I was disappointed not to see Ashley (Hutchings) tonight. He lives just outside Chesterfield, and had contacted me about three days ago asking for a guest pass; yesterday he sent a text explaining that because of a personal matter he was going to be stuck in London for a few days.
I’ve always enjoyed playing here, but I do wish they had better dressing room facilities. All four of us (the band excluding Maddy) had but one very confined room to share, it was impossible really. I chose to utilise the green room where the food (the rider) was. Of course, people come in and out with regularity, so the trick was to get changed into and out of my stage clothes as quickly as possible.
Took a rest this afternoon. It’s very unusual for me to sleep at this time of the day for anything longer than around twenty or thirty minutes; after closing my eyes at about 3 p.m. I re-surfaced thinking I had plenty of time to spare, but figured I might as well take a look at my watch anyway - it was 4:50; the sound check was at 5 p.m. I had to start moving at a speed that was completely contrary to that which my body was prepared for.
When I’d left the hotel, walked across the bridge over the dual carriageway, and reached the vicinity of the venue there was only one thing to do - find some coffee.
In Chesterfield there is a complete lack of the kind of coffee houses found in just about any other town in the UK, I don’t know why this is the case. So I figured my best bet was to head for Marks and Spencers - it did the job.
Bass and guitar virtuoso Fred Baker turned up at the gig, a guest of Liam’s I think. They’ve worked together in Soft Machine. We ended up in the hotel bar later. My head was slightly heavy Friday morning.
Night 15. Friday 1st May. Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury.
This is a seriously impressive theatre. I believe it was opened just this February 2009, and cost a grand total of forty million pounds to build. Everything about the place is incredible; the dressing rooms, the amount of space, the acoustics - on and off stage; even the rider that they provided was nothing less than excellent.
Having said that, I wish I could say the same for my playing on the night; it was about as scratchy as the volume pot on my Strat.
I should qualify that; the guitar I play is the amalgamated result of taking a little bit of one guitar and attaching it to a bit of another one. I think of it as a Charvel, because that’s the way it started out, but now there’s only the birds-eye maple neck of the original instrument that remains. I bought the original Charvel back in the eighties when I lived in Los Angeles; I remember it cost me $225.
Before the tour I made sure all my equipment was in order; I replaced batteries, bought new cables, and sprayed the various volume and tone controls with switch cleaner … clearly a big mistake. Now when I turn the volume control on the Charvel it’s quite noisy, and I’m hoping it isn’t going to get much worse.
After tonight’s show I decided I’d be better off going to my room and taking it easy. All was well until around 2 a.m. when I was woken by the person in the room above. First it was footsteps, and then the TV. The music from the television was loud enough to stop me from falling back to sleep. I was not happy.
I got out of my bed, picked up one of my slippers and flung it at the ceiling, certain either that I hadn’t thrown it strongly enough or that I should have used a heavier object. The sound, however, took an almost instant drop in volume. ‘Great’, I thought, I can now get some sleep.
The following morning I was telling Deborah (Pete’s partner) about this person above me, and she said, “that’s funny, at breakfast this morning Liam was saying that he heard an almighty ‘bang’ at 2 a.m. - It was so loud he didn’t know whether it was coming from the floor or the ceiling”.
I talked to Liam about this later, he said he almost had a heart attack.
Night 16. Saturday 2nd May. Theatr Hafren, Newtown, Wales.
I’m very fond of this part of the world; we’re not all that far from Machynlleth, a town that Carol and I used to visit with regularity. We would stay in an old railway building (possibly once a signal box) which sat by the side of the river Dulas at Evans Bridge just four miles from Machynlleth. The house was made of the characteristic grey slate found in abundance in that region. The river, in fact, appeared not just to run along it’s side, but also partially underneath the house; consequently there was an ever present, perpetual, and somewhat hypnotic sound of rushing water. Much of the time, with one’s attention focused elsewhere, it became virtually subliminal; a background music of nature’s making. The building, set below the road, and sheltered by steep riverbank and trees, saw limited sunlight - mostly whatever came from directly above, and even then, the windows - quite small and situated only on it’s river side never allowed quite enough daylight to pass through so as to completely lift the darkness within. And yet, quite contrary to how one might suppose, this bleak and somewhat damp atmosphere was pleasant, comfortable, reassuring. I guess that’s why we kept going back.
The Dulas is a tributary of the river Dovey, a renowned water for sea trout fishing; I had a few shots at it myself, without much luck though.
Fishing was the usual aim of our Welsh excursions, and when conditions were not conducive for sea trout (which, the majority of the time was the case) our fishing took place on Talyllyn Lake close by - a lake landscaped in the most beautiful surroundings. Here, although the lake is not ‘landlocked’ and has migratory fish passing through at certain times of the year, it is inhabited mainly by stocked brown trout. And although the fish are farmed, stocked fish, they are for the most, not that easily tempted by an artificial fly.
It was a very vocal audience tonight in Newtown - probably the loudest yet on All Around My Hat. The theatre, or ‘theatr’ to be exact looked quite new. Maybe not quite as recent as last night’s though.
I desperately need to have this volume pot fixed. It’s beginning to cut out completely at times.
Night 17. Sunday 3rd May, The Palace Theatre, Newark.
The fact that it’s not only a Sunday, but a Bank Holiday Sunday, made for a quiet, deserted atmosphere out on the streets of Newark. That’s certainly the way I perceived it when Maddy and I travelled in by cab from the hotel; actually, I’d go even further in describing it as ‘dead’. Sundays such as these are both peaceful and disturbing. As a child, the seventh day of the week was possibly a bigger dread day than Monday was; everything I did on that day always took place amid the anticipation of what was about to follow the day after - school. So now, particularly when it’s sunny, I literally cannot look at a quiet setting, with shops closed and the streets half empty, and not recall a little of that sickening anxiety that always went with it.
Earlier today I experienced a different kind of anxiety - one of the most excruciatingly difficult football matches to sit through; the outcome, though - fantastic.
Preston North End were playing Queens Park Rangers. PNE needed to win in order to sand any chance at all of making the playoffs for the Premiership. We also needed either Burnley or Cardiff City to lose. Burnley won. Cardiff lost 0-1. Preston won 2-1 with a goal-line clearance as the last kick of the match to prevent a QPR equaliser.
PNE ended the season with the same number of points, and the same goal difference as Cardiff but moved above them on the strength of having scored one more goal all season. It’s slightly uncanny that we beat Cardiff 6-0 just three weeks ago.
The playoffs begin on Friday 8th May when PNE play Sheffield United at Deepdale.