Cath’s Tour Diary – Fairport Convention Winter Tour 2004

Delve into Cath’s fascinating backstage view of a major tour in the Fairport Tour Diary.

From 29 Jan – 29 Feb, 2004  
Mundy-Turner toured as support act to the legendary British folk-rock band Fairport Convention.  It was a lot of fun and a huge success!  The duo played major 30 major venues around the UK in 32 days.

Pics are coming – mostly taken by Cath & Jay and some by Ian Burgess of Friends of Fairport (Thanks, Ian!)

 

Cath’s Fairport Tour Diary 2004

DAY 1: Thurs 29 Jan 
2004: Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury

The first day of the tour!  Finally after all these months of anticipation the day has arrived.  I am nervous!  But very excited too.  I’ve never been on a tour like this before.  Jay did it back in 1991, so he’s not feeling quite the same way as I am.  It will be different to the last tour for him.  For a start he’s not on his own, and we are not travelling on the crew bus as he did back then.  We’ve got our own transport and are taking care of our own accommodation, staying with friends all around the country.

The drive to Worcestershire was blessed with gorgeous sunshine and brittle temperatures of 4 degrees celcius.  After the snow-blizzards of yesterday, the countryside looked radiant in white.  I love the snow!!  But we have to be careful.  There are icy patches on the roads and paths.  Last thing we need is a fall and a broken bone, like on our 2001 Canadian tour.  That’s another story.

First stop: our friends Mike & Sheila’s in nearby Hanley Swan to settle in and spend some time (it’s great to see them).  Thence to Tewkesbury.  We arrive at the back end of The Roses Theatre, not sure of whether we are in the right place.  Next to a fairly huge truck is a fairly huge bloke complete with fairly huge beard.  He’s friendly though and smiles when we ask if we’re in the right place.  We explain that we are the support act.  He says, “You’ll need to park here.  I’ll just move the band’s bus forward a bit so you can squeeze in behind.”  Fairly huge man introduces himself as Buff, (pronounced with his Geordie accent as “Boof”) which stands for something quite rude apparently.  He drives the truck carrying the sound rig and all the instruments and he is just lovely.  Off to a good start!

Original Fairporter & the band’s singer-guitarist Simon Nicol greets us next.  He asks if I’ve managed to stay on my feet today.  It seems that he took a tumble on the ice that morning, landing on one hip.  Luckily, no breaks, he’s just a bit sore.  We find our dressing room, conveniently marked with our name by the Tour Manager Rob Bravinor aka Brav.

The rest of the band are already here – Dave Pegg aka Peggy (bass/mandolin/vocals), Ric Sanders (fiddler), Chris Leslie (vocals/fiddle/mandolin/bouzouki/Native American Flute – what doesn’t this guy play?), and Gerry Conway (drums/percussion) – as are of course, the crew – Geoff Curtis (foldback monitor engineer), and Johnny Gale (guitar roadie), and Brav (Front of House sound).  They’re all lovely folks.  It’s good to see everyone.  But shit I’m nervous.

Ric, whose amazing fiddling prowess always leaves me gobsmacked, shows me the way to Front of House and he takes me up two flights of stairs, through the bar then down two more flights of stairs.  I later discover a much more direct route which cuts out all the stairs and takes you straight to the foyer – Simon says that Ric has an interesting sense of direction.

It’s good to see Christine Pegg there.  She is the Powerhouse behind Woodworm Records and Cropredy Festival, and is supervising the first night of merch-ing by new team Gareth and Frances, two more lovely people.  I can tell this is gonna be a good tour.

Sound check next.  Geoff on monitors is great – nothing is a problem, all you do is ask for whatever you need.  Rob controls the out-front sound, which is gorgeous and sparkly.  It’s a nice theatre and the rig sounds fantastic in there.  We’re going to enjoy playing through this system every night.

Simon helps to calm my nerves by saying that we know our stuff and we’ll have no problems going out there and doing it wonderfully.  Chris Leslie helps even more by reassuring us that the audience will love our set.  He says he’s a fan!  Well that makes us the Mutual Admiration Society here then!  I’ve admired Chris’ playing for years now, since I first heard his fiddling on Jay’s song “The First Day of Spring” – a long time before he joined Fairport.

Ric opens the show with a very flattering introduction harking back to the time in the previous century, well 13 years ago, when “fresh-faced young singer-songwriter Jay Turner” toured with Fairport and enchanted everyone with his song “My Grandfather’s Eyes”.  Our set goes very well, no technical disasters!  Do need to ask Geoff to adjust the balances between our instruments and voices on the monitors a bit – everything is going to be settling in during these first few gigs.  I’m struck however with how clearly I can hear my voice.  I guess I’ve been used to working through less clear systems than this.  It’s FANTASTIC.  I’m wearing a pair of tall stack-heeled boots bought especially for the tour – very stylish, but hell, I’m not used to heels and it’s gonna take me time to get used to performing in them.  I feel VERY tall!

Went out front to listen to Fairport’s set.  Wow – they sound exquisite.  Love the arrangements.  Appreciate anew their incredible instrumental talents.  Quite a few new numbers too.  And they are very funny – a delightful show.  Went on to join the band for their traditional encore “Meet on the Ledge” by Richard Thompson, with me on piano, Jay on guitar, and seeing as we’d only just learned the chords and arrangement, thought it went very well.  The audience seemed quiet tonight and were not buying anything much during interval, much to the Merch crew’s dismay.  Apparently even the bar complained of only selling one tray of drinks!  Hopefully this is not the trend for the tour.

 

DAY 2: Fri 30 Jan 
2004: Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury

We discovered that British comedian Eric Morecombe did his last performance in this theatre and died on the floor in OUR dressing room.  Ooooohhhhh, that’s a bit spooky.

A few changes tonight.  Peggy & Geoff say bringing the piano on for the encore is too messy so they’d like us to join them on another number instead, namely their hit song from 1968 “Si Tu Dois Patir” by Bob Dylan.  Blimmin’ heck, it’s all in French!  I can’t speak French, let along sing it!  We have one run-through, Jay playing guitar and me on cow-bell (more portable than the piano) and trying to keep up with the words of the chorus.  Eeek.

Second night audience are a lot more lively, much louder and happier.  It was a sell-out.  They bought lots of drinks and cds and t-shirts and stuff and wanted us to sign things!  Really fantastic!  I can do this!

“Si Tu” was a bit rough whilst we learn the words and the shape of the arrangement, but it’s new for Fairport too, so at least we’re all in it together.  Strangely, they’ve never played their hit live.  The only current band-member who was in the band at the time of the hit was Simon and he didn’t sing back then!

