Surreal travels

Dear all,

Well it’s been an unusually travel-free start to the year as January often is. I’ve spent much more time spent on a computer than on a stage, not exactly the way I like it but needs must! Nevertheless, as the title might have revealed I have been back on trains over the last few days which as always provided me with rather more to blog about than car journeys do. Read on for more… Thanks to all of you for your responses on facebook, email and this website about the new album and tour. I am very excited! See previous blog for details.

Anyway, before I do I should say that I’ve just come back from London where I spent three days doing Live Music Now work which is something I enjoy very much. Those of you unfamiliar with it this should tell you all: After, eventually, arriving in London on Sunday it was an unusual gig in many ways as I played in a care home where the residents were all former artists and performers themselves. No pressure then. It was a delightful couple of hours as I played an hour’s gig and stayed for a far longer than scheduled chat over a cuppa with some fascinating people. All in all, an absolute joy.

On Monday with mandolin maestro Nic Zuppardi I played at a home for older people and a sheltered housing block for those with schizophrenia. Both were lovely, absolutely bloody lovely and a fine example of what music can do as was yesterday when we visited a school for children with complex special needs and seemed to make a big difference there too. A fine few days spent in the capital then also assisted by seeing some old chums, one of whom has a lovely baby boy who has just learned to high five so much fun was had.

A lot of the month has of course been spent back in the old home town which has been really nice. I feel slightly on edge sometimes when I’m not haring round the country (or indeed the world these days) and it has been a bit weird to be in one place for a length of time. But ultimately it’s done me good and I do love my hometown of Stafford as is no secret. There are so many great people here and indeed I type sat in the best of all pubs (The Vaults) which is full of many of the great people to whom I refer. I must confess I never quite understand why some people feel that anyone looking to be ambitious (particularly those in the arts it seems) ought to move away from their hometown especially if it’s small. They all seem to think we should move to London. Why’s that, so we can all spend a fortune living in an expensive city where few people want to actually pay you properly and it’s far harder to build any kind of normal residential life for yourself which is always a challenge? I’m not having a go at London, it’s a remarkable city with an amazing amount going on and for some people it’s where they want to be. I’m just pointing it out – other people might want to live somewhere else and it doesn’t mean they’re wasting their time! It’s possible to live in your hometown and frankly when Stafford is so bloody central anyway it makes my life far easier to tour anyway! And given I have chosen to pursue a life that involves a lot of travel and touring, living in a place of familiarity with people of familiarity gives me a grounding that keeps me sane.

Anyway, I don’t know what started me on that. A couple of Stafford related things – I’ve recently taken part in the protests against closure of vital units at Stafford hospital. It brings a lot of people in this town together and while little results are being yielded I’m proud that people keep showing their displeasure at these scandalous decisions. Put simply, if I have a heart attack in the middle of the night it will now be Stoke or Wolverhampton I’ll be travelling rather than here. That, whatever anyone says, can often not just sometimes be the difference between life and death. The worst performing hospital of the last six months…Stoke. I wonder why.

On a more positive note, I went to see a film recently made here in the town called The Singing Bird Will Come. It’s a new horror film which was certainly highly chilling and skillfully put together and far deeper than many films of its type. Hats off to those who made it and last night they had a big London press showing so best of luck to them. The lead actress Gillian Harker, actually from Luton, was particularly superb and was even present at the screening I went to and was a very nice person as well.

So then, to the title of this blog. I need to clear up a fundamental misunderstanding among people who know me – I do not dislike train travel. I actually positively enjoy it far more than driving as I enjoy the freedom to read the paper, zone out, listen to people etc. It gives me far more to tell you than road travel does too and it makes my life more interesting. This was certainly the case on Sunday. My journey to London, my first train journey in quite some time, ran as follows:

A man read the paper out loud to no-one in particular.

A woman had a phone conversation in two inter changing languages. She began the conversation with ‘hello Andrew how are you’ before immediately launching into what I think was Spanish.

The inevitable cock up: points failure so we chose whether to stay on the train and wait til the inevitable ‘this train terminates here’ announcement or get out at Harrow to find an alternative route

I managed to accidentally end up as London travel guide for about six people who assumed I knew everything about London transport and when trains cock up (the latter with some validity)

I got on the tube and a man was juggling with six balls

A couple spent TWENTY FIVE MINUTES rowing and almost came to blows over how to get to their destination and how near Julie lives to Clapham Junction

The tube announcer wrongly said there was no metropolitan line in both directions from Baker Street thus confused the f*** out of me

I’d missed British Rail