Monday, 30 November 2009

Lores Of Relativity

Monday 26th,
Tuesday 27th, October.
Picton to Dunedin.

On arrival at Picton, and after a little confusion as to the exact rendezvous point, we eventually located our campervan. 

An extremely likeable chap called Brian–who not only looked just like my Father, but also seemed to have his demeanour–showed us where everything was and how to refill the water / gas tanks; how to dispose of things / hook up to electricity supplies, etc.

‘Maybe everyone, well, every male, down here looks like my Dad?’, I thought to myself; ‘maybe it was something to do with the Scottish descent?’.
A lot of cash changed hands. I was a little unclear about this part. I’d taken care of the deposit before leaving England, and though I knew the balance would need to be paid on our arrival here I felt certain that there would be a means of paying with a credit card; I was wrong, and it was just as well I’d received cash in hand for the work I’d done thus far.

So this was it, after all these years I was finally on New Zealand’s South Island. And from all that I’d been told, I was in a ‘holding pattern’, a state of suspended anticipation; and I wondered when my jaw would start dropping.
There was little need for a GPS, all we had to do was find Highway one, and keep going until Dunedin gets in our way. Our plan is to stop about halfway between Picton and Christchurch, and tomorrow about the same between Christchurch and Dunedin.

It’s very difficult to write on a regular basis, let alone write at all when constantly on-the-move and travelling as I have been these last two weeks. Much of what’s been written has been done so well after the event, and I’ve struggled to recall many of the small backwaters we passed through or stayed at as we journeyed south along the east coast.

It’s almost not even worth saying - because we all know it; I already knew it; but you don’t ‘really’ know it until you’re there seeing it for yourself; but the scenery is actually remarkable. As my Cousin, Nicola stated to me later: ‘if the sun is out, it’s difficult to take a bad picture’.
Here are a few more pictures taken on our first two days here. . .

Wednesday 28th October. Solo. Celtic Music Arts Festival, the Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin.

I’ve dreamt of this day ever since I sent my first tentative email enquiry to NZ. I knew I’d probably get the odd gig, but didn’t think it would go much further.

The prospect of playing in Dunedin was something I had a feeling about that I’ve tried often to articulate without much success. 
I don’t get overly sentimental or precious about matters of heritage and ancestry. If I’m to be completely honest, I’ve looked toward some of my relations here in England with a somewhat conditional view; it’s a view that was coloured very much by the difficulties I had growing up. Some of the rubbish that was said to me as a kid was nothing short of brainless; and whether it was a school teacher, an Auntie or an Uncle, it gave the phrase, ‘you can’t chose your relations’, significant meaning.

I know that it’s not necessarily the smartest thing to go through life viewing things on the basis of what your impressions were as a seven year old, and I’m not sure that’s even what I’m doing. I just like the idea of relating to one-another as people rather than swearing some blind allegiance on the basis of bloodline.
But of course, if you’re interested in the lives of others, you do also become interested in your ancestry, and interested in your relations - as people.

Marcel Safier is someone I met for the second time when I was in Australia a few weeks ago. Marcel’s a doctor who lives in Brisbane, and as well as being pretty handy with a camera (see his pictures: Courting With Kangaroos. Saturday 3rd Oct, The Tivoli, Brisbane), he’s very much into the subject of genealogy. I told him a little about my family on my Father’s side, and within a couple of days I received two family trees, and this, a picture of a newspaper cutting from the Otago Witness, dated 6th March 1890.

This was my Great, Great Grandfather, the original Nicol who spent not much short of four months at sea, taking his wife and eight children with him to start a new life here in New Edinburgh.

On ‘my’ arrival in Dunedin I phoned Cousin, Nicola, for the directions to her house. For the next three nights we’ll be lodging with her and husband Alan; not forgetting their trio of children: Hannah, Kate and Amy.

They have a lovely house overlooking the fifth hole of the Balmacewen golf course - purported to be the oldest course in the southern hemisphere. Speaking of which, we have a tee-off time tomorrow afternoon.

But back to the show. It’s at the Otago Settlers Museum, a building dedicated to all of those, like David Nicol, who took the fateful decision to board one of those primitive sailing vessels of the nineteenth century.
This is ‘the’ place to not only learn about these early settlers, but also to carry out research into your family history; as they put it, they have 'an extensive collection which includes manuscripts, photographs, newspapers, directories, cemetery records, church registers, and diaries'.