We thought Peggy meant us to do “Si Tu” instead of “Meet on the Ledge”, so we got changed into our black civvies to load out, and were standing at the side-stage watching the encore.  Peggy started moving his head indicating that he wanted us to go on and sing along, but by the time we worked out what his head-movements meant, weíd missed the first chorus.  So we tried to sneak on stage right in time for the second chorus, whilst everyone was looking at Chris Leslie doing his mandolin solo stage left.  Sneaking on didnít work!  The audience very enthusiastically burst into applause at our entrance, which was so nice of them, but we didnít mean to disrupt Chrisí solo.  It was wonderful singing along, adding our harmonies to the chorus, and Iím glad we still are involved in the encore.  Thanks Peggy!

 

DAY 3: Sat 31 Jan 2004:Forum 28, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

Two questions: What does Furness mean?  Why does it have a barrow in it?

Never been here before and on such a wet day it felt as though we were driving into the fjord-lands of New Zealand.  Roads and fields were flooding.  But it’s so beautiful.  I love the adventure of going to new places.  Stop in Ulverston to meet our hosts Jack and Vicky, who are fascinating people and great fun.  Vicky is descended from Welsh gypsies.  She showed us photos of her mum and grandmother, both beautiful women.  Her grandmother was a traditional Gypsy fortune-teller.  Jack re-constructs the skeletons of dead animals (usually birds) into striking sculptures.  There is a big skeleton of a turkey looking in the kitchen window, and the many tiny bones of birds’ feet sorted into specific groups on his desk.  He also sews wedding dresses.  Amazing folks.

On to Barrow to the Forum 28, with our hosts leading the way.  The Forum’s claim to fame is that the venue was the site of the outbreak of Legionnaires disease a couple of year’s back, which killed a number of people.  They are going through a court case at the moment.  It seems a very nice place all the same.

Another fabulous audience, pretty well sold out.  They really went crazy for the whole show.  Fairport got a standing ovation – wonderful to see.  People really liked our set and our songs – so much positive feedback from audience members at interval and after the show too. Jay’s stirring song “Markham Main” is really making an impact, quite fittingly during the 20th anniversary year of the Miner’s Strike.  All the enthusiasm for our set bodes well for our return visit to play our own show at the Ulverston Sports and Social Club in May.

 

DAY 4: Sun 1 Feb 2004: Newcastle Opera House

A big cavernous chilly place, but so beautiful.  Built in the mid-1800s, it’s classically styled and awesome with multi-levels of towering balconies.  Never been to Newcastle before – a handsome city, very impressive.  Never played in an “opera house” before.  Felt really cold on stage with the draught that swept through, and found it difficult to relax during the set, but it went well, judging from the cd sales and the amount of people coming up to us with such great comments, and smiles on their faces.  They really are loving what we do, and we’re so happy for that!  The chance to bring joy and emotion to people’s lives through music and storytelling is the whole reason I became a performer.  Playing to such lovely crowds in these theatres every night really “feels like home to me” (haha – to quote a Linda Ronstadt song).

Great to see Bob Fox and his wife Marilyn here tonight.  He has been nominated for Best Folk Singer of the year by BBC Folk on Two Awards, to be announced in a week’s time.  His version of Chris Leslie’s evocative song “My Love Is In America” has also been nominated for Original Song of the Year.  We hope he and Chris’s song get the gong, although being nominated is honour enough!  Also nice to see long-term fans along tonight, the Wisker family and their friend 19-year old Mikayla from Birmingham, all squealing with excitement at the fact that two of their fave acts were on in the same bill.  We signed a lot of posters!

Stayed overnight with friends on the nearby coast, virtuoso fiddler Stewart Hardy and his lovely German wife Tine.  She is a physiotherapist.  They are both hilarious.  This tour is turning into a great way to catch up with friends.  We stayed up later than we meant to yet again, talking, laughing and feasting on very nourishing vegetable soup!  All good for the soul.

 

DAY 5: Mon 2 Feb 2004:City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds

It’s the Muppet Show and tonight, Kermit’s special guests are Mundy-Turner and Fairport Convention!!  Yaaaaaaaay!!  (Frog puppet wiggles arms to the left.)  What a cool place, and such a cute if, rather small, stage.  Extremely small.  Somehow we managed to fit the piano on there, thanks to Geoff setting up his mixing desk back a way.

The music hall TV series “The Good Old Days” was filmed here.  I do remember it very vaguely from my childhood – they showed a lot of British TV in Australia then.  A friend tells me it’s also known locally as the Titty Varieties – something to do with the type of shows that were once on here?  The auditorium and stage really do remind me of the Muppets theatre.  I could just imagine those two old geezers heckling from the boxes.  “Who’s that bald chap with the girl with big teeth and eyebrows?”

Built in 1860s, it’s of similar vintage to last night’s Opera House but possesses a totally different energy.  More grungy and “theatrical”.  Less opera-y.  An absolutely packed out, sold out, standing room only show.  Very sweaty, and a great deal of fun.

Apparently the City Varieties is being threatened with closure as it doesnít conform to present-day safety and disabled access standards.  They are asking people to write to the council in protest.  Itís part of Leeds heritage.  Surely the council should be investing in it, to help revamp it to modern-day standards, not pulling it down.  So here’s my bit – KEEP THE TITTY – sorry – CITY VARIETIES ALIVE!

Staying two nights with very good Yorkshire friends Bill and Judy now.  T’will be great to spend two nights in one bed and to spend some MORE time with friends.  Hotel rooms are OK, but the chance to see people and enjoy home-hospitality whilst on the road is quite a blessing.

 

DAY 6: Tues 3 Feb 
2004: Burnley Mechanics, Lancashire

Bloody great show here, and what a marvellous venue too.  We came out on stage and asked the audience how they were.  “All the better for seeing you!” came the shouted reply, and we looked down to see a whole table of some of our most loyal fans right in front: Tim and Denise and The Birtwhistles.  Felt wonderful.  They are also big Fairport fans so they were enjoying the night immensely.  CD sales went exceptionally well here, the best night of the tour so far, so it’s all feeling rather fantastic.  “Get There From Here” with the band went off, and we are getting the hang of “Si Tu” now.  I can’t believe I can now sing this in French.  I drove Jay mad practising it in the car all the way up to Barrow last Friday.

The band and Rob are enjoying rather sumptuous lunches on this tour.  Every evening at sound-check they have a story of yet another fantastic gastronomic experience, today at Kashmir’s in Bradford, one of the best curry houses in the country.  After all the years of doing the Winter Tour, they have sussed out the places to go and plan their journeys accordingly.  We on the other hand, have no idea where all these marvellous places are, and dined at Little Chef this afternoon.  What could compare to Little Chef’s vegetarian all-day breakfast I ask you?

