Automated machines?

Dear all,

Festival season has been in full swing though unusually I’ve also done a bit of UK solo touring, rare for me in the summer months. Firstly, let’s bring you up to speed. The first weekend after my last blog saw festivals galore, firstly with Urban Folk Quartet as we played the Secret Garden Party down in Cambridgeshire. I have to say, the state of many of the audience allowed me to see why its kept fairly secret but anyway they seemed to have a very good time, as did we. The next day saw a solo jaunt up north to Hull to play Hull Folk Festival out on the pier. It was a lovely gig although I felt a very long way from the audience! Then it was off to Cumbria to play Music On The Marr on the Sunday with UFQ and that was an absolute blast! I even sneaked a solo set in during the day as well.

I should add that during this weekend, the banjo gremlins struck again as a troublesome pickup played up again which made the gigs rather hard work. Something had been wrong and several apparent fixes hadn’t lasted! And so here I propose a vote of thanks to the wonderful Eagle Music shop in Huddersfield and particularly to Matt the banjo doctor. So many hours were spent sorting it all out and it turned out to be a problem with the shim on the skin. Anyway, it’s been fixed and has been working smoothly ever since much to my relief and delight. They went well beyond the call of duty – it really is a wonderful shop.

Then it was time to get back on the road, firstly in Rochdale at Touchstones in a gig organised by my old mate Tom Besford. It was a bloody cracker of a gig with a lovely crowd and in a place that doesn’t get all that much live entertainment. The gig seemed to mean a lot to people and therefore to me, it summed up why live music is the best thing in the world. Thanks to all who came and made it so! Then it was a rare private function in Ellesmere in Shropshire where I was treated awfully well and had a lovely time.

Then it was off up north to bonny Scotland and specifically St Boswells in the borders. For this and three subsequent gigs I was delighted to team up with Frank Burkitt, a brilliant singer/songwriter from Scotland now living in New Zealand which is where I met him. In fact we met in rather hilarious circumstances. I can’t now remember whether this story is documented elsewhere in the archives but in case it isn’t, Frank and I have a mutual friend in Dusty Burnell, a Kiwi mandolinist whom I met on my previous visit to New Zealand. He very kindly lent me a car for my second tour but owing to him living in Wellington and me landing in Auckland, he hit upon the idea of Frank driving from Wellington to Auckland in the car as he was attending Auckland Folk Festival anyway. We arranged to meet at the house Frank was staying at in Auckland. So far so complicated.

But then when I got there Frank hadn’t. Not only that but I couldn’t get through to him on the phone. Rather more worryingly, an extremely well built and rather angry Kiwi asked me what the hell I was doing on his property and when I said I was meeting Frank Burkitt he had no idea who he was…With my gig that evening rapidly approaching I was getting a little agitated but fortunately Frank showed up and it turned out he’d been driving in circles for an hour as his phone and sat nav had died. It transpired the reason for the Kiwi chap’s lack of knowledge of Frank was down to the fact that his lodger, friend of Frank, hadn’t told him about Frank staying. This led later on to the immortal sentence from said Kiwi – ‘you’re Frank Burkitt? I haven’t even met you yet and I think you’re a dick’. Charming man.

Anyway, that was a bloody long story sorry. St Boswells was lovely – a thoroughly nice gig at the village hall and then it was down to good old Newcastle for a gig at the beautiful Mining Institute. Lovely to see some old friends as well as new and we had a great time. Then it was off to Frank’s old home city of Edinburgh which was again a cracker of a gig. The double bill mini-tour was briefly interrupted by UFQ heading to Denmark for Ringsted Festival which was a blast and thankfully no police action came our way despite almost accidentally breaking in to the wrong accommodation…

Then it was back to the Frank mini-tour and it was off up north to the beautiful Black Isle just north of Inverness for a delightful gig and then I headed over to Fort William and the good old Grog and Gruel. This pub has seen some of my most enjoyable evenings so I couldn’t resist tagging it on to my long trip up north. Scotland is so utterly beautiful it really is. And it makes wonderful whisky. Seriously wonderful whisky. And that’s about it for now. Some exciting news to come but in the meantime it’s more festivals, a first visit to Canada’s west coast and then UFQ’s autumn tour in October and November.

Now then, my rant for this week is about airports in London. Heathrow and Gatwick have been equipped with those smart passport reader things where you scan your passport, look at a camera and through you go. Admittedly quite often they won’t read your passport, you try it three times and then get sent to an actual human but that isn’t my particular rant here (that was more or less covered in principle in my blog about self scanners at supermarkets). No, my point here is when we got back from Denmark we were all forced into the queue for these scanner things. What is the bloody point of having 15 of those e-passport readers at Heathrow if you’re going to close 12 of them and have four members of staff (yes that’s more staff than scanners!!!) manning them? Surely the entire point of machines being automated is that they can remain open? And rather than staff manning the ‘automated’ machines why don’t we just get them to actually, you know, serve us…?