So from my own point of view it seemed the perfect place to play.
I kept thinking, ‘I bet my Dad came here as a young man’. As I stood on stage I looked out and imagined him in that same room - oblivious to the day I would be standing there myself, performing to these people. It’s surprising I could remember the lyrics.
Actually, when I got to the encore, ‘If Ever I Return This Way’ I couldn’t remember some of the lyrics, but that was more because it had been so long since I’d last played it - not very professional, I know; but I just thought the sentiment was fitting.

The agreed fee for the concert wasn’t particularly high, but I was so pleased to play here that it was the least of my concerns. Based on what else was happening in the city tonight, the organiser had anticipated a small audience; we were, however, more than pleasantly surprised; it was sold out, and the fee was doubled.

The evening concluded with food and wine in the company of family and friends of family. A truly magical night.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Gumboots At Wellyfest

Tuesday 20th October. Turangi and Lake Taupo.

Hot mud pools at Turangi

Lake Taupo

Wednesday 21st October. The Paramount, Wellington.

Arrived at Musichaven - a bed & breakfast run by Ruth Birnie and Gerard Hudson - at about 4 p.m.. The arrangement here is that we’ll be staying for the next four nights; Acoustic Routes, the organisation who are staging today’s show are covering the first night of accommodation, and tomorrow’s I’ll be paying for.
For the next three nights, however, we’ve struck a deal; Carol and I house-sit, feeding the cats, etc. while Ruth and Gerard stay at the Wellington Folk Festival, and we get to stay here free of charge. 
I think it’s very generous of them; it feels good to be in a house, in one location for a while. And it gives me a chance to catch up on laundry.

Ken at the Paramount

Pictures: Gerard Hudson

Acoustic Routes is headed by Mary Livingston, a woman of considerable energy and organisational skills. I have been nothing less than humbled by the help she’s extended to me, not just in relation to tonight’s concert, but towards my entire NZ excursion. She advised on places to visit, helped get me booked at the weekend’s folk festival, arranged for the above accommodation, and even on how best to get my CDs to New Zealand without incurring a fortune in postage and excess baggage costs.

The Paramount is a good venue - a cinema, but with an artsy, café-like feel to it. Opening tonight was duo: Rob Joass and Jo Moir.
The audience size was respectable, though a little down on what we’d hoped for, but never-the-less, I enjoyed the evening enormously.

Thursday 22nd October. Solo. The Mayfair Cafe, Upper Hutt.

This was the most recently arranged of shows here. I received an email from Paul Lambert, someone who works for the Upper Hutt City Council, on the 27th September asking if I could fit an extra date into the schedule.
The only problem I had with this was the issue of whether it would have an adverse effect on audience numbers at the other shows close by. There was no way of knowing really, but I was concerned after Mary had told me what a small-knit music-going community it was in the Wellington area.

It took a fair degree of deliberation on my part, and a few phone calls to make sure I wasn’t doing the wrong thing and stepping on any-ones toes, before saying yes to Paul.

This afternoon, 4-ish, I met with producer Sean McKenna and presenter Chris Whitta at Radio New Zealand to record a half hour interview. Chris certainly seemed to have does his research; I was impressed with the questions he asked. Obviously, because of the internet, it’s much easier these days to get background information on just about anyone, but still, he came across as having done a more thorough job than most.

As well as talk about the usual - music-related - subjects, a big area of discussion related to the New Zealand family origins on my Father’s side, and I mentioned I had many cousins, half-cousins, etc, over there. 

We didn’t just talk; I played / sang three pieces: Midsummer Night Dreams, 2 Frets From The Blues, and the instrumental I.H..

The show goes out this coming Labour Day Monday. I should mention that the radio slot was yet again something Mary Livingston had organised for me; I wonder if she’d like to go into management?

Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th October. The Wellington Folk Festival, Wainuiomata.

I’d been booked to perform two sets here this weekend, the first on the Saturday morning, and then again on the Sunday evening in the final concert - both in the main marquee.

That was the plan. However, when I arrived there was a problem, the power had failed earlier that morning, and in the meantime nothing was happening in the main marquee.

Everyone did seem very confident that the power company would rectify the situation by the time I was due to take to the stage at 12:45, but should the problem not be sorted, I was to play in the Maire Hall at 1:30 - and that’s where I ended up playing - totally unplugged.