The Birtwistles wrote to us: 
“Hi – Loved Burnley’s show, and you have to get a version of Get There From Here down on tape sometime during the tour.  Get it out as a single, or on your new CD as a bonus track, truly awesome.  Philip, Celia and Ruth

 

DAY 7: Wed 4 Feb 
2004: Southport Arts Centre, Lancashire

Rainy day, roads flooding.  A very damp ride down from the Moors of Yorkshire to the coast.  What a gorgeous Victorian seaside town Southport is.  Wish we had more time to look around, but as usual we arrive in time to go straight into the venue.  Jay went out to a cd shop before the sound-check to buy a copy of Roger Whittaker‘s new compilation album.  It’s got Jay’s song “Feather on the Wind” on it as a bonus track, and we had a quick listen through the FOH system, courtesy of Rob.  Sounds good, but not quite what we’d hoped for.  “Feather on the Wind” and another of Jay’s songs “Out of Africa” will be coming out on the new Roger Whittaker album later in the year.  Good one Jay.

The theatre here is rather marvellous, the sound is splendid and we played a good set.  Sold lots of cds and heaps of people came up to give us their thanks and compliments on our performance.  It feels wonderful being on this tour, playing in great venues to such responsive audiences who appreciate original music, and supporting such an excellent band of people and musicians.  I reckon we could do his forever.

Starting to get some fan email – wow! 
“Saw you at Southport last wednesday. Really enjoyed your set. Paul”

“What a fantastic discovery!  I had never heard of you before – but saw you last night with Fairport Convention in Southport – you are absolutely fantastic! I am totally hooked! Just been looking to see where else you are playing this year so i can see you again – luckily there are a few possibilities! Meanwhile, i am just going to have to buy some more of your cds as it seems i cant get enough of you! Wow! What a find! Just read your profiles also and it seems you have been around for some time – so where have i been? Must have been going around with eyes and ears closed!  I shall gush no more… Thank you for last night – i enjoyed you just as much as Fairport, if not more so because you were such an unexpected find.  Now – how many cds is it i have to buy?…..Many thanks, Jean.”

 

DAY 8: Thurs 5 Feb 
2004: Assembly Rooms, Derby


Ouch, this was a hard night. Itís the first night with the Dylan Project, and therefore our set was cut to 20 minutes.  We thought, “Right!  Cut 2 songs from a 6-song 30 minute set and we should be apples.”  Nup!  It turns out we still managed to overrun by 5 minutes, but not intentionally of course.  This combined with not starting on time because the theatre didnít give clearance at 7.30, time was tight for the rest of the show.  This is a lesson in being much more attentive to timings and making sure we understand the whole picture when a show is different in any way.

A funny thing happened with Little Johnny Gale on stage tonight.  He took my piano off stage after “William Jolly” and I’d left my fiddle bow on top of it.  I came to do “Separation Street” and I had no bow!  Somehow I managed to get the message across to John and he came on stage to hand-deliver the bow much to the audience’s delight.  He’s fab.

Tonight, despite the difficulties and resulting heartache, or actually thanks to the difficulties, I am struck with the incredible kindness we have received from everyone on this tour.  The crew (John, Buff/Boof & Geoff, pictured left to right) are just so great.  Rob/Brav the Tour Manager is also great.  Every member of the band is so sensitive and supportive and lovely.  They are all working under stressful conditions and have to get out there each day and do their utmost best.  It’s awesome to watch and to be a part of it.  I feel a huge sense of gratitude to Fairport and their Team – and a lot of love too.  Awwww.  Warm fizzies.  Oops, I mean fuzzies.

 

DAY 9: Fri 6 Feb 
2004: Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells 
Lovely room, great sound, fab audience – who could ask for anything more?  Went down a storm! 
 Great show tonight from all players.  Everything was feeling a lot calmer after the tumult of last night.  The crew and band members came up before the show to check we were well.  They are such caring people.  Everyone on the Fairport bus is a family, and such a loving one.  Feel very blessed by that.  Thank you guys.  You’re true heroes.

Steve & Terri – great friends and Fairport-supporters from the very early days came as our guests tonight. Steve gave us good feedback about how well the set is working.  Said it was perfectly balanced and exactly what he would suggest we play.  But Rob timed us and it looks like even with the chat culled right down to the bare minimum it is still the same 5 minutes over.  Damn!  We didn’t realise that.  The only thing to do is to cut another song, and that way we can relax with the audience, still do some of the story telling, and not over run.

The Fairports gave the most hilarious extra encore tonight, before “Meet on the Ledge”.  Simon came on and sat at the drums and started playing the solo from “Wipe Out”, so Gerry grabbed Simon’s guitar and was doing all the rock and roll moves with it, although he could only play one note.  Most funny was that he hadn’t turned the tuner off, so no sound was coming through at all, until John ran out and switched it through.  The audience loved it, and we all fell about.  I had no idea Simon could play drums.

More Fan Emails:  “Hi  Saw you live in Tunbridge Wells last Friday – thought you were excellent!  Please help – I’d like to buy a copy of Crooked House (should have got it on the night, I know) – does your on-line order facility ship to the UK or is there a better way of purchasing your CDs within the UK?  Thanks for your help – look forward to seeing you again some day.Regards – Chris”

“Cath/Jay  Just a quick note so say how much I enjoyed your gig with Fairport in Tunbridge Wells the other night (my 11 year old daughter enjoyed you more than Fairport, who she has seen before). I purchased ‘Crooked House’ and have managed to find space to review it in Feedback Magazine #78, which I am currently completing. It will also contain a live review (if I get my finger out) and I will send you a hard copy of the mag when it is finished.  I hope you managed to have a look at the ones I left with you.  However, I thought you might like to see the review of the album (attached)All the best, Kev

Thanks for the very nice album review Kev.  We look forward to the live review too!

 

DAY 10: Sat 7 Feb 
2004: Corn Exchange, Cambridge

We’d been told the acoustics in the Corn Exchange were dreadful but we had NO problems on stage – fantastic sound as usual.  Up front there’s a huge standing-only area for the audience, then way away there’s a riser with seats.  And then, up above that in the “gods”, is a balcony full of people as well.  So you’ve got people hanging over the front barrier right in your face and then a void – a faceless crowd way up there in the black heavens that you can’t see.  Weird!  Nonetheless we had a great time on stage – audience were fantastic.

A hilarious moment on stage:  Jay had just introduced “Get There” and the band were all on stage behind us (or so we thought), when Peggy stage-whispered to Jay “Keep talking, keep talking..”.  Jay turned around to find out why, and there was no Gerry behind the drums!  He’d been in his dressing room with his walkman in his ears (as usual – I think he’s listening to jazz) and the door shut and hadn’t realised everyone had left for the stage.  Poor man looked very sheepish when he finally did rush onto the stage to the kit.  We can’t start without him!

