldn’t pretend to know exactly what he meant, but I categorically know from my own experience that nerves are not so easily defined so as to be able to limit their description to a classic ‘first night’ scenario. No, ‘nerves’ have dynamics all of their own, they are fuelled by whatever fuels them at the time, and even though uncertainty is at it’s core, there are components that present themselves along the way, twists and turns as songs evolve, some that eliminate the uncertainty, some that feed it. From my point of view it was a good first night.
This may well relate to the ‘nerves’ issue, but for me night two was a bigger challenge; the venue - The Pheonix Arts Centre in Exeter is actually smaller than The Roses; the venue itself is a lovely and intimate space, but for the size of Fairport’s operation - that’s road crew, band, equipment, flightcases, etc, there just wasn’t very much room left for privacy back stage. I hadn’t slept well the night before and was feeling far from my best; it’s at these times when it really helps to find a quiet place where one can settle the mind before taking to the stage. Night three: The Hall for Cornwall, Truro. From one extreme to another; this place is huge, well, that’s an exaggeration maybe, but after the previous night it was huge.
Night four: The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil. Maybe a slightly more conservative audience, and a Sunday night too. It wasn’t that they didn’t show their appreciation, they just did it more quietly than Truro. Fairport sounded brilliant to my ears, obviously they’re settling into the new material nicely. I particularly enjoyed Meet on the Ledge, the point of the concert when Phil and I join the band on stage at the evenings end.
Today was our first day off, and as stated earlier, Phil and I are staying very close to Barnstable in Devon; despite the blizzard-like conditions outside we decided to take a drive to the seaside, to Westward Ho. We actually wanted to go to Clovelly, but it was closed due to the weather, and how treacherous it’s steep streets would consequently be.
We ended up on the Westward Ho sea front eating fish and chips as the snow fell. My fingers were absolutely bloody freezing, and yet I can’t quite explain the pleasure and comfort I felt at the time. It’s been a good day.