I was a little unnerved by the prospect of doing an acoustic set, but there was actually something that felt very good about it once I got going.
The crowd was great; there was a good feel to the session. 

Probably within a couple of hours, maybe less, the fuse had been fixed - yes, that’s what it was - a fuse. Must’ve been a bloody big one!; I understand that all of the houses beyond a certain point in the valley where the festival was held had been effected. 
Power or no power, this was the beginning of a memorable weekend.

We’d been warned by more than one person to bring gumboots with us. The weather here is notoriously unpredictable, and the need for footwear that will equip for the rain and mud, which is by all accounts oft encountered, has certainly not been understated. 

The term ‘Gumboots’ is, here in New Zealand the terminology used for such foot protection; they are, of course, what we in the UK class as ‘wellingtons’, a noun that most, if not all over here are fully aware of. So, although I’ve not had this totally clarified, when they talk about 'Wellyfest' I get a strong impression that the inference is twofold.

Tim O'Brien / Two Oceans

Photagraphy: Gerard Hudson

I made sure I caught some of the headline act: Tim O’Brien and Two Oceans Trio. Well, that’s a bit misleading and implies there’re four in total. He is one of the trio, so perhaps I should call it: The Tim O’Brien Two Oceans Trio, or just - The Two Oceans Trio?. Either way, I loved it. Very tight. Brilliant musicianship all round; knocked out with the mandolin playing. 
As well as Tim, there’s Gerry Paul on guitar, and Trevor Hutchison on bass.

Sunday, and the final concert. I felt I wasn’t at my best, but I have to say it appeared to go well - certainly if the line of those interested in my CDs was anything to go by. 

I met some lovely and interesting people here this weekend. Our five days in the Wellington area is a time I’ll never forget.
Tomorrow we drop the car off, and hop onto the ferry that will take us to the South Island.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The North Island

The Auckland Sky Tower at night.

Tuesday 13th October. Travel to New Zealand. 
Travel: Flight Q.F. 762 / Flight Q.F. 131

Depart Perth: 8:10 a.m.
Arrive Melbourne: 2:35 p.m.

Depart Melbourne: 4:10 p.m.

Arrive Auckland: 9:40 p.m.

An important day for me. I’ve only ever spent one day in New Zealand before today, and that was last time Steeleye toured Australia - the last anniversary tour (35th). We flew to Auckland, played the concert, and flew back to Australia. Ironic really, considering I’ve held a NZ passport for over ten years now.

I acquired the passport on the strength of my late Father been born and having grown up in Dunedin on the South Island, a subject I wrote about in some detail when I was in Scotland back in March (see: The Circle Game).

The plan here, once having arrived at Auckland, is to head for the Quadrant Hotel where I’ll see Carol for the first time in almost a month. 
Tomorrow I pick up the hire car from the Omega office, which I gather is just around the corner from the hotel. We’ll spend the next two days in the Auckland area before heading off to the various folk clubs and arts centres where I’m performing.

Albert Park

Wednesday 14th & Thursday 15th October. Auckland.

I Love the place; it just doesn’t have the same hurried and crowded feel that one might expect in a major city. The population of 1.4 million here is almost four times that of New Zealand’s capital Wellington. And incredible really when you think that in the rest of the county there’s only just over another 2.5 million people.

A lot of time was spent just walking, drinking flat whites*, walking, eating, drinking more flat whites, walking and eating.
We found a South Indian restaurant which was pretty good.
And I bought a ukulele at the Rock Shop, a place I visited on a previous visit here. 

My last visit to the Rock Shop back in 2004 was quite eventful. I got chatting to the guy who was serving me, maybe he was the owner? - I can’t recall. I told him why I was there and who I played with, and then he said he’d show me something. I was full of curiosity as I followed him upstairs to a locked room. He unlocked the door, and ushered me in. You wouldn’t believe it! - I know I couldn’t; before me was the greatest collection of Beatles memorabilia I’d ever laid my eyes on - Ludwig drum kits, Hofner Violin basses, Gretsch and Rickenbacker guitars, Reslo microphones, Beatle suits, sheet music, LPs, 45s, pictures & posters; a stockpile that must be worth, well, many thousands.