Our friend Brian Cleary, host for the night and brilliant Django-style guitarist, raved about our set, sweet man.  This is a man who doesn’t dish out compliments without cause, so we felt chuffed.  He loved our sound and what we did with a big stage rig. S aid it was exquisite, especially our voices and harmonies.  He’s seen us a number of times in intimate folk club situations and thought we translated our act so well to the large venue.  Really gratifying to hear this from a man whose musical opinion we respect so much.

The crowd went wild for Fairport tonight.  The lovely singer-songwriter annA rydeR was there and sang with the band on her fab song “The Crowd”.  She released her own Fairport Tour diary as a book as few years back.

“Si Tu” went down a blast as did “Meet on the Ledge” especially with young guest cornet-player Edmund adding his brass-magic to the chorus – totally exhilerating.  The fact that he’s blind is only an interesting aside.  It did sound fabulous and the crowd were right into it, singing along.  God it’s a real joy to be on this tour!

Our friends Steve & Jill were there and wrote:

“‘Elo darlings!  What a great show and how terrific you both looked on the big stage in the super trooper spotlights, absolutely loved your set and also the mixing in with F.C. Your wonderful voices added an extra dimension to the band.  Good luck with the rest of the tour.  See you soon, love & cuddles, Steve & Jill

“Thanks for a great gig at Cambridge. Luckily we brought binoculars!Good to see Fairport returning to the Huw Williams catalogue. Hopefully they’ll soon turn to the Mundy-Turner songbook.  On which subject, should you ever require a studio band, or even stage backing musicians, don’t forget us if you can’t afford Fairport.All the best for the rest of the tour. Mark (and Phil & Kim in absentium)”

 

DAY 11:  Sun 8 Feb 2004: Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Wow!  What a stunning venue.  As Jay remarked at the soundcheck, “It’s like the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise in here.”  Very impressive.  Acoustics to die for.  This is obviously a 6-star gig.  The dressing rooms have not only ensuite bathrooms, but a highly polished upright piano in each, so you can practise, do warm-up scales, play the blues, whatever you’d like to do with your own private pre-show piano.  Posh.  (Oops, a bit over the top with p-alliteration there.)

This is a Dylan Project night, so our set is a bit short, but 3 songs in the Symphony Hall is better than no songs at all!  It’s also a real home turf gig, seeing Peggy, Chris Pegg and Ric are both from Brum.  Bit nervous for some reason.  OK, I’m shit scared for some reason.  ‘Specially starting with “Little Birds” which we haven’t before yet performed on this tour.

I feel like I’m coming down with something – tickly throat.  But the audience seemed to love us, and the CD sales were fantastic!  Was great to see the wonderful Chris Pegg there.  She is the powerhouse behind Woodworm Records and Cropredy Festival.  She took me to task for being too tall, wearing those bloody too-high platform heels.  She said I would be intimidating men and would be unable to catch one.  I said I wasn’t looking for a man, I’ve got one already!  And at 6’1″ he is tall enough to bear my on-stage height.

The Dylans and Fairport all went down a storm, and we all got on to do the finale of the Fairport hit “Si Tu Dois Partir”, followed by big chorus line style bows altogether.  PJ Wright (awesome guitarist from Dylan Project and Little Johnny England) & I had fun on the side Honky-Tonkying with his electric guitar and my cow-bell.

After such a brill Fairport performance, of course the audience were baying for an encore, so all were on for the emotive “Meet on the Ledge”, including a much-applauded appearance by the brilliant ex-Fairport multi-instrumentalist Maart Allcock.  The audience sang a beautiful solo on the chorus.  I took the camera on stage and got some lovely shots.  Great night altogether.  Woke up this morning with a tickly throat so hope I’m not getting anything nasty.  Sleeping at home tonight – can’t wait for me own bed.

“Dear Cath and Jay,…what a revelation seeing you at the Birmingham Symphony hall on the 8/2/04.I thought you were absolutely incredible! …thank you very much for an enjoyable evening , your singing, playing and very tight close harmonies were edge of the seat stuff and we would both love to come and see you play for longer next time.  Good luck and have a great future.  Lots of love  Martyn”

 

DAY 12: Mon 9 Feb 
2004: Opera House, Buxton, Derbyshire

You’d think going home after being away on tour will be nice and relaxing.  But sometimes it’s not.  Like today!  We woke up late as usual and pretty tired after having driven up from Birmingham post-gig the night before, only to find that a water pipe has burst across our driveway and the ridge tiles had blown off our roof in the high winds over the weekend.  Yikes.  Let’s go back on the road please.

Temperature has dropped again – it’s freezing today.  A lovely drive from our place, just 50 minutes across the dramatic and beautiful Peak District, brings us to the old Buxton Opera House.  Tis absolutely gorgeous, from its art nouveau stained glass frontage, to its classical interior of elaborately gilted balconies.  There are even cherubs and angels painted on the domed ceiling high above the auditorium.  Celestial.

I wish I felt better.  Definitely coming down with something rotten and cold/flu-like.  Damn!  I was so determined to stay cold-free. Had my first sleepless night of the tour last night.  Fairport melodies, riffs and arrangements were rehearsing themselves incessantly in my head.  At least the music was enjoyable.  Could have done with the sleep instead though.

I told Simon about this and he looked genuinely concerned.  “Fairport tunes all night – oh you poor thing!”  He told me that he couldn’t get to sleep either after last night’s because they hadn’t done “Matty Groves”.  To get any rest, he had to get out of bed, go downstairs and play through the whole thing!

Uncle Reg Turner (Jay’s oldest surviving uncle) and his first cousin Nigel Turner were in the audience tonight.  He dedicated “Markham Main” to them, as they are all descended from Jay’s Granddad Turner who was a Derbyshire coal miner.  My voice was not working very well due to whatever is going on with this sore throat.  I wanted to opt out of doing the Kookaburra impersonation (that’s an Ozzie native bird with a wild call that I do in our set, in case you didn’t notice it or didn’t see the show) ’cause I was feeling so yuck.  Very kindly the House Manager brought me a hot whisky during interval.  Purely medicinal of course!

 

DAY 13: Tues 10 Feb 
2004: Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd, South Wales

Jay & I have just come off stage after an exhilarating set warming up for the fab Fairporters.  I’m struck by the realisation that dressing rooms are great things – even when they are a bit cold.  But I should have no complaints.  Even a chilly dressing room gives you somewhere to stretch out the kinks of the journey, put on lippy in private, and make funny noises with your voice.  You can even set up the laptop and type your diary entries. You don’t get this luxury at folk clubs.  It’s bloody nice.

