Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Spirit Is A Non-Conformer

Winter has certainly moved in, and I’ll admit it - I’m finding this last phase of the tour a challenge to my morale.
For a good few days now, my attempts to locate the necessary inspiration that would help create the motivation to put finger to keypad, have met with no success - despite this being the very thing that usually lifts the spirits.

I’m so curious as to how many out there ‘handle’ their ambitions.
By that, I don’t necessarily mean the stereotypical ambitions - the ambition to ‘get on’ in life, to make lots of money, etc. I mean whatever it is that one can only ignore at a significant cost to the spirit and the morale of that individual. 

My observations lead me to consider that there are those who without too much hesitation follow what they feel is intrinsically correct for them. They, perhaps, have always done this. Of course many, many people do this, and in that breath, what is there to consider?

But if I put this into some kind of larger context, there are also those who appear to either have a need of some kind to prevent themselves from following this natural course, or maybe? - don’t actually have one, as such, to follow (though I do not actually think for one moment that any one of us ‘does not have a course to follow’).

In the book ‘The Soul’s Code’, author James Hillman puts forward a hypothesis he calls ‘The Acorn Theory’, in which he claims that - just as the acorn holds within it–in the form of a blue print–the mighty oak that it will one day become, so we too, individually, carry our own unique inner map that is to be, or is intended to be, our destiny.

This strikes a chord with me, as I’ve seen myself do two things in life; I’ve seen myself take to one thing or another without a second thought: e.g. kicking a football, painting, fishing, writing, or playing guitar; then on the other hand I’ve observed considerable self-instigated–and debatably successful–attempts to block this natural flow of self-expression. 

Along with this there has been a direct correlation between - my mental health - and which one of these two exercises are taking place at the time. 

Potentially, it can take years of soul searching to recognise such a deafeningly obvious relationship - as this one certainly is.

But if it’s true that we all have our paths to follow, I think it important that we don’t just perceive the notion of an individual’s destiny as one that represents the common view of greatness.
To me, it’s also perceivable that it might just as well be what we think of as destitution. I’ll go back to these points later.

A logical question to ask when it comes to whether or not one has a path to follow, would be: for what reason? Who, or what, has determined what the path should be? And though, again, it seems quite a natural and logical thing to do, I believe the one big mistake we mortals make in light of this question is equating the concepts of ‘reason’ and ‘decision-making’ only with our own mental processes.

By all means, it might be valid to use one’s own means of deduction as a marker, but also one’s thinking power can be used as a measure of much greater possibility - whether it be within, or outside of the human condition.

I’ll illustrate my point, firstly by taking just about any one of us as an example as we go about our day to day actions; for much of that time there is little, if any, doubt in the mind that the reality we alone experience of the world is anything other than ‘absolute’ - that is, it’s the same experience everyone else is having of the world.
Notice I stated - ‘of’ the world, and not ‘in’ the world. So by ’experience’ I mean one’s perception of circumstances, rather than one’s circumstances - rich, poor, etc.

If one pauses for thought, and considers that, OK, some areas of that assumption may be correct, it’s quite possible, or more likely probable that it is incorrect.
Certainly, if viewed existentially, such a consideration couldn’t be made at all; a reality as experienced by a separate consciousness is bound to be totally unique.

In truth, one can literally only imagine someone else's world.

Also our levels of comprehension vary.
Metaphorically speaking, we might look in one direction and see those who we are smarter than, then turn around to see those smarter than oneself.

But to see human intelligence and coherence as a line that starts at ‘simple’ and ends at ‘brilliance’ is in itself an illustration of the need to simplify; there are lines in all directions.

Our modern lifestyle takes for granted much that could once only have been seen as belonging to the realms of magic. And yet it’s easy to think that ‘possibility’ is pre-set; even though an idea, a concept, might appear only to belong in the ethereal, once it’s been actualised and has become a normal part of our lives, it’s as ordinary and as three dimensional as anything else.

In light of this it looks as though there is in fact no limit, or maybe I should say - there are no limits (in any direction). Now, is ‘possibility’ something we ourselves make up, or is it something we tune into? This is what I inferred earlier when I used the phrase ‘within, or outside of the human condition’.

Returning to the ‘path’ idea; again, the notions of whether all in life is random, or whether it is ‘by design’ are concepts created by us - within the constraints of what we perceive as random or designed.

Study and research over the centuries has explained much in the way of the intention, cause and purpose that lies beneath much animal and human behaviour in this world, behaviour that may once have appeared irrational. So why should, and how could, anything be without reason or cause? The only thing we must not do is make the mistake of thinking we know what that reason is - until, that is, we know it.

And herein lies the catch; as one ponders, or agonises even, over what to do in life; over what path you should be following; this is so often done with a preconceived view of how the true path of destiny will appear before your very eyes, waving at you, shouting, ‘here I am … over here; come and get me’.

The truth is that you may already be on it. Maybe.

But when I write, be it music or verse, that’s when life appears to make a bit more sense; a bit more, what am I talking about? - a lot more sense.
That’s when there’s a feeling of, call it what you like - Feng Shui, maybe? It’s when everything falls into line - when life is quite OK.

What makes you feel that way?

Don’t get me wrong; everything comes with a price attached.
That old writing adage speaks volumes: One percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.
Realising your dreams can be very hard work, and can take courage; but the cost of not attempting to realise them is much, much greater - and, who knows, you may still have it all to do later on (though, to be honest, I can’t vouch for that).

So what is the definition of true success?

I, over the years, like many others out there, have pursued ‘the object’ of what I perceived as success; but as time passed, the most curious thing took place. First I began to see success less as ‘the’ object, and more as a by-product of action.
Then from there I went on to see the action itself as the object.

This might go some way to explaining why there are plenty of unhappy wealthy people as well as miserable poor people (and of course, why also there are both rich and poor who are quite happy).

When you do what’s right for you, you can’t really lose, and what comes with it, whether it be financial wealth or not, is a by-product of that success.

Remember: The spirit is a non-conformer

In a world of ‘shoulds’ and shouldn’ts, the fear of where following one’s spirit might lead you is understandable.

The Buddhist may say: what you’re meant to do, and to learn here, now, in this mortal life, is a direct result of what kind of mortal life was lived before.
As I mentioned earlier, albeit briefly, this could equate to a life as a beggar, or as a king - or anything else, come to that. 

Whatever it is, and wherever that might be, there is where your point of power lies.