I’d told Carol all about this, and so I figured that when I went for the uke I’d once again have a friendly talk to sales assistant, and she, Carol, would be able to see it for herself. 
This time the chap who served me was pretty young; he didn’t seem very interested at all in conversation, only interested in selling a ukulele to me. I told him how I’d been escorted up to this room, and he said, “you must’ve caught the boss in a good mood. I’ve been working here three years, and I only got to see it last week. Now would you like a receipt sir?”. 

And that was it.

Friday 16th October. Solo concert. Katikati Folk Club.
We started our journey at midday. It was good to get out into the country side, away from the city, and to see some of the much anticipated scenery. With a brief stop
at Waihi Beach - about fifteen minutes from our destination - it took more-or-less the expected three hours to reach Katikati.

The club is held once a month at the Katikati bowling club. The people - organisers and audience alike - were brilliant, it was good way to start my mini tour of NZ.

Ken at Waihi Beach

The sound man didn’t seem all that guitar-friendly though, I’d have to say. As I played I struggled to hear the guitar against the voice, but figured it just had something to do with the acoustics of the room. Then, when more than one audience member started to say, ‘the guitar’s not loud enough’, I knew that it wasn’t just me.
He did seem a little reluctant to push that fader up on the desk - a bit of a handicap for someone like me who depends so much on having my guitar work heard loud and clear.

This has often been a problem for me, something I’ve encountered many times with even some of the most experienced sound engineers. I believe a great many of them have a stereotype view of how a guitarist / singer should sound - the voice out front and the guitar well behind. Classically speaking, I suppose that’s what we all became accustomed to with the likes of Dylan and Paul Simon and all the other singer songwriters heard over the years. With these guys the words and the voice were always more important than the guitar playing.

There is only one way to absolutely guarantee that you are heard in the way you want to be heard - the way that expresses what ‘you’ do, and not what others might have done, and that’s to have your own man on the desk, someone who understands exactly what you do, what you’re about and what you want; this is fool-proof, and, of course, expensive.

There are other ways that will get you close, like having a long enough guitar cable to go out, for at least some distance from the stage, and hear it for yourself. This is something you’d do, of course, during the sound check. Potentially, this approach fails in a couple of ways; it fails to allow for the changes that occur to the acoustics of a room when the audience arrives; also, once back on stage, the power again falls into the hands of whoever has them on the faders.

Again, the mantra comes to mind: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change . . .

We stayed over with John and Di Logan, and were made to feel very welcome. John, as with many of the people actively involved in the folk music scene over here are UK ex-pats, and all have their own fascinating stories to tell of how not only how they ended up in New Zealand in the first place, but also about the emotional, and even physical ‘to-and-froing’ before eventually settling down here for good.

Saturday 17th October. Solo. Onewhero.

Set off on our drive from Katikati after a walk along the Uretara river with John and Di, and getting caught out by a deluge of rain in the process.

It took us about two hours to reach Onewhero (pronounced: On-e-fairo), on the way driving through the spectacular Karangahake Gorge.

This is the second day of travelling here in NZ, and I cannot explain how completely fantastic the scenery is. And judging by what I’ve been told, I ain’t seen nothing yet!

The show itself is in the OSPA Theatre. It’s hard to fathom; it looks like the middle of nowhere, and they’ve not just built a theatre there, they manage to keep it going. 
The day I arrived was the final day of an arts festival in which they were exhibiting, and selling the works of local artists. 
Non of the above would be happening was it not for the dedication of Richard Gemmell - a sheep farmer, and a great lover of the arts.
Carol and I stayed with Richard and wife, Jan on their farm; it had a great feel to it. Again, it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere, a feeling one is inclined to get often here in New Zealand.

The show went well, but again there were PA issues. They’d not long had a new public address system installed, and no one appeared to know just how it needed to be set up and what outputs should be connected to what inputs, etc.
I helped out as much as I could until we got some level of functionality from it. I actually thought we’d got it all figured out, but discovered at the evening’s end that everyone had been hearing me in mono through only the centre speakers; the two outer ones, both left and right, had been left unplugged.

Sunday 18th October.

Spent much of today taking it easy at the Gemmell household before Carol and I made our way back up towards Auckland and on to Devonport where we booked into the Esplanade Hotel on the waters front - not too far from tomorrow’s venue.

It just so happened that Richard and Jan had planned to see a movie that evening at Northcote, very close to Devonport, so we rendezvoused later that day, and watched the German film: The North Face; it was absolutely chilling and gripping; sorry, I couldn’t think of two adjectives that didn’t sound like puns.