So, here we are in Ponty!  This is our first and only night in a Welsh town and apart from the rather difficult get-in and the painfully crawling traffic through the town centre, itís great!  The audience are bonzer.  I like Welsh people, their sense of humour, and I like the Welsh place names.  Where else in the world do you come across the musical lyricism (albeit unpronounceable lyricism for those not in the know) of places like “Maes-y-coed”?

It’s that point in the tour when health is a little run-down – both Chris Leslie and I have colds and Geoff (our fantastic on-stage sound engineer) has been a bit poorly.  Chris is so thoughtful – he came to our dressing room before the show bearing a hot mug of Lemsip for me.  I attribute the success of our set to lovely Mr Leslie, the Sudafed I took earlier, and Lemsip.  Is one supposed to take Sudafed and Lemsip together?  I dunno but I’m on a high now so it must be good.  Think I’ll get another hot whisky from the bar tonight too.

Fan Email:  “Dear Both, saw the gig at Pontypridd thought you were brill. What album is Markham Main on and the first song you did about Australia? You both looked as though you were enjoying yourselves especially on the stage with Fairport. Thanks for a great night. Hope you come to South Wales again especially Swansea… will deffo be coming. Thanks again.  Terry”

 

DAY 14: Wed 11 Feb 2004:The Phoenix, Exeter, Devon

There was an interesting art exhibition at the Phoenix (see me there with Raven installation, right).  There’s a bird theme happening here – phoenix, raven, kookaburra…  Cool place!

For the record, I asked Jay what he enjoyed most about tonight’s gig.  “It felt like a real gritty rock n roll gig.  The crowd had a real restless energy which inspired me lot.”  Yep I agree wholeheartedly – it was great fun out there tonight.  A stand-up gig – for the audience I mean.  Having a mosh pit of folk-rockers on their feet jammed in front of you creates a great atmosphere.  The audience were really up for it – literally.

Don’t know what happened with Fairport getting on stage – we introduced them and Ric and Chris came on, but no one else.  Eventually Simon, Peggy and Gez followed, Simon zipping up his trousers – it was very funny.

Jay’s new-found half-brother Martin and his girlfriend Sharon were in the audience tonight.  Martin is also a musician, and it was so nice to have him there being so supportive and relaxed.  Having a brother is something new for Jay and he is enjoying it.  So am I.

Jay is great.  Touring with him 24 hours a day, working with him on stage, driving thousands of miles in the car, navigating our way through endless, confusing one-way systems in a different town every day, AND being married to him, you’d think we’d be getting on each otherís nerves.  But no it’s wonderful.  I can’t help but think how bloody lucky we are.

The lovely Brav, Fairport’s manager, asked me last night whether we were all right, were we enjoying being on the tour?  He said the fact that he hadn’t asked very often isn’t because he or the crew don’t care, but more because of everything going on.  I told him the truth – we love every minute of it.  The crew are so great to us, the band are too.  We’ve no complaints  – we’re being treated so respectfully and kindly, and feel really appreciated.

Rob very kindly said that we are a joy to have on the tour and doing a great job.  I can’t say how pleased I am to hear that from him.  As the Tour Manager (TM) and Sound Engineer (SE), Rob has a tough role, running the tour, making sure everything works smoothly as possible with the venues, band, crew, the support act, hotels, etc, etc – and he gets out front and gives us all brilliant soaring sound every night as well.  The tour is full of heroes actually, and Rob is right up there.

Went out front to listen to part of the second half of the show.  Simon’s performance of “Rosemary’s Sister” by Huw Williams is a real high point for me – so poignant, complimented by the delicate and sparkling guitar-work and the sweet violins of Chris & Ric.  It gave me goosebumps.  I must remember to tell him.

 

DAY 15: Thurs 12 Feb 2004:Queens Theatre, Barnstaple, Nth Devon

Arrived in Barnstaple mid-afternoon in convoy in the misty rain with our Taunton hosts The Carters (Gwyn, Kevin the Saint and daughter Vicky) for a relaxed lunch together at the pub opposite the theatre.  They are putting us up for all our gigs in the West Country (quite a few).  Wonderful folks.  Gwyn has been a fan of Jay’s since he toured as support on the Fairport Winter Tour of 1991 and owns all four of his solo albums on cassette – rare things.

It is Day 15 of the tour – half way through.  Brav (who is what’s known in the UK as a “Georgie” – ie someone from a particular area of the North-East of England who speaks with a particularly hilarious accent) told us that when he was in Australia he earned the nickname “Crocodile Geor-dee”.   I’m calling him “Croc” for the rest of the tour.

Speaking of accents, I hadn’t heard anyone actually SAY “Barnstaple” before we went on stage.  Should’ve checked it with Jay.  Rather embarrassing to warmup a new crowd with “Good Evening BarnSTAPLE” – as in ‘staple food’ or ‘staple papers’ – and have them all falling about laughing at my mispronunciation.  How was I to know that the emphasis is on the “Bahrn” with a little “stipple” afterwards?  Oh, well laughter is the best warm-up for any crowd.

But I bet none of them would know how to pronounce some of the places in my home town.  Try wrappin’ “Woolloongabba” around yer larfin gear mate.

I continue to interview Jay for the record: he reckons there is a really clear energy in all the performances tonight.  The audience seemed a little quiet at first but were soon responding wholeheartedly to our intros and songs.  They almost didn’t stop clapping to several numbers.  The band entered to prolonged applause.  They are giving it welly tonight and sounding great.  I still feel bunged up with the lurgy, but managing to sing through it.  This illness is making my mouth so dry I have to swig water in between every song.  Which then makes me want to burp while singing.  Sigh!

Last night at Exeter, we did our set without the piano – lack of space.  So I played “Get There From Here” on fiddle instead of piano.   It felt so great to be up on my feet in the middle of the band rather than being stuck out at the side seated behind the keys, so we decided to stick with the fiddle.  Now I’m getting much more of a kick from that number and it ends our set much more comfortably for me.

Simon also gets more of a chance to add to the arrangement on electric guitar, which is a bonus cos I really love his playing.  And I double up the brass-line with Ric – two fiddles – which gives it a bit more of a big “chorus” effect.  He and Chris on mandolin do the histrionics in the final chorus.  I like the way the support act dovetails with the main act – laying on tune together before the FC set.  How many main acts do that with their support act?

Found a “secret” message from Peggy scribbled inside the book Jay is reading each night in the dressing rooms.  Message reads 
“Hey ? well done U2.  Youíre great!  Love Peggy xx  PS not being nosey – just wanted to thank you!”   Awww.  That’s so sweet of him. God Bless Peggy.  Wonder when he wrote that?