On that note I’ll leave you with one of my all time favourite passages:

Think of a river fed from the mountains. 
See that river flow.
It has no perception, just a course to run.
On its run it passes over many rocks, effecting many banks - making them wider depending on the flow, eroding the rocks as it flows, with no memory of what the terrain was once like.

Intent on its purpose of reaching the estuary, it becomes part of the ocean.

The cycle continues as it evaporates, becoming clouds and falling again on that same mountain to pass over the now further eroded rocks, with no prior knowledge of ever passing afore.

See how existing in ‘the now’ causes effect.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Let He Who Is Without Sin . . .

Friday 4th December. The Maltings, Farnham, Surrey.
Accommodation: The Mercure Bush Hotel, Farnham.
I’m compelled to ponder for a while on the subject of Tiger Woods - only because my golfing comparisons made yesterday caused a drawing of attention, initially, in his direction. Of course, once the attention had finished being drawn, there were, and are, a number of details to observe that make up the drama that ‘is’ Tiger’s life at present. 

This isn’t so much about golf, it’s more about life. And it’s not wholly about Tiger Woods, but more an observation of just how polarised those members of the public appear to be that respond and react to subject matter such as this. And not just the public, it's even his colleagues.

I read that the Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik was the one responsible for introducing friend, Elin Nordegren to Woods, and she subsequently went on to become Tiger’s wife.
Parnevik now says he misjudged the character of Tiger Woods, and said, amongst other things, “We probably thought he was a better guy than he is”, and “When you’re the world’s top athlete you should think before you do stuff”.

We can probably all understand any sympathy, or sense of responsibility he might be feeling, but there’s an air of self-righteousness in his words that I struggle to embrace. 

I’m only using this guy as an example.

It appears there are those who can understand some of what I’d describe as a behaviour known to have existed in humankind since the beginning of time. By that, I don’t mean a complete understanding of the behaviour, but an understanding that we are prone, as (imperfect) human beings, to all manner of injudiciousness, indiscretion, unwiseness, folly–call it what you will–very often just in thought, but sometimes also in deed.

We are driven to such things; we don’t make it up. I’ll go as far as to say we are meant to act like this; it’s part of what nature wants. 
Obviously though, in the same breath, it cannot be expected that those who are nearest and dearest to us should even come close to endorsing any of it; so pragmatically speaking, if you want to keep your life on a more even keel, it might be very wise to channel some of that primal energy in a way that doesn’t consequently screw it up.

I neither condone or condemn. What I do know is that a great many of us struggle in some form with all of this - being tugged one way and then another; and trying to work out exactly what feelings to act on and which ones to leave well alone. 

And while we’re trying to make some sense of it all, I can't help but become curious as to what goes on in the minds of those who spout so many ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’; those whose words would portray a world without any shade of grey - as many seem to when a story such as Woods’ hits the headlines; it’s as though somehow, uniquely, they were all borne with not a errant, wanton, devious or desirous bone their body.
And I don’t believe that, not for one minute.

To conclude: the next time these two professionals play golf together (if ever), I have a feeling there’ll be adjectives such as ‘self-righteous’ and ‘sanctimonious’ flash through my mind as I look at Parnevik; then I’ll watch Tiger Woods and just think, ‘what a fantastic golfer’.

Saturday 5th December. Day off in Chichester. 

Accommodation: The Park Hotel, Chichester.

Sunday 6th December. The Festival Theatre, Chichester. 
Accommodation: As yesterday.

Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick turned up at the hotel early afternoon. Tonight’s going to be something like a dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s show at the Barbican. 

Both Martin and John will join us on stage at the front of the second set, for the songs: The King, Four Nights Drunk, Lark In The Morning, All Things Are Quite Silent, and a carol that John’s introduced us to called The Boar’s Head.

After all that, we proceed with the second set pretty much as normal, before the two of them come back onto the stage for the encores: All Around My Hat and Hard Times Of Old England.
As would be expected, the show had one or two rough edges, but taking everything into consideration it went remarkably well. 
It was ‘sold out’ tonight with around 1200 in attendance. 

Monday 7th December. The Barbican Centre, London.
Accommodation: Travelodge, Old Street, London.


A successful night on all counts. The hall was virtually full; the atmosphere - expectant, accepting and appreciative. 

This is ‘the’ big showcase gig, as was the London Palladium five years ago during our thirty fifth anniversary tour; and as you can imagine, there’s a great sense of occasion at these shows, one that everyone seemed to rise to on the night. 

There is something quite special about walking out onto a stage as big–physically and figuratively–such as this. You can tighten up a little, or you can let go. It’s like taking certain elements from both festival and concert settings and amalgamating the two.
I’m trying to think how best to describe those elements; it’s probably about ‘formality’ more than anything, the formality that comes with having an audience sat before you on rows of theatre seating in a perceived (from my point of view) state of attentive scrutiny and thought; then you have the festival audience that is often standing, looser, and usually more vocally expressive and ‘up for it’ from the word go.

So this was a pleasant mixture of the two.

It was a great pleasure to be on stage with Martin and John; what they added to the overall sound, instrumentally and vocally, was awesome. With Pete Zorn it meant there were up to eight of us onstage at times which gave a real fullness and power to the material.

I need to mention the hotel we stayed at, and how disgustingly awful it was. I used to be quite a fan of Travelodges, but I’m having to reconsider after this and the one we stayed at in Reading. We even had squatters here - on the fifth floor - the one on which my room was situated. I got out of the lift, and there they were sitting around, with their belongings in carrier bags.

The rooms were about as basic and austere as you can get; there wasn’t even any soap - just as well I carry my own. 
I could go on, but never mind. I’ll just say - stay well clear. 

Tuesday 8th December. The Grand Theatre, Swansea.

Accommodation: Express by Holiday Inn, Neath Road, Llandarcy.


And what a ‘grand’ theatre this is; the maze - there’s no other word to describe it - of corridors around and behind the theatre is about as Spinal Tap-esque as you can get. 
Just as well I had a ball of string with me!
But, as I said, the performance hall is quite majestic - not at all unlike the Buxton Opera House with its two circle/balcony areas and very high ceiling.

Friend, Richard Ellin turned up tonight; we go back quite a long way I suppose - but I only appreciate that when I deliberately count the years, otherwise I think of him as a very recent acquaintance.
Richard runs a company called Fairplay Replication; they’ve manufactured pretty much all of my CDs. He also owns Rock And Reel magazine, and has his own independent label.