Monday 19th October. Solo. The Bunker Folk Club, Devonport, Auckland.

The early part of the day was spent sight-seeing as we took a drive further north to Snells Beach.

Roger Giles has been running the Devonport folk club for the last forty years, and both he and his club are about as characterful, colourful and notorious as you can get. 
We arrived at the house he shares with partner Hilary at around 4 p.m. ate dinner before making our way up the hill to The Bunker, and that’s actually what it is - a bunker - a property with some historic importance that actually belongs to the city of Auckland.

It has been rented out to Roger for a song (for the last forty years), solely to accommodate the folk club which is held each fortnight.
This place; this club - it’s an institution. It’s unique. The club was packed, and the crowd was up-for-it from note one.

Then, after my first number a head came round the door. The owner of the head, in an announcement that carried much volume, informed everyone that the fire brigade were conducting an exercise outside, and because one or two audience members had left their cars parked in a manner best described as … well, ‘not very clever’ the fire engines couldn’t get through the very narrow road which winds it way up the hill.

I’d only just begun, and my audience were deserting me in numbers. But it was OK, it contributed even more to the feel, the content, the eventfulness of that night. And anyway, I felt sort of honoured to be the very first guest at The Bunker - in its forty year history - to have their set halted by a fire fighting exercise.

*Flat white: a coffee beverage prepared by pouring the creamy steamed milk from the bottom of the jug over a single shot (30ml) of espresso, it is most commonly found in New Zealand and Australia.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Agro In The Antipodes

Monday 12th October. Guitar workshop (afternoon), Solo concert (evening) The Midland Arts Centre, City of Swan, Perth.
Making the switch from the lead guitarist in a band to performing solo takes a good deal of mental preparation for me; I have to think my way into it - that, and do a regular amount of practice for a week or two before. The two roles are different. Much of what I play on acoustic guitar is not only fairly complex, but there are figures, moves, sequences, that the fingers have to get accustomed to and reacquainted with. 
I’ve made time to rehearse during my time in America and here also in Australia.

Another requirement is energy, so rest and relaxation is fundamental here; talking of which, I was probably the first to retire to my room from the previous night’s end of tour gathering. 
I knew I had to keep the energy level up for the events of this next day, however, I wasn’t at all ready for the events that were about to precede it all.

It was maybe 4:30 a.m. - maybe a little later when I first woke. I was aware that Carol would be heading for the antipodes as I was sleeping; the plan being that on Tuesday I fly to New Zealand, and we’d meet up in Auckland.

I awoke early, as is pretty usual; I checked my phone for messages. Carol had sent one text that read, ‘Just arrived at Sydney. Boy, these customs officials are so rude and unpleasant here!’. I thought little of it - I mean, the officials at airports are often a bit unpleasant, and unfortunately it’s one of those things one comes, at least to some extent, to accept. 
I turned the phone off, and then tried for a little more sleep. My efforts were unsuccessful though, so at about 6 a.m. I turned the phone back on. There was another message, ‘Ken, please phone me now, it’s urgent’.
Also, I noticed a voicemail message had been left, it was a desperate sounding Carol. “Ken, call me, please. They’re threatening to send me back”!

Christ! I phoned immediately. She answered. “What’s happening”, I asked. “I was waiting to board the plane to Auckland”, she told me, “and they just came and took me from the gate. They need to see evidence of my flight back from New Zealand to Australia. Ken, you have the ticket for both of us; what’s the flight number? Quick Ken, please, I don’t have much time!”.

I had so many tickets in my case and in my shoulder bag. Schedules, tickets to America, Australia, New Zealand, back to the UK; and at 6 in the morning I was trying to make sense of all these documents, documents with rows and rows of times and numbers and dates and airports. “Hurry, Ken, hurry”, she shouted.

The pressure I felt caused all of this information to make no sense at all, it was just sheets of paper before my eyes with nothing more than shapes on them. I was skimming over the same things again and again; nothing connected. “Ken, I’m running out of time”! I heard her say somewhat faintly - my phone lodged and gradually slipping away from between my head and shoulder.

Then I found it; flight 5050 from Dunedin to Christchurch, and on to Sydney. “Carol, I’ve got it”. “It’s too late, Ken!”. “No, listen”, I shouted back. “It’s flight 50 …”. The phone went dead.