 

DAY 16: Fri 13 Feb 
2004: Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Great show tonight although people are a little road-weary.  Poor Ric is not feeling well tonight – stomach upset.  The band drove all the way back to their home-base in Banbury from Barnstaple last night.  That’s quite a way after a gig, and they didnít get home until 4-5am.  We slept over at Taunton, so didnít have such a long drive today but it still took 4 hours.  Tesco meal for dinner in Warwick – not bad.  Where else can you get a hot meal for such a good price at 4 in the afternoon that’s not McDonalds?

Boring I know but this cold is STILL lingering.  It’s making a bit grumpy.  I’ve really had enough of it, thanks very much!  Tonight on stage I breathed out through my nose during our final number with the band and what came out wasn’t pleasant.  I couldn’t do anything about it with the fiddle in my hands and you can hardly wipe your schnoz with the back of your hand in front of all those people, can you?  I hope no one noticed.  Poor Jay seems to be getting the sore throat now.  Bummer.  But still we did a great set and the audience went crazy for it.

Met Brav’s wife Barbara and his two very pretty daughters Jessica and Milly.  Some good friends in the audience tonight – Karen Dove our super-hero friend from Coventry, and Australian singer-songwriter-bassist Liz Frencham who goes back to Australia this weekend.  (Liz played bass on Chris While and Julie Matthews’ new album last year and we hope sheíll be returning to the UK in the summer to gig and play bass on our album too!)

Before the show, the marvellous Chris Leslie showed us his special Native American flutes that he brought in from home.  Just a gorgeous sound, and he is such a natural on the instrument.  It’s sold us on acquiring one of the River Reed flutes.  They are made completely by hand by the traditional Cherokee makers, using no machinery.

Interval was a blast – selling cds big time and signing everything pushed before us!  It’s lovely to be able to have a chat to people as they come up with their albums.  Most have connections with Australia, either having been there or relatives there.  All have such lovely compliments to give us too, which make me feel very humble indeed.  We are soooooo lucky to be here singing to these fantastic people.

For the second half, Jay has taken our friend Karen backstage so she can watch Gerry Conway’s drumming up close.  She has just started learning drums, and thinks Gerry is incredible.  He is.

 

DAY 17: Sat 14 Feb 2004:Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe

Valentines Day, kisses and hugs and more of those warm fizzies!  Got a lovely card from my love and a huge Toblerone.  Yum.  Weather not fab, very drizzly and dreary.  It’s lucky I carry the sunshine in my heart.  Awwwww.

Now, why is it so hard to get in to these venues?  Sometimes it seems as if every door is locked, every passage not the right one, and your hands are always full so that opening the endless range of fire-doors is impossible.  But once you’re in, everything is great!  Atop our gear tonight sat a big red Valentines card and a bunch of beautiful tulips from the crew to me.  The card read:  “Hot stuff!  Hi there you little devil – to our Valentine with love from the crew. x”  Wow!  Me?  Very unexpected and such a thoughtful gesture.  I thanked Geoff, our marvellous monitor engineer, and he said “Well we have to look after you, seeing as you’re the only girl backstage amongst all these blokes.”  I can hold me own with this male mob – they are so very sweet.

We got a large container of Quality Street chocolates for the band, and another for the crew, just to show them we care.  The band has tucked into their box admirably, but I don’t think the crew have even visited the green room to know of their existence!

The crew definitely work the hardest of us all, for the longest hours, sometimes doing 17 hour days with very little break, and in this case for 17 consecutive days without a day off.  They are never grumpy or mean, always professional, always go out of their way to assist you, and all have an excellent sense of humour.  That’s essential.  You don’t have to be mad to be on this tour, but it helps.

Great crowd here at the Swan theatre.  Chris Bates taking pictures as he did last night.  Set went really well but poor Jay, he’s now suffering the cold I had, whilst mine is getting better by the day.  Still he sang beautifully and “Naked” was just sublime.  Sold lots of “Wholly Road” live albums at interval.  Maybe because people seemed to really like the Kookaburra tonight and that’s the only album it’s on.  Fancy selling albums because of a bird impersonation.

After the show we drove up to our friend’s place Pam & Oliver.  Oliver cooked us a fresh trout meal with gorgey veges at 1 o clock in the morning.  Another tour hero.  (See Oliver cooking in the piccy!)

Fan email time!   “Fabulous night last night and very much enjoyed your contribution.  Please could you place us on your mailing list…  Hope to be able to see you live again somewhere soon!”

“Hello, Saw you last night with Fairport, really really good.  How about a gig at Nettlebed folk Club or Tudor folk Club ?  Thank you, will see you again.

 

DAY 18: Sun 15 Feb 
2004: Octagon Theatre, Yeovil

There are people here tonight whoíve come all the way from Leicester to see us play again, after seeing us at the Derby show.  How cool is that!  They loved our set, and have been playing the cd non-stop since and just wanted to hear us again.  I’m blown away by that.  Just so glad people are enjoying the music we create.

Well poor Jay’s got my cold for sure.  I WAS getting better but woke up this morning feeling like shite and the drive from Banbury to Yeovil didn’t improve me.  Could the cold-fairy come and take it way now please?  I’ve overdosed on Vitamin C and sucked enough Antiseptic Soothers to last the year.

After the difficult get-in at Pontypridd, we took up the original offer from the crew to have our gear carried by them, apart from the violin.  So now we arrive to find our gear already in the venue and only have to cart the personal stuff and fiddle.  What a luxury that is.  These guys are just fantastic.

The Merch crew, Gareth and Frances, are doing a wonderful job selling everyone’s stuff.  It is very reassuring to know your product is in such efficient hands and they are mega nice too.  Frances has helped us several times to find our way into obscure backstage entrances.  The guys sold heaps of cds for us at Leamington Spa, the best night for our sales so far, with Burnley Mechanics coming a close second.

I’m listening to FC playing Ric’s self-penned instrumental “Portmerrion” over the dressing-room speakers and it is sublime.  Ric makes his violin sing.  I’m totally in awe of his playing – he can tackle any style and make it his own, a true virtuoso.  Chris Leslie is also awesome, what a multi-instrumentalist, AND he’s a great songwriter.  I love his fiddle playing but his mandolin work is also exquisite.  Time to go now to get ready for “Si Tu Dois Partir”.  Comfy singing this now.  Sing in French?  A cinch.  Have come a long way in more ways than one since this tour began.

 

DAY 19: Mon 16 Feb 
2004: The Playhouse, Weston-super-Mare

Sunshiney afternoon, very pretty seaside town, complete with a pier.  Had no idea Weston was such a nice little place.  Buff/Boof was our guardian angel again this afternoon, out with the truck, telling us the code to get in by the stage-door.  Another great show tonight – our set went down big time.  CD sales and signing of programmes and posters was full-on at half-time and interval.  Lots of kids here as it’s half-term. It’s wonderful that parents are bringing their children to see live music of this genre, hopefully ensuring that the interest lives on into another generation.