Back in 1994 we entered into a short-lived business arrangement when another friend of mine - John St Ryan landed a major role on the soap opera Coronation Street. As well as acting, John sang and played guitar, so we formed a little duo, released a single and hit the TV circuit. It was an interesting exercise that didn’t really work out.
To some extent it exposed my naivety; John was too big - probably in the wrong way - for it to work as a twosome. Honestly, I was taken aback by the attention he received; I didn’t appreciate the power of mainstream television; nowadays, as a result of everything, I might appreciate it, but I still don’t understand it.

It appeared it was impossible to present ourselves in the way we intended originally - we wanted to be taken somewhat seriously, and because he acted the part of ‘Charlie the trucker’ on the TV show, that’s what the public wanted.
See what I mean when I say ‘naive’?

It’s a bit like wanting to have your cake and eat it too; it’s one thing to think you can take advantage of a seemingly easy opportunity when instant exposure is handed to you on a plate; but there’s always a catch, always a sting in its tail.
The truth is that very little, if anything, that’s really worth something, comes easily. 

I’m glad the single didn’t take off, it could’ve been a darn site more complicated than it turned out to be.

And it was a painful experience, financially speaking, for just about all involved, including Richard. I was the only one not to lose money in the project, and that was only because of song royalties.

Friday, 11 December 2009

A Back Nine In All Things

Monday 30th November. The Playhouse, Epsom.

Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express, Langley Vale Rd, Epsom.


Pete Zorn said to me in bus, “Ken, have you ever played Epsom before?” At almost the exact same time I was asking myself, ‘have I ever played in Epsom before?’.
These days it’s not that often you end up anywhere you haven’t visited a good few times. 

The square in the town centre looked somewhat recognisable, but then a lot of these quaint town centres in this part of the world are not dissimilar.

The hotel was located in an interesting spot - and area that leaves you with no doubt as to what this place is famous for - the racing track actually running right along side my room, room number 054. 

This is a very pretty, and a very prosperous area - reminds me of Lambourn, the cosy little Buckinghamshire village where my ex manager Tony Gordon used to live back in the seventies. Lambourn is another horse training and racing area; maybe there’s just a very distinct similarity of character that runs through all of these equestrian type of places.

I pay a certain amount of attention to various sports; I’m pretty interested of course in footy, for example, and I do keep an eye on what’s happening in the cricket world - not so much county cricket though. 

Even boxing is becoming more interesting to me - for all kinds of reasons, reasons that I won’t address just now, or I’d be here forever. 
But I’m far from what you’d describe as sports mad, I just view it all with a moderately keen eye. There are some sports, however, that I absolutely cannot get a handle on, and horse racing is one of them. 
I know, it’s probably a bit, or a lot like golf - in so far as until you know what it’s like to hold a golf club in your own hands, and to strike a ball with it, you have no connection - no comprehension, no feel for the sport.

The other element, of course, is gambling. Many are drawn to the sport solely because of this.
Again I struggle to understand. 

I do have a friend that studies the horses; he’ll tell you not just which ones have won which races, or where they were placed in the field, but also the horses that run better either clockwise or anti-clockwise, or on firm or soft ground, and so on. OK, now it’s beginning to get a little more interesting - but only a little.

I have tried; I thought that by placing some bets on a Saturday afternoon, and then watching my horses run on TV that I’d start to discover what it was all about. This was something Carol and I tried about five years ago, I went online and subscribed to the bookies Ladbrokes. I transferred all of £30 into the account, and then we placed bets, a pound each way on this or that horse; the horses on which we bet were determined through a thoroughly scientific process, using such criteria as - whether we liked its name or not.

As you’d expect we lost more than we won, and five years later there is still something like £20 of the original 30 sitting in that account accruing interest for Ladbrokes.

The show was another good one, and the theatre staff were so friendly and complimentary about the band’s performance. 
Snooker player John Virgo came tonight with his partner Ruth. I met him backstage, and I can tell you what an incredibly decent chap he seems to be.
Pete (Knight) and some of the crew went for a curry with John later on; I declined though - it was just a little too late for me.

Tuesday 1st December. The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes. 
Accommodation: Moore Place Hotel, Aspley Guise.


Changed both sets again today. Maddy, last night, said she needed to give her voice a little less work to do for one or two shows, so we reinstated the songs ‘Cold Hailey Windy Night’ and ‘The Three Sisters’, sung by Rick, and myself respectively.

It’s good to have two days at the same venue, it means there’s no equipment to worry about after the show tonight.

Wednesday 2nd December. The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes. 
Accommodation: As yesterday.


Thursday 3rd December. The Regents Theatre, Christchurch.

Accommodation: The Kings Hotel, Christchurch.


I’m on the back nine now; for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a golfing analogy - one of many that can be used - but ‘the back nine’ is the one I’m thinking about just now.

It’s not like there are nine shows to go, or anything, it’s just that tonight we’re past the halfway point. I can’t see the clubhouse as yet, but even when actually playing golf it’s often not usual to see the clubhouse until you’re on the last hole - so that’s not a very good analogy really.

I compare walking onto tenth hole–the first of the back nine–with the idea of reincarnation; it’s a chance to redeem yourself after the complete rubbish that aptly describes the standard of how you played the first nine. Conversely, it’s also an opportunity to ruin a potentially great round, after having played, as they say - ‘out of your skin’. 

This is one of the most incredible features of a back nine, almost as though it’s there for you to maintain the status quo; to push the score up, or down, so as to make sure that normal service, one way or another is resumed. Or, and this is a big - OR, it’s there to allow you the opportunity to finally raise yourself, not just to that next level of sporting ability, but to a place where you seize the control and coherence that’s just waiting for that right moment - to step out of what I think they call the ‘comfort zone’.

It’s not just a tour that has a ‘back nine’, there’s one every night; it’s called ‘the second set’. And now that I think about it, there’s more than one each night; there’s a back nine in every song.

What a distinctive place the Regents theatre is; very ‘art-deco’, and very ‘looked after’ by the looks of things. It was a full house tonight.

Sticks And Stones

Saturday 28th November. Day off (travel to Oxford)
Accommodation: Longwall Travel Inn, Cowley. 

An opportunity to further walk the path of glamour that comes with the territory when living life as a folk/rock icon; yes, I’m catching up with my laundry today.
There’s not that much to do though, just one or two bits and pieces - ‘smalls’ I think you call them; and a couple of Steeleye Span 40th Anniversary sweat shirts.
Where did the word ‘smalls’ come from, I wonder? Maybe it’s better than saying, ‘underpants’? - Yet it means the same thing.

Moving away from the subject of laundry, I’ve so often pondered this issue of how certain words are, lets say–generally speaking–unacceptable, or at least they are less acceptable to many of us even though they share the same meaning, and we are fully aware of that meaning.
This has always been an area of complete fascination to me.