I tried repeatedly to call her back but there was no answer. I left the ticket details on her voicemail.

Now, here I was, sat on the edge of a bed, in Perth, Australia, with a fair amount of adrenaline in my system and a plane ticket in my hand, and given the day I had in store, there was very serious need to weigh up my choices. I’d had a total of less than four hours rest, and there was no way I’d successfully negotiate my way through these next eighteen hours or so without more sleep.

A pragmatic approach was needed. My options were: I could worry about Carol, and fear the worse - that they’d send her back to the UK. 

I could accept there were some things, circumstances, that in my present position I had absolutely no control over, and that no degree of worry and anxiety would have a jot of influence over the outcome of these events.
I could also choose to trust that the outcome would, in one way or another, take care of itself in a positive way.

Choosing the latter options, I took half a zopiclone pill and grabbed the precious three hours I needed.

We spoke later in the morning; she’d been allowed to travel to Auckland, but only after having to buy a ticket from NZ to Sydney; a ticket she had absolutely no need for.

Here is the deal. When the immigration official looked at Carol’s ticket they could see she was booked from Manchester to London, then on to Sydney with a connection to Auckland. Then there was a gap; that was the ticket I had in my possession with both of our names on it from NZ back to Sydney. However, they could clearly see she was booked from Sydney back to London on November 7th.
Now why in God’s name would they suspect that she would stay in New Zealand illegally when she had that flight booked back from Aussie to London?

Not only that; why were they so incredibly unpleasant; well, from how she describe the whole affair to me they were nothing short of rude and disrespectful.
They had her in tears at one point. What’s that all about, really? Are they trained to treat people like that? Is it all to do with effectively achieving required outcomes, or is it an arbitrary approach carried out by only certain officials because they have the power to do that - because they can?
I would dearly like to know, and I do intend to try and find out.

The main thing of course was that she was safely in New Zealand. And the day got better from there on.

I enjoyed the workshop even though ‘attendance-wise’ it was thin on the ground, but it was a Monday afternoon after all, most people were at work.

And the gig in the evening? The Midland Arts Centre was a perfect sized venue, and the staff extremely helpful.

Richard James was there (Australian tour organiser), also Richard Collins who promoted the previous night’s show came along, and even Maddy turned up.

I loved the night - had a fantastic time. It was just great to be playing solo again, and to know that everything was neatly in place - at least temporarily.

A huge thank you has to be given to John McNair for giving me the opportunity to play over here. He organised both the workshop and the evening concert. 
John is a highly creative and intriguing individual; a man with some great ideas. He has his own podcast at: The John McNair Show.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Courting With Kangaroos

Darling Harbour, Sydney.

Wednesday 30th September. The Event Centre - Southern Cross Club, Canberra.

Travel: Flight QF1477 (Terminal 3)
Depart Sydney: 11.55 a.m. Arrive Canberra: 12.45 a.m.
Accommodation: Rydges Hotel, 1 London Circuit, Canberra.

I guess it’s natural to think of Sydney as the capital here, when in fact it’s the relative
ly new and purpose built Canberra, which has been Australia’s capital since just 1927; the previous distinction was held by Melbourne.

This is where all of Australia’s major political policies are shaped, and, as you might expect in a capital, where the houses of parliament stand. 
It has all th
e looks of a recent city - square, wide, lots of concrete. Reminds me a bit of Milton Keynes.

The Parliament building, Canberra.

Since our arrival in Sydney on Monday we’ve had two–more-or-less–days off. The band did have to play live on an A.B.C. radio show on Tuesday, but we kept it simple - singing one song with only a strummed fiddle as accompaniment, called Ranzo. 

So we’ve had a chance to both recover and adjust to the time difference; believe me, it takes more than two days though. Presently, I’m nine hours ahead of UK time, and fifteen hours ahead of Chicago where we last played.
On our travels here from Chicago via San Francisco, we departed on Saturday, crossed the international date line and arrived in Australia on Monday. Sunday has been lost forever.

You do meet some very nice people on the road, and today was no exception; we were well looked after. The evening went well; it was a good way to kick-off this Australian leg of our tour.

Thursday 1st October. Day off in Canberra.

This is definitely the way to do it - one show and then a day off.

