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.

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