An example is when the word ‘fuck’ is spelt or printed as ‘f**k’ so as not to offend.
Now why is it that so many people find it OK to see ‘f**k’ written and are consequently not offended, yet they know exactly which letters are missing?

It’s apparently fine for mainstream entertainment such as the Carry On films (entertainment?) to constantly make inferences that are apparently amusing; inferences that - if they were actually spelt out, would shock and outrage many of those rolling around in stitches. And yet, they know exactly what the inferences mean (or I guess they wouldn’t be laughing) - just as much so as if nothing had been left to the imagination.
So the same thing, name, action is in the mind of the listener but elicited by a different sound.

So, can a word itself be offensive?
My answer would be a resounding ‘no’. All you have to do is think about how a word, any word would not be comprehended by one who does not know the language and vocabulary the word is a part of; it means nothing. 

You can take a group of people and present the same expletive to each, and you’ll find a varied response from one person to the next. So this points to one thing only; that we individually pull feelings and emotions from various recesses of our psyche, at a moments notice, in response to the learned perception of a sound.

Now if I were talking about ‘intent’ this might be different. If I sense that there is aggressive, or demeaning intent in the words of someone towards ‘blacks’ or ‘immigrants’ for example, I find that worrying; in this breath I’ve heard jokes that just aren’t funny, but also, I’ve heard many, again deemed unacceptable, that are actually hilarious. 
Yes, I absolutely don’t care what the PC brigade say, there are some brilliant gags about blacks, the Irish, Muslims, and yes, even the English.

I know the above ideas will seem quite obvious to anyone who’s thought about this to any extent, but a great many obviously haven’t thought about it at all. This is why when they talk of ‘offensive language’ it is clearly the language itself that is being blamed without any of the responsibility placed on the offended.
But the listener surely has to accept some responsibility.

I’ve even seen people become offended, enraged even, as a result of something they’ve misheard; so sometimes, you see, one even imagines the word that one then goes on to be offended by.

I’ve observed the kindest, most compassionate people castigated on the basis of interpretation, interpretation that’s shaped by nothing other than the passing geometry and agreed protocols of that particular time. 

I have a hunch about this. There is something in our primal makeup–a two sided syndrome–that gives cause for us to feel the potential to become either the victim or the victor in life, and the perception of our own ‘safety’ plays a key part in this - something we innately seek whether by running or by ruling. (Reading this back, I feel that this point is not so understandable, and needs to be expanded on).

OK then, let's think about this. The emotion that a word, a sound, triggers; if this is unpleasant, it follows that
the emotion has its roots in an area that feels–probably unconsciously–to some degree threatening. To know precisely why it's perceived as threatening is potentially complicated.
Although it could be as straightforward as the look of disapproval on a parent's face when a certain word is uttered, the impact can be strong enough for the connection to be a difficult one to make later in life. Nevertheless, all the wiring is in place for the feeling to be re-experienced.
One thing that we innately do is to find whatever safety is available to us, again, as we may well have done after that very first experience of disapproval; this may not mean we find the most self-beneficial method, but it will be one that's familiar.
To feel or express a sense of moral outrage, or even disdain, is, I am saying, a position of safety.

I'd even suggest that there is something primal that draws us to the very area we seek safety from, which may well have everything to do with why we tinker so with double entendre.

Am I arguing that we should all go around swearing at each other all the times? No I’m not. I’m just saying that we need to stop thinking that it’s always others who are responsible for the way we feel.

Sunday 29th November. The New Theatre, Oxford.

Accommodation: As last light. 


A cold theatre. It’s not often you watch people wrapping coats around themselves as you perform. I went on stage in a sweater, for–as far I can recall–the very first time. It warmed up a little by the time we got well into the second half of the show.

Given that it was cold, and that the very large auditorium was perhaps just two thirds full (if that), and that it was wet and miserable outside, and that it was a Sunday night; it was a great evening. The audience was vocal and appreciative, and I’d say everyone in the band felt we played well.

An Experienced Shower

Sunday 22nd November. The Marina Theatre, Lowestoft.

Accommodation: as yesterday.


Pete Zorn joined forces with us today.
A decision had been taken within the band to have him bring an array of wind, percussion and string instruments with him to Norfolk.
Originally, the intention was to have him step in for Rick on bass who’d expressed doubts as to whether or not he’d be able to complete the tour. When Rick felt a little more hopeful about everything, Pete’s role switched.

Monday 23rd November. The Corn Exchange, Ipswich. 

Accommodation: The Ramada Encore. 


After the last two nights of accommodation in Lowestoft, more attention is now focused on internet reviews of our future hotels. As a result we’ve changed our accommodation arrangements for the next four nights. 

The guys at the Park Records office have so much to consider when arranging our hotels; one minute we ask if we can stay in town centres as near as possible to wherever we’re playing, in the next breath we complain the standard isn’t good enough, and want to be moved somewhere else - usually at the last minute.

I’m increasingly convinced that standard should be our priority, and not solely location.

Tuesday 24th November. Travel to the Isle of Wight.

Accommodation: Lakeside Park Hotel & Spa.

Had to make a pretty early start from Ipswich; the ferry time at Portsmouth was 4 p.m.

These last few day the weather across the British Isles has been grim to say the least; there’s been incredible floods in the north-west, particularly at Cockermouth and Workington up in Cumbria where six bridges have literally collapsed under the weight of the flood water.
In the south here it has been pretty unpleasant on and off, but I’d say we’ve probably experienced the least severe end of the storm. 

I did think though that once we reached the coast, and consquently were a little more exposed to the elements, that the crossing might be a bit rough, but no, even though the sea looked slightly choppy, once I had the laptop out and my mind was on other things I didn’t even notice it.

Back to the subject of hotels, the one we checked into today on our arrival on the IoW. is nothing lass than sensational. I have to wonder if it’s the best I’ve ever stayed at, and I mean - ‘ever’. 

It’s perfect - everything works. The rooms are beautiful. The beds - so comfortable. The staff so friendly. The food - amazing.

The spa has a shower - as spas do, but this one is state of the art; it’s called an ‘experience shower’ . There’re a number of buttons that let you choose between four types of aromatherapy sprays - White Cloud, Atlantic Ocean, Tropical Rain, and one more I can’t remember. 