I had a plan. Following my golf shoe drama at the airport, I figured they should be put to use, so I made a few phone calls in the morning. I called three courses before finding one that we could play.
Can’t remember all the names, but the first place - the recommended course - had a tournament going on all day, so that was out. 

The second was the Royal Canberra Club; the pro explained that a letter of introduction was needed from ones own golf club in order to be allowed anywhere near the place.
I appealed to him, “But we’re on tour; we’re from England; we’re only here for a day - and I’ve brought my golf shoes!”. “I’ll put you through to administration, they might waive the rule for you”. 
“Hello, club administration here, can I help you?”. “I just spoke to the pro”, I said, “and he explained that I have to have a letter from my doctor, mother, golf club, whoever, in order to play on your course”. “Yes - your club, that’s correct”, she replied. “But we’re on tour; we’re from England”, I said. “Sorry it’s a club rule”, she responded. “But we’re only here for a day” … “I’m afraid I can’t change the club rules, Sir” …“But I’ve even brought my golf shoes!”.

Time to ring a third golf club … ‘I need a place that’ll accept any Tom, Dick or Steeleye Span member’ I thought to myself.
We ended up being accepted at the Golden Creek Country Club, and I felt uncomfortable by how ready the pro was to let us play there. In fact I almost declined on the basis that we’d been accepted.

Pete (Knight) and I were driven to the course by tour manager Richard, and on arrival we hired two sets of clubs, a buggy; bought tees, balls, pitch mark repairers and two hats. Now, we may both have been considerably poorer, but we had the joy of eighteen holes of golf ahead of us - and in glorious sunshine.

Matchplay. A dollar on the front nine; a dollar on the back nine; a dollar on the eighteen. Pete won the front nine by a hole, before I rallied - taking the back nine and the eighteen.

The highlight of the game was just as we turned to walk from the 16th green to the 17th tee. As I looked ahead, about thirty to forty yards beyond the tee I saw a group of kangaroos, maybe twenty or thirty of them; mothers, offspring, just lying around in the sun. 
I’ve since found out that the correct description for such a gathering is ‘mob’.
I have, in the past whilst playing golf in one part of the world or another, encountered all manner of wildlife - even coyotes and the occasional rattle snake, but never until today have I seen a mob of kangaroos.

I was very disappointed not to have my camera with me, but did take a few shots with my mobile phone.

I heard that in the tour bus Brian looked out through the window toward a field of cows, and he made some remark about how they were all trying hard to look like kangaroos.
Pete Zorn quickly retorted, “oh, they’re just wannabes".

Friday 2nd October. Seymour Centre, Sydney.

Travel: Flight Q.F. 1472

Depart Canberra: 11:25
Arrive Sydney 12:10

Accommodation: Southern Cross Suites, Darling Harbour.

The night when everything came together. The onstage sound; the way everyone in the band played; the audience response; it all seemed to fall into place. The type of evening that we’ll measure all other nights on the tour against.

Pete Zorn

Steeleye Span in Brisbane

Pictures: Marcel Safier

Saturday 3rd October. The Tivoli, Brisbane.
Travel: Flight Q.F. 524
Depart Sydney: 12:05 p.m. Arrive Brisbane 1:35 p.m.

Accommodation: Rydges Hotel, Glenelg St, South Brisbane.

Sunday 4th October. Lismore City Hall.

Travel: Depart: 10 a.m. - tour bus from Brisbane to Byron Bay.

Accommodation: Friday on the Beach, Lawson St, Byron Bay.

Monday 5th October. No concert.

Day off in Byron Bay.

An absolutely ideal place for a day off. Byron Bay is were the young hang out. It’s where the backpackers and surfers alike make a beeline for.
It’s laid-back and fun. 
And what’s more fun than doing laundry! Yes, I found a coin-op. It was $5.00 for a cold wash, $6.00 for a warm or hot wash.
The tumble dryers offered six minutes of tumble drying for the price of a dollar. 
This is what’s called ‘cutting edge’ blogging.

Byron Bay

Tuesday 6th October. Fly to Sydney.

Travel: Flight D.J. 520 (Virgin Airlines)

Depart Gold Coast airport: 12:05 a.m. Arrive Sydney 2:35 p.m.

Accommodation: Southern Cross Suites, Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour

Wednesday 7th October. I.P.A.C. Wollongong.

Travel: Tour bus to Wollongong.

Depart: 3 p.m. Arrive at venue 4:15 p.m.