Jay met up with an old acquaintance, Richard, and long-time supporters Paul & Angie Richards from Bath were there as our guests.  Lovely to see them, but thereís not much time for catching up with friends during interval – there’s so much to do with signing cds and chatting to fans!

The funniest thing about the venue is that you can’t get to front of house without going through the auditorium.  So Jay and I went from the stage door and ran around the WHOLE block to the front of the theatre!  By the end of the show it was raining as we ‘arrived’ spattered with rain to ask the audience passing us on their way out, “Oh did we miss it?  Was it good?”

Simon had a monumental time with the lyrics of “Matty Groves” tonight – the song stopped twice, as he found his place in the narrative. Such a long song, so many verses, it’s not a wonder.  But it’s not the sort of song that works when the sequence of events is not in chronological order!  “Oh, no, they haven’t gone to bed together yet!”  he cried.  We all cracked up (backstage and front), but the audience seem to love their musical heroes showing human fallibility.

Our first day off tomorrow after 19 consecutive shows.  Can’t wait, my body needs a breather to get rid of this cold-infection completely.  The band will be driving home after the gig, while we are hot-footing it across the country to Dawn & Graham’s in Broadstairs, Kent.  Shouldn’t take us more than about 3 hours.  It will be better to do it at night whilst the traffic is non-existent, than spending our big “day off” crawling through peak-hour road-works on the M25.

 

DAY 20: Tues 17 Feb 2004:Broadstairs, Kent

Arrived at 3am and sank thankfully into a warm feather-doona-ed bed after being let in by our wonderful host Dawn.  Awoke at 11.30am, our usual time on this tour.  It will be great to be here for the next three days, two of which are days off, interrupted only by a relaxed sortie into nearby Canterbury for the gig.  Yay!  Such a lovely seaside town.  We do love Broadstairs, and it’s great to catch up with our mates Dawn & Graham, do some laundry and tonight, ooooh we might just watch a movie.  We’ve almost forgotten what a quiet night at home watching a movie is like.

 

DAY 21: Wed 18 Feb 
2004: Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, Kent

Final night with the Dylan Project, which means again a 3-song set.  Quite posh venue.  The piano couldn’t go on tonight, firstly due to lack of space once PJ’s pedal steel is set up.  Secondly, the piano sound module got dropped last night by accident and it’s buggered up in some way.  Jay tried taking it apart and fixing it to no avail.  Must find an electrical repair-type person tomorrow and get it back on track.

With the shorter set, it was prettty difficult choosing what songs to do tonight, but finally settled on “Separation Street”, “Naked” preceded by the kookaburra of course, and “Markham Main”.  It means only one song with the fiddle, but something’s always got to give.  Most important are the dynamics of the set.

It was nice opening with “Separation Street” anyway as we haven’t done it for a while now.  And everyone loves the gorgeous “Naked” and the powerfully emotive “Markham Main”.  There was a worrying moment when Jay repeated the entire third Verse of Markham!  It’s the first time he’s done that, but he continued through and recovered well.  Did anyone notice?

The kookaburra has been going well. I’ve had so many comments about it, and children particularly think it’s cool.  It’s nice but also funny when someone says “I really liked your kookaburra.” I sometimes think, “But what about the songs?  Didn’t you like them too?”  But heck, as long as we’re bringing joy to folks, I don’t mind really.

Interval was a blast – didn-t stop signing albums, and the Dylan Project also went brilliantly.  Another Day Off tomorrow.  We won’t know ourselves!

From newly discovered relatives of mine that I met at the gig (first time!): 
“Hi Cath & Jay,  Thoroughly enjoyed your performance in Canterbury, and also the rest of the evening with Dylan Project and Freeport Convention.   It was nice to meet you, however briefly.  Good luck and rock on  – Is there a CD of your Kookaburra impersonation!!  Bob & Jenny”

 

DAY 22: Thursday 19 Feb 2004:Day Off

Spent taking the piano sound-module to be repaired by qualified electricians in Ramsgate.  They couldn’t fix it.  But at least they confirmed nothing was wrong with the circuitry.  So Jay took it apart again and fiddled with this bit and that and got it going.  Yippee-yi-yay.  Jay is pretty bloody clever.  Phew.  In between trips to Ramsgate we vegged out and watched movies.  First time I’d seen “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – very cool.  Those diatonic-melody-loving aliens are so cute.

 

DAY 23: Friday 20 Feb 2004:Fairfield Halls, Croydon

After a leisurely morning in Broadstairs (mostly sleeping) and a relaxed lunch with Dawn & Graham, we set off to Croydon.  Weather: bloody freezing with a chill wind.  Fairfield Halls is somewhere I’d been looking forward to playing, because I’d read about the Beatles playing there in 1964.  A lot of very famous acts have played here.  It is BIG and beautiful, with a blond timber floor on stage and gorgeous acoustics.

It was good to arrive early, as we needed to check the piano module out with the keyboard.  The crew and the venue’s lighting team were all there busy setting up, and everyone was jovial and joking around with each other.  Our crew amaze me, as they are always so happy and positive.  They must be exhausted, but their sense of humour never fails them.  It’s a joy to work with these guys.  Onya Buff, John and Geoff!

Well unfortunately the auditorium is not full, but the Fairports are playing fabulously tonight.  They are hot.  Peggy’s impro-intro on bass to “The Crowd” was inspired.  Our set went well, but the best thing about tonight is that my lovely youngest sister Rachel is here.  She lives not far away in Streatham, and works in the centre of London.  We haven’t seen her since New Year – have been missing her lots.  I saw her in the audience close to the front, wearing a huge grin during “Get there From Here”.

Interval: nice to meet some folks we’ve seen at other shows.  Fairport’s fans are such that many of them come to multiple shows on the tour, so we are getting to know a few of them by sight, some by name as well.

We got Rachel backstage after interval to hang out and watch the show.  She’s not seen Fairport before and really enjoyed the music.  She told us she was enjoying it so much she wore a grin the whole time and Peggy was smiling back at her.  Well how could you miss that gorgeous smiling face?  Rachel’s I mean, although Peggy has a nice smile too.  But Rach is a stunner.

I’m so glad a member of my family was able to see us play on this tour.  My wonderful Mum and very supportive Dad are in Australia, not here.  That means they can’t see us.  But I’ve sent a copy of the programme to each of them.  The programme is very posh and glossy and has a beautiful page with our photo, biog, Spring Tour Dates and website and stuff.  Apparently both my parents have been taking it round to work and to show their friends, cos it’s so posh.

Jay’s parents couldn’t really come either.  They are quite a lot older than mine and not very well.  But we have so many friends and other Turner rellies, that we don’t feel like orphans.  Plus we have each other and that is fantastic.