On my arrival I headed straight for the spa, reminding myself of just how gaudy my Bermuda shorts are - they hadn’t improved a bit since the last time I wore ‘em.
Still, why should I care? - I was the one and only sole in the steam room. The temperature was exactly right - not quite, but almost painful.
And as I sat there collecting my thoughts and sweating in the steamy blue light, I thought I might have just gone to heaven.

Thursday 26th November. The Medina Theatre, Newport, Isle of Wight. 


Friday 27th November. The Town Hall, Birmingham.

Accommodation: The Thistle Birmingham City Hotel. 


An amazing building; second time I’ve played here this year, but it’s even more impressive than the last time; or more likely - I’m taking a bit more notice of it.
And things are getting very Christmas-like out there. All too busy for me as I walked from the hotel to the venue; it wasn’t far really, but the street map I was following, the one I’d been given at the hotel, bore no resemblance whatsoever to the layout of the streets.

So it was the result of a little luck and a few road signs that finally guided me to the correct location, not that I recognised it at the time though; I approached a young girl, and asked, “Can you tell me where the town hall is?”. She pointed in the direction I’d just walked from, and said In a broad Birmingham accent, “The Symphony Hall’s over there”. “What about the Town Hall then?”, I repeated. “Sorry, haven’t got the faintest”, she replied. As she walked away I raised my head slightly, and without doing anything that constituted ‘moving’, I looked directly forward, and there it was - standing tall directly in front of me.

I should update the set list. Not that it’s all that different - just a couple of switches here and there have been made.

Set 1

Little Sir Hugh

Creeping Jane


Bachelor’s Hall

Sheep Crook


I Love Not Where I Live

Si Beag Si Mor

The Gallant Frigate Amphitrite

Set 2

All Things Are Quite Silent


The Silky

Unconquered Sun

Van Dieman’s Land

Peace On The Border

Fiddle Tunes

Thomas The Rhymer

Hatfield And The East

Saturday 21st November. Day off. Travel to Lowestoft. 
Accommodation: The Hotel Hatfield.

It took a good three and a half hours on the road before the bus pulled up outside the Hotel Hatfield in Lowestoft. We were greeted by that ominous sight of a hotel surrounded by scaffolding, and a sign reading, ‘building work being carried out’. Not sure why it needs a sign to tell us that; it’s possibly there to eliminate any idea we might have that the builder, on his weekend off, might be erecting scaffolding for purely recreational purposes.

I know there’s a somewhat sarcastic tone to what I’m writing, but this is one of the all-time-most-dreadful-excuses-for-a-hotel-I’ve-ever-ever-had-the-terrible-misfortune-to-lay-my-eyes-on-and-set-foot-in.

Look, I don’t want to get overly negative, so I’ll begin with the good points. It’s on the sea front; that’s nice, especially on a day such as this (Sunday morning) with the sun in the sky.

The breakfast was good, also; and, one more thing - the staff seem pleasant.

Now, onto some of the other features here: the heating seems to be set to ‘full’, regardless of the outside temperature. I was first put into room 114; it had that slightly old and tacky feel that one comes to expect in many of these seaside resort hotels, and although I’d been struck be the heat in the corridors, it hadn’t as yet fully worked its way into my room. 

I took it easy in the afternoon, and caught up on a little sleep, but intermittently I took note of an irritating underlying sound, that of a constant bass drum beat, the kind you hear in dance music. The noise was there, occupying a ‘space’ if you will, the kind of space or place that makes it hard to decide whether it’s subliminal or not; whether it’s annoying or not, and if it is, whether its annoyance is more volume related or persistence related. 
I wondered, because of the constancy of it if indeed it was an idiosyncrasy of the hotel’s heating system, or some such thing.
Still, I did manage to largely switch off the attention I was paying it and consequently get some rest on my day off.

In the evening I met up with Liam, Pete and Jackie at an Indian restaurant called the Red Rose in the town centre. By the time we rendezvoused, they, the three of them had already been enjoying the pub life here in Lowestoft for quite some time, and so our coherence levels were not . . . how can I put it, ‘aligned’ maybe?
I did my best to catch up though. 
Just for the record, the food was incredibly good. I’d recommend the Red Rose.

So, back home I go, my home being the Hotel Hatfield, room 114. And after watching a little footy I switched on my DAB radio, and drifted off to the sound of Radio Four.

01:30. I’m awake. I’m sweating; the heat of the corridor has finally and fully worked its way into my room. I take off my pyjamas, and lie on top of the bed; the bass drum beat is still, unmercifully, continuing, and now it’s louder - this, as well as laughter, shouts, car doors slamming, engines revving, etc.

Looking out of my window, it becomes clear; there’s a night club adjacent to the hotel, and it’s on my side. Despite this, I try and open my window; my logic being that I didn’t know at this point which was worse, the heat or the noise.
At least if I could get cool I did have ear plugs.

The window was in quite an awkward position, and half awake I reached over beyond the television and my suitcase (the floor area was so small that the only place I could open my case was on the shelf next to the TV), and I tried to turn the handles, three of them, that would allow some air into the room.
Each handle was securely locked in place; there was no way I could open anything. I guess the logic is - who would want to have an open window on the side of the hotel next to a dance club!?

I phoned reception; I’d had enough. The man came to my door, and gave me the key to room 109. At 2 a.m. I was now dressed and transferring all belongings to this new location.

Room 109: the first thing I noticed was the Bell 40W light bulb packaging on my bed. I guessed someone had changed one of the lights, and neglected to clear up properly after themselves. At this point I wasn’t going to worry too much about that.

Then there was the empty biscuit wrapper under the desk.

I ‘part-opened’ the window, I had no choice, every time I tried to open it any wider, as I let go, its own weight returned it back to a partly opened position again. 
So, as with room 114, my sleeping was carried out pyjama-less and on top of the bed, but at least it was marginally more comfortable - and quieter.

The bathroom had no bath, just a shower, one of those with a plastic tray that you stand in. My plastic tray was cracked; you could see that someone had attempted a repair job - to glue / tape it back together; maybe the shower tray repair man had been temporarily successful, or had failed from the outset, I don’t know, however, when it came time for my morning shower it felt like the ground was moving under my feet, and my sense of balance was, not in-substantially, put to the test.

There comes a point when I start suspending my emotions, a point where I live with the knowledge that all things must pass, and that before-I-know-it I’ll be in the next town, the next hotel, the next shower tray.

And speaking of suspended emotions, there are things happening presently within the band, things that at some time soon I could possibly write about. Certainly from my position, and from a cathartic point of view, I’d find that helpful.

Swings And Roundabouts

Saturday 14th November. Day Off.
Accommodation: Worcester Whitehouse.

