Yours truly in full cry - pic by Bev Edwards
I set off from London Euston on a fair morning aboard the Virgin version of the poor mans Japanese bullet train. It has some of the style of Concorde but only at the front end.
I was filled with thoughts about the coming days and a little buzz going on inside about the upcoming bijoux performance. The journey passed as I wrote emails and even a little poetry. The skies darkened a little before Warrington and magnificent forked lightning jumped from the green and grey sky down to the earth below. Spectacular forces playing across the heavens. The rain fell in sheets.
My hosts were waiting on the platform as the train pulled into Wigan. As we greeted each other I felt relaxed and it all felt right. At their home John and Val presented me with shirts and body warmers embroidered with the new EB livery and some clothing with the EBB 40 years logo. Karl, who I hadn't even met at this time, had mde me a beautiful silver EB logo brooch.
Later a special meal with friends of my hosts and then I was kept up half the night talking with John and Val (ha ha). Any one who knows me will know that is not true. Actually I think I contributed some what to the late hour. In fact they'll probably blame me for the nocturnal discussions that continued until dawn.
Next day I have a new friend in Inca a German Shepard and one of twins. He has a sister Aztec. I am usually not all that fond of dogs but I become strangely attached to this one and he to me. He follows me very where. When John and Val returned from taking me to the station to get my train home they found Inca had dragged an old luggage bag I had dumped, onto my bed, covered it with the duvet and he was lying next to it. Even John was baffled and if he doesn't know dogs who does? And..you know what? I miss that beast.
Later John takes me to see Clusky and Bev ( above). Clusky is a police dog handler. Clusky is a proper joker. He must collect jokes at every opportunity and they all reflect that dry northern perspective that we know so well. Clusky and Bev had promised to show me what the dog work was all about.
John and I walked through a field of foot high grasses. John dropped items along the path we walked which formed a box. The dog followed the scent we left and found all of the items. I knew he would but it was still amazing. Later John and I hid in a wood. The dog found us very quickly. Later the dog charged at John who was playing the escaping suspect. He was wearing a protective sleeve on the arm the dog went for. The dogs teeth must have gone through holes in the sleeve and John had a few bite marks which he just seemed to accept as part of the gig. I would have freaked had it have been my arm.
Later he also demonstatrated how the dog would just bark at him if he gave up "the chase". The combo of this surreal demo and tales of dogs on the job was absolutely fascinating. Over the days we would exchange many tales about life on the road and life as a dog handler in the police. I can tell you now that if I ever thought my life has been dramatic this was a reminder of the important dramas and the men and women who put all on the line, to save us from our selves.
Later that evening John and his friend Barry took me to Liverpool to see The Drive By Truckers. Less said about that the better. Val got it right she stayed at home. For me to watch the house sound guy still struggling to get a decent mix during the last number was agonising and I wanted to get on the desk and give it a go. He disappeared to the front of the hall a couple of times and I was sorely tempted to get a mix up while he was gone. Probably quite sensible of me that I resisted the urge eh? I will say one thing though. The people of Liverpool are really very friendly. It's no myth. It was noticeable immediatley.
The set list pic by Bev Edwards
Me loafing around and playing and singing in the garden and then the living room. I decide the living room is the venue for it's acoustics. people arriving and chatting and meeting and greeting feeling warm and valued. Wanting to be good to do some thing special for this very nice group of folk. A seven year old lad says hello to me. It's his first live gig. Just before curtain up I am sitting on the floor, in the room where I sleep with my back up against the bed. I had a brandy, my guitar, a digital tuner and well... a few other totems of the pre performance. This was my dressing room moment. Soon my host introduced me and I walked out of my dressing room and began.
I was actually shocked by the wave of energy that came with the hearty applause at the end of my first offering. I ran through songs off the list with out much attention to running order. I changed tempos and stuck things together as I felt to do so. It worked for me and I am very glad to say it worked for my audience. I needed to get some thing very specific from this first show and it will colour what follows on the rest of the FDPFAFDW tour. This has to have been one of the warmest and generous audiences I have ever met. I am happy to say that I recorded this event and after a little processing, I like the resulting recording warts and all.
Playing Carlo's Italian Restaraunt in Llandudno
pics by Bev Edwards
Next day we drove west to Wales. We paused to drive up to the Great Orme which is a beautiful headland looking out towards Anglsey. It got it's name from the Viking term for Great worm, a serpent like sea monster. The Viking Sagas are filled with such references. The wind howled as we took in the beautiful vista and the golden evening sunlight flooded out across the bay. Out of the biting wind we descended back to sea level down a winding road that made me long to be on the Bianchi and trying not to touch the brakes much. Ah well! You can't have every thing. Another time perhaps.
Later we met up with some folk at Carlo's Restatraunt in Llandudno. The place had a lovely atmosphere and very high standard cuisine. After dinner a small group of us went upstairs to a private room where after a brandy or two I gave a mini performance based on the previous show.
So many good vibes from all. Great humour and warmth. I felt right at home for my entire visit. It is always good to go home but I knew I would miss these kind folk. Still, we will hook up again for more adventures. Of this I am sure. It were magic.
My hosts on The Great Orme