Accommodation: Southern Cross Suites, Darling Harbour.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Thursday 8th October. Balmain Town Hall, Sydney.

Travel: Tour bus to venue.

Depart: 4:30 p.m. Arrive: 4:45 p.m.

Accommodation: Southern Cross Suites, Darling Harbour.

Sydney Opera House

Friday 9th October. Norwood Concert Hall, Adelaide.

Travel: Flight Q.F. 751

Depart Sydney: 12:35 p.m. Arrive Adelaide: 2:15 p.m.

Accommodation: The Hilton Hotel, Victoria Square, Adelaide.

Met with old friend, Don Fogg. It must’ve been 1969 when I first met Don; he was an art student at the Harris Art College in Preston, and we shared the same intense interest in all things acoustic-guitar related. Since those days we’ve seen, or run into each other with what I could describe as regular infrequency.

Don Fogg

Each one of our last four meetings were notable in character and in chance:

1. In 1970 I spent the summer in Worcestershire. I was 19 years old, and had decided to hitch-hike my way down - with friend, Paul Daber - to the town of Evesham. We spent an idyllic few weeks there working on a farm, first gathering peas, and then, in the later summer months - as the plums ripened in the orchard - spent most of our time on ladders picking fruit.

The image; the feel of that warm early evening; it’s still there in my mind. I spotted a familiar shape on the opposite pavement walking through the main street. ‘That looks so much like Don’, ‘but it can’t be, surely’.
On my side of the road I walked at his speed, and as I looked across, he looked only straight ahead. Eventually I caught his eye; neither of us could quite believe it. He was en route, hitch-hiking, to an air show (his passion for air travel is just as strong now as it was then, by the way).

At about 120 miles from home, OK, this was not the greatest moment of improbability, but one that felt, as many did back then, as though it had an element of design to it.

2. Messing with a volume pedal on stage at Newcastle University; 1975; touring with Al Stewart. It was afternoon, and we, the band, were just setting up. 
With a purely equipment-related focus, similar maybe to that of a man on his way to an air show, I heard the sounds of a Liverpool accent. I had no idea that Don had moved north-east
to study on a teachers training course, but there he was. 
It was to be almost three decades later before we were in contact again.

3. Twenty nine years on, and an email arrives from Australia. It’s 2004, Steeleye Span’s thirty fifth anniversary year.
He’d seen a poster that advertised the band’s show at the Norwood Concert Hall. We arranged to meet at the Hilton. He explained how he and his wife, Linda - who’s also a Brit, moved out here many years ago. Since then he’s worked as an art teacher in a high school here in Adelaide.

4. Same thing as last time really. Same venue, and even the same meeting place. Don turned sixty this year, and as well as continuing to teach, he volunteers his time to his local fire service, and plays in a folk group called the Bogaduck Bushband.

Don & I. Adelaide 09/10/2009

As regards the venue here - The Norwood - I have to say, for acoustics, it’s one of the most difficult venues I’ve ever played with Steeleye. I imagine for small, and purely acoustic acts it’s probably fine, but very challenging for the man on the desk with a full-on electric band like SS. 
The style of the venue is reminiscent of many town halls that you find in the UK - very square or rectangular, high ceilings, hard and shiny surfaces - perfect for bouncing sound waves right back at you. More and more these days you will now see large baffles and curtains placed in various strategic positions in many of these old buildings for the purpose of reducing their reflective and cavernous qualities.

Saturday 10th October. The National Theatre, Melbourne.
Travel: Flight Q.F. 862

Depart Adelaide: 11:40 a.m. Arrive Melbourne: 1:25 p.m.

Accommodation: The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Carlisle St, St Kilda.

Sunday 11th October. The Octagon, Perth.

Travel: Flight Q.F. 769

Depart Melbourne: 12:35 p.m. Arrive Perth: 1:45 p.m.

Accommodation: The Sheraton Hotel, Adelaide Terrace, Perth.

Last date for Steeleye here in Australia. I enjoyed the final show, after which we all went back to the hotel bar for one of those ‘glad that it’s done but sad that it’s over’ last few moments together.
Most will be UK bound tomorrow - all except Maddy and I.
After one more day with friends in Perth, Maddy heads to Darwin, and then to Bali.

The next episode of my own adventure is just about to begin - with a solo date here in Perth, and then another eight in the land of my Father: New Zealand.