Not sure why, but I noticed that there are a good number of Saturdays when the band enjoys a night to itself. I very much doubt if there is anything, deliberately speaking, behind the fact that this, today’s leisure / travel day falls immediately after night one, however, I’m starting to believe it’s an effective strategy. What it does is give you time to reflect, discuss and appraise what happened on that adrenaline charged first night.

It felt as though the drive to Worcester took forever.
I usually sit in the back of the bus, over the back axle, a position where every bump, every twist and every turn is experienced with a greater degree of connection. I won’t go into too much detail, but if I were to say that I didn’t like the experience of travelling in a tour bus day after day, I would be expressing my most favourable feeling about that experience. 

One of the greatest things for me has always been the point in the tour when I eventually climb back into my own car; I always equated this moment with getting my own life back - to be again in the drivers seat; to take whichever route I choose; to stop whenever it pleases me.
In the meantime, however, as the bus swings around each corner and roundabout and I get thrown from left to right, and back again, I shall endeavour to travel with all the graciousness I can manage to muster.

I compare getting my car back with the first time I went ice skating. It was a profound experience. My skates were so painful; it was the pressure on the arches of the feet that caused the discomfort; not a sharp, but a chronic pain - a type of pain you even get used to. When I removed the skates at the end of the session, I would describe the relief as nothing less than glorious.

The evening was good. I noticed there was a spa at the hotel, so I went into town to buy some shorts or swimming trunks. I’d never even considered this before, and I suppose it’s pretty obvious, but in the world of retail clothing ‘they’ - swimming trunks - are very much season related, consequently there wasn’t a short in site. Yes, I did say ‘short’ - I only wanted one.

Luckily I found a lady at Debenhams who recalled seeing one or two pairs in the stock room. She vanished for five minutes, then she came back with three pairs of Bermuda shorts. They were all hideous; I chose the least hideous pair.

After a half hour split between the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi I went back to my room - collecting a pint of Grolsch lager en route - then settled down to watch the Brasil v England friendly.
Then the night got even better; I found an Indian restaurant, and ordered a take away: a tandoori mix grill; on the way back to the hotel I picked up a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

Sunday 15th November. The Swan Theatre, Worcester.

Accommodation: same as last night.


Another relatively small venue. A nice, and (I think) recently renovated theatre. Always when I played Worcester in the past it’s been at the Huntington Hall venue, but I get the impression that The Swan’s new opening has made way for a venue more suited to electric bands.
The difference in the band’s performance and confidence level was striking tonight, it seems that the day off worked well for us.

Monday 16th November. Reading Concert Hall, Reading.

Accommodation: Travelodge, Oxford Road, Reading. 

Show 3/30

I love the venue even though it was never designed for any kind of music other than orchestral - a typical town hall really in that respect, but in aesthetic terms it appeals to my eye.
The acoustics in these buildings I’ve written about a number of times before, most recently in my account of our Adelaide show: Friday 9th October.
I know some of those in the audience would have struggled to hear things clearly - especially the lyrics, but nevertheless it was an enjoyable night.
One change was made to the set - we dropped The Butcher (second song in), and replaced it with Seagull.

Tuesday 17th November. The Playhouse Theatre, Weston-Super-Mare.

Accommodation: The Commodore Hotel, Sand Bay, Kewstoke. 


Hardly recognised the place from the last time I visited one of my childhood-favourite places. My last visit though, I should make it clear, was not in my childhood, it was in fact Friday 6th February (Second Thoughts First posting) when this entire area of Britain was covered with snow and ice. Thankfully, today the weather was surprisingly pleasant - certainly surprising given the time of year.

The hotel’s in a neat location - right next to the beach in what the name of the area describes perfectly - a bay with lots of sand.
Didn’t feel as though the band clicked at all tonight. I think we all felt like that to some extent or another, and it’s somewhat unusual for that kind of consensus. Yet as I’ve stated so many times, seldom it seems that the two worlds, the two realities - the one on stage, and the other in the auditorium, are wholly synchronised with one-another. 

When Jackie, our tour manager, tells of great business at the merchandise table, and Maddy, who usually goes out after the show and mingles with the public, returns with tales of joyful ebullience, you begin to realise that it’s best not to dwell on these matters.

Wednesday 18th November. The Corn Exchange, Exeter.

Accommodation: Jury’s Inn, Exeter. 


The hall, according to my official schedule, that presently sits in front of me has the capacity to seat 500 people; this, the same hall that more than comfortably - much more - seated a grand total of, I think, twenty five when I played here with Phil Cool back in March earlier this year (Sunday May 31st. Over-Egging The Collective).
I did had a fairly strong inkling that we’d exceed that figure today, and my intuition proved correct, with the attendance figure increasing by around four hundred and seventy five.

Went through a bit of a time warp in the second set when Pete and Maddy did their duo spot - Silky. I was sat in the dressing room with a sense of having all the time in the world, and wasn’t at all poised-and-ready to go back onstage by the time the audience applause had died.
The next song was one of mine - Unconquered Sun. ‘Conspicuous’ could accurately describe my feeling as I eventually walked onto the waiting stage in a very quiet hall.

The hotel, Jury’s - I’m not impressed. I stayed years ago at the Dublin Jury’s, and loved it. So I was pretty happy when I saw this one here in Exeter on our schedule - especially after the Reading Travelodge experience. Alas, my room is poky; the staff at breakfast are unhelpful; the cleaning crew are noisy first thing in the morning, and the room doors, when left to close unhindered, slam shut with ferocity. Not recommended.

Thursday 19th November. The City Hall, Salisbury. 

Accommodation: The Mercure White Hart Hotel, St John Street, Salisbury.


Friday 20th November. The Assembly Rooms, Tunbridge Wells. 

Accommodation: The Royal Wells Inn, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells. 

Thursday, 10 December 2009

UK Winter Tour - A Wing And A Prayer

Two days at home, actually more like a day and a half, and now I’m back on the road again.

The car problems have continued (read ‘Sunday August 30th’). My fears of the Toyota Previa needing at least a new cylinder head gasket where dispelled, at least temporarily, a few weeks ago - I was in the US or Aussie - when the garage phoned Carol to say they’d installed a radiator, and the car appeared to be fine.

When Carol went to pick the vehicle up, the man at the shop - so she told me - said, ‘it runs a bit sluggish, doesn’t it?’ And on the way home it was stalling.

I knew that it would probably at least have a flat battery after having sat in the drive for as long as it did.
Sure enough, on the day of my return, when I turned the ignition key there was barely enough power to turn the engine over. So I hooked it up to Carol’s car; this I was sure would start the car. No such luck.

I called the Automobile Association man. He was amazingly persistant; very helpful. He even had the driver’s seat unbolted and out of the car - the only way to actually get to the engine. This, alas, is why so many car repair people refuse to repair these cars, they are unbelievably difficult to work on.

Anyway, it looked as though this man’s determination would have only one outcome; I felt confident. It tried to start. In fact, it couldn’t of got nearer to starting without starting. But it didn’t.

Next, I was being towed to George’s, he’s my mechanic (though not the one who installed the radiator). I had previously, with a phone call from New Zealand, booked it in for Monday, my thinking being that perhaps it just needed a couple of new spark plugs or something and then all would be fine; and with ‘all being fine’ I’d have a car to drive to Oxford in Tuesday morning.
Now it was just a case of parking it outside George’s garage, putting the key through his letter box, and then figuring out an alternative means of transport to Oxford.

I’d completely forgotten, but then when the AA man reminded me - I remembered. I remembered that some two and a half months ago - when my car problems began - I had a call from a lady at the AA. These are logically, I suppose, the best times to sell new packages to AA members; I doubt that there are many of us that took out an AA membership in the first place until we felt we had no alternative. 
Well I went for it, I bought into this deal where they give you a hire car for up to three days if your own is off the road. I was saved. Perfect. It was a very shiny and very new model, and I picked it up on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday 10th to Thursday 12th November. Rehearsals at The Warehouse, Kennington, Oxford. 

Accommodation: Longwall Travel Inn, Cowley.
A tough three days, that’s the only way I can describe it. A lot of new songs have been proposed for the tour. All but one are actually old Steeleye tracks, but they are completely new to me, I’d never heard them until today - Tuesday, when I listened repeatedly to the CD I’d burnt that morning as I drove south.
Complex arrangements.
It’ll take some time to absorb all of this.

We ran the complete set on Thursday, the final day, working exclusively on the new stuff up until then. 

The New songs:

1. All Things Are Quite Silent

2. Bachelor’s Hall

3. Sheep Crook

4. Peace On The Border

5. Little Sir Hugh

6. Around Cape Horn (from the new album)

Friday 13th November. The Mick Jagger Centre, Dartford, Kent.

Accommodation: Express by Holiday Inn, University Way.

Shows 1/30

With a capacity of just 350 it’s not the largest of venues, but a perfect way to launch the tour.
The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and on the night every seat was sold.

As with all first nights, and possibly more so today, I’d guarantee that every band member felt there was a ‘wing and a prayer’ feeling at many points during the set.

The set list:

Set 1
Little Sir Hugh

Creeping Jane

The Butcher

Bachelor’s Hall

Sheep Crook


I Love Not Where I Live

Fiddle Tunes

Around Cape Horn

Set 2

All Things Are Quite Silent


The Silky

Unconquered Sun

Van Dieman’s Land

Peace On The Border

Bonny Black Hare

Thomas The Rhymer

Campervan Vocations

Sunday 1st November. Solo. Bailies Bar, Christchurch.
Arriving in Christchurch at around 3 p.m., we parked the camper in Hereford Street. With Hereford Street running parallel to Gloucester, Worcester and Lichfield Streets, it’s easy to forget exactly where you are.

For a Sunday the city centre seems quite busy, but very pleasant at the same time. The Cathedral Square where Bailies is situated is a modern looking pedestrian area that stands, not surprisingly, directly in front of a cathedral, one that has its origins in the mid 1800s.

In my world of imagined symmetry, we had not just reached Christchurch, we’d reached the very beginning of the very last episode in our New Zealand story. 
And as is so often the case, whilst I’m looking forward to not having to think about playing a gig for a while after tonight’s show, I know that at some point in the following four days I’ll feel like a drifting, aimless tourist.
This is not to say that we don’t have the most definite plans; we know exactly where we’re going, the things we’re going to do, and when we’ll be doing ‘em. 

It’s just that the purposefulness expressed through a campervan’s persona as it heads this, and then that way - fulfilling all that it was ever meant to achieve in life, does not always reflect the absence of direction carried by those doing the steering.

Already I’m casting my gaze towards 2010; given no blow-outs, or aviation mishaps between here and Preston, there are so many projects I’m looking forward to getting underway.

Another one of my cousins, Mike, lives here, and I’m so glad I got in touch with him. I haven’t seen him since he lived in London back in the seventies and eighties.
Mike used to travel up to my parents house to see his Uncle Jim and Auntie Alice - my parents, and would always leave Preston with a good supply of local tap water; he brewed beer, and always rated the Lancashire water for its softness. 
He met a Yorkshire woman called Elaine, and they moved to Christchurch. Both came to the gig tonight along with their children, Tim and Kitty.

Russell, the man who put the gig together for me arrived at seven complete with PA system; he did a good job on the desk.

It really was an excellent last New Zealand show; and once again, the bit that happens after the show was just brilliant; to be sitting in Mike and Elaine’s house, drinking red wine, getting to know a bit more, quite a bit more, about my long lost cousin was, well, perfect really after my final gig. You relax in a way–when you don’t have something imminent–that you wouldn’t relax otherwise; I was suddenly on holiday; I can’t tell you how good it felt.
Both son and daughter had left home some time ago, and we slept in one of their bedrooms - with a cat - which made it even more perfect.

Monday 2nd November.
Today, the order of events is as followed; I buy a new tire, and then we head across Arthur's Pass to the west coast. 

Elaine guided us to various tyre venues around Christchurch until we finally found a place that not only had one of these commercial types of tyre which fitted the camper, but that would fit it without us having to book a time and come back hours later; I mean, we didn’t have hours - we had plans. 

The remains of our rear tyre

Well, eventually we found one; I can’t recall the name just now, but they didn’t mess about - I was impressed. They had the job done in a hundred and fifty dollars and a half hour later. Then we set out on Highway 73 towards the Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass - a mountain pass–originally used by the Maoris–that was discovered by Arther Dobson in 1864; it’s an outrageously scenic means of making ones way to the west coast. 
We parked up at Hokitika for the night.

Over the next three days we just followed Highway 6 to Franz Josef, turning east through the Haast Gorge and Mt Aspiring National Park, along the shores of Lakes Hawea and Wanaka, on to Queenstown, Arrowtown and Cromwell, eventually arriving back in Dunedin late on Thursday afternoon. 

It’s difficult to point to any highlights along the way because it was more like a continuum of highlights, but if I ‘had to’ I’d choose a couple; first the fifty minute flight at Franz Josef which took us over and around Mount Cook and the Fox Glaciers; the second would be visiting Arrowtown; a former mining town with a fascinating history and a great museum.

So, one more night at Alan and Nicola’s, then we’ll drop the campervan off at Dunedin airport, and fly via Christchurch from there to Sydney where we have a twenty four hour stop-over. On Saturday evening we began the long haul back through Bangkok on to Heathrow, and then finally the short hop to Manchester airport on Sunday morning.

I’ll leave you with pictures from our last four days in this amazing country.

Mount Cook and the Fox Glacier from the sky

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Blow-Out At Mount Cook

I have to be careful; I mean I could spend way too much time on things–family things–that are only relevant to me. I’ll try to proceed with caution, and not over indulge myself too much in all this family business.

These next two days, Thursday and Friday, had a heightened feeling of eventfulness about them; exploring Dunedin, visiting the house my Father grew up in, and the most fascinating thing - talking to the relations I knew ‘relatively’ little about.

From right to left: Nicola, Carol and myself, outside Dad's childhood abode.

Also getting a perspective, not just of my Father’s life beyond the context of my own (perspective) and my immediate family’s relationship with him, but gaining a greater knowledge of his family’s view of what he did with the rest of his life. 

It might sound like a cliché, but It really did help me get closer to seeing him more as a real person and not just as a Father figure.

Nicols Creek, named after Great Great Grandfather, David, who bought the land believing the newly developing railway system would be routed through it, and hence he'd sell it to the railway company for a huge profit. Characteristic of that time, it was a 'get rich quick' scheme that didn't quite go to plan.

Thursday, I played golf with Alan and Nicola, and enjoyed every single
cold, wet and windy minute of it. I’d looked forward so much to just getting out there and hitting a ball around. 

Alan’s a neurologist, and when I learnt that the clubs I’d be using belonged to an anaesthetist colleague of his, I told him the old gag about the woman and the anaesthetist.
It goes like this:

A woman has sex with an anaesthetist, and afterward she says, ‘boy, you must be really good at your job’.

‘Why do you say that?’, he asks. 

She replies, ‘because I didn’t feel a thing!’.

Alan said he’d tell the joke to his friend; I was kind of surprised he hadn’t heard it already, I mean, there are so many musician jokes, and we musicians know just about all of them. So don’t all who work in the medical profession know every doctor joke?

Talking of jokes, my Father was famous for a few, and Nicola reminded me of one as she drove through Dunedin. Bringing the car to a halt she announced, ‘we’ve now reached the dead centre of town’.
I was slightly puzzled for a moment, then I turned to my left and saw a huge cemetery. 

This actually is where my ancestors are buried, but no one seems to know the exact location of the graves.

On the Saturday morning we visited the Otago Farmers Market, next to the railway station. It has a good feel to it.

The parking is just across the street in the Cadbury’s car park, and they’ve come up with the most fantastic idea.

I can’t recall all the details of what led up to this being put in place, but I think there had been one or two problems with how the Cadbury employees car park was being used, perhaps it was a legal issue.
In the end they decided not to have an official charge for those who wanted to park there on a Saturday morning, instead accepting donations; every penny taken (by volunteers) goes to charity.

We bought one or two things at the market, bread, cheeses, before starting out on our journey to Mount Cook.

Pictures taken on our journey to Mount Cook:

Lake Pukaki

Left to right: Sir Edmund Hillary
and Carol at Mount Cook

Travelling back from Mount Cook en-route to Christchurch, only about 15 / 20 kms into the journey on highway 80, and on a couple of occasions I was thinking to myself that the van was feeling slightly unsteady; I figured it was probably something to do with the camber of the road.

Then, suddenly, very suddenly, my concerns were more focused on whether or not I could keep the vehicle on the road. It was the back of the van that seemed to be gliding, swinging to one side and then to the other.
This had never happened to me before, and it was extremely unnerving!

If ever there was affirmation for the argument to keep ones speed down this was it; I swear, if I’d have been taking full advantage of the 120 kph limit I believe the vehicle would have at least ended up on its side - or maybe even in Lake Pukaki which ran along the left side of the road. 

As it slowed, I guided the camper off the highway and onto a gravel covered area between the road and lake. It was an early Saturday evening; the weather was absolutely beautiful - the sunlight bouncing off the water. And there I was - in the middle of nowhere, the rear near-side tire was in shreds; I was very tired - and somehow I had to summon the energy to change the wheel on this monster.

Carol was fantastic. She asked where the handbook was - it was in the glove compartment.
She found the ‘how to change the wheel’ section, and began shouting instructions at me.

“You’ll find the car jack and the wheel wrench by the base and to the right hand side of the drivers seat”, she began.

I followed each move to the letter, but did struggle to locate a good position under the van for the jack. It took forever to raise the vehicle even just slightly. I eventually felt confident enough to start loosening the lug nuts; yes, of course, there is always one that won’t move. It was impossible; it appeared to have its corners rounded slightly, so whenever the lug wrench reached a certain torque it lost its grip and slipped off. 

It was becoming more a test than anything, a test of my strength of character, and I felt that I was failing.
I was having to stop periodically to get my breath back and collect my thoughts.

I looked at my hands - the ones that were meant to play guitar, not work on cars - they were black, and one of my fingers was cut and bleeding. The two colours contrasted nicely.

‘If I could raise everything a little more’, I thought then I’d be able to turn the wheel around slightly and get a different angle of attack on the nut.
No, the whole thing wouldn’t go any higher, the jack position was proving to be at fault; there was only one thing to do, and that was to start all over again.
I reversed all that I’d done, then moved the bus backwards to a more level area - I figured that might help.

Now I placed the jack underneath the axle - an alternative position as shown in the handbook - and it seemed to be working. This time the problematic lug nut was in a different position, and with a lot, and I really mean - ‘a lot’ of huffing and puffing, the nut moved slightly, and then a bit more. I got the wheel off and then managed to get just enough height on the van to slip the spare on.

We were back in action, back on the road - yes; totally exhausted and with an enormous feeling of uncertainty - just waiting for the next thing to go horribly wrong. Of course, as the miles pass, in this case - as the kilometres pass, a most organic, unmeasured, process takes place, as calm gradually reintroduces itself - replacing and displacing all notion of catastrophe with unquestioned surety.

Lake Tekapo

Later we parked up at Lake Tekapo for the night. I hate to repeat myself, but the location and the views were absolutely incredible; but what do you expect? - we’re in New Zealand for Christ’s sake.