Post-show: back to friendís Steve & Terri’s in South Norwood for a delicious take-away gourmet curry from The Banana Leaf, with another Fairport fan called Mark but who wasn’t at the gig, accompanied by some very nice champers and white wine.  Jay ate too much and went to bed with a grumbly belly, but what a great night!

 

DAY 24: Sat 21 Feb 
2004: South Parade Pier, Southsea, Portsmouth

This is not my first time playing on a pier (Cromer in 2002 was) but this place is different, quite grungy, and not like the other posh theatres on the tour.  Rob said it’s more like a working menís club but he was really glad that the promoter Barking Spider put the gig on, after the gig on the Isle of Wight fell through. This sometimes happens.  Well done John Roberts and all of Barking Spider!

It is very cold and windy on the seafront.  Met up with our best-ie Kaz and her mate Craig (who’ve driven down from Coventry) for a spot of lunch then to load in across the pebbly beach up onto the pier.  They are good roadies – great friends.

Could hear the sound of the waves and wind under the floorboards in our dressing room, which is cold, cramped and pretty dirty, full of empty glasses and mess from the last people who were in here.  Show-biz is all about these sorts of contrasts.  There is no point in ever getting up yerself.  Dan, one of organising team, was very kind in bringing us a heater for the room.  Excellent; now I can get undressed.

The crowd are totally going for Fairport tonight.  There’s a dance floor and those in the mood for dancing got up for Matty Groves.  The band also got long-term fan Griff up on stage to sing an impromptu “Wild Rover” backed by the band cos it was Griff’s birthday.  Quite a laugh and Griff was delighted!

Kaz got her drum-sticks signed by Gerry after the show.  She is doing so well at drums.  After only having learned for 6 weeks her drum teacher has suggested she do Grade 2 Exam!  She absolutely loves watching Gerry play, and got talking with him about stick-weights.  Drummer-speak is a bit above our heads.

Jay’s first-cousin Nigel who lives not far away in Emsworth is also here.  Nige remembers seeing Chris Leslie and his squeeze-boxing brother John play as a duo in a village hall in Oxfordshire in 1974 or ’75, when they were all in their mid-teens.  Tonight he managed to catch up with Chris to work out where and when it must have been.  Chris says he’s got a re-release on cd of the album he and John did back then, which h’íll give to us for Nigel.  Coolio!

 

DAY 25: Sun 22 Feb 2004: 
Palace Theatre, Westcliff, Southend-on-Sea

Gorgeous gig tonight – lovely old theatre with balconies right up in the Gods, the audience are just fantastic people, the sound is sizzlingly hot(thanks Rob & Geoff).   We were right on form.  I made an embarrassing “faux pas” at the off when I described the weather as cold and “a bit nipply” before singing “William Jolly”.  Luckily the audience had a laugh and were not offended.  Well this is the country that produced Benny Hill.

Nevertheless, I’m sure I went bright red.   It’s not what I meant to say to a group of 600 people who I’d only just met.  The crew were cracking up.  I looked over at John and he was making circles on his chest in the nipple zone.  Argh!  I had to blank him out because it was just going to crack me up again. It came after a sound check full of unintentional double entendres.  Simon and Rob were misinterpreting everything I said and putting an certain type of innuendo on it…  Ya gotta larf.

Then just before doing the Kookaburra I had a snotty moment.  Yes the dregs of that damned cold are still hanging around my nasal-passages.  So I thought I’d turn my back to the audience briefly and clear a blockage with a careful outward sniff before attempting said Kookaburra.  Unfortunately it was a bit closer to the surface than anticipated and… sploootch.

I had no tissues on stage, so with my back still to the audience I had to wipe up with my hands – yeach!  But Johnny Gale the very excellent young roadie came to my rescue with toilet paper.  I tell you – what a crew.  They will do anything to help you out of a (literally) sticky moment on stage.

The band is staying locally tonight.  We parked at our friends Bron and Ernie’s house just around the corner from the theatre and WALKED to the gig – very civilised.  Gerry is travelling independently from home at the moment with his partner Jacqui McShee in tow.  She is a famous singer in the legendary folk-jazz band Pentangle.  Jay says the very first folk album he bought (a rather long time ago – 1968?) was Pentangle’s “Basket of Light”.  Jacqui and I had a lovely talk in the Green Room before the sound check – I like her lots.

Gerry joined us and we talked about the confusions of his religious upbringing.  His surname was Cohen but his parents changed it to Conway.  This was because of difficulties with the orthadox synagogue about his Jewish Dad marrying a non-Jewish woman.  Amazing!  (This happened in my family too, the Jews marrying non-Jews bit, not the changing name bit).  Gerry was both Christened and Barmitzvah-ed, so doesn’t know what to say when asked what he is religion-wise.  Gerry subscribes to what Bob Hope replied when asked to what religion he belonged: “I belong to them all.  I don’t want to miss out on heaven on a technicality.”

He also revealed that he wears special drumming shoes.  This is something I didn’t realise. In the 1960s he wore Cuban heeled boots, but now he goes for functionality, over style.  Fair enough.  I’ve done the opposite on this tour, wearing these 3-inch heeled boots, suffering for style every night.  But his drumming shoes are actually quite fashionable.  Gerry  & Jacqui are both nice.  Can’t wait to see them in Pentangle on their April tour.

Met David Hughes at interval.  David did the support slot on this tour a few years ago now, I think in 1998.  He wrote an internet diary, later published as a very successful book.  Lovely chap whom previously I’d only admired from afar at Cropredy.  We got talking about how musicians can have (and keep) babies.  Not easy we imagine, but we’d like to try it.

Dave ended up being the house-husband looking after the kids by day and being a muso by night, while his wife went out bread-winning by day.  We are trying to work out how both of us could be musos AND look after the kids.  He could offer no solutions, just said to try it.  Hmmm – easy for him to say.

A wonderful night.  The crowd went off for “Get There From Here” and gave a standing ovation after “Meet on the Ledge”.  Bonzer all round!  Simon was kind enough to say that we’d done an excellent job of getting the people going.  I feel pleased and humble.

Not looking forward to the end of this tour, which is coming up rather quickly now.  It will be sad when it’s over.  David said it was real downer for him.  We must remember to do some very cheerful and enjoyable treat-type things in the days immediately following the tour to counteract that.  Jay is really very tired.  I probably am too, but the adrenaline keeps me going, so I haven’t noticed the tiredness.  I just love getting on that stage and singing my heart out, and telling people stories.  It’s great.  I could keep on going for another month I reckon.  Maybe forever.

Our friends/hosts Bron and Ern loved the show, particularly Peggy and Gerry’s playing.  They asked whether we were enjoying ourselves on stage as much as we appear to be.  The answer to that is, of course, a big huge YES!

From friends in Australia: 
“Hi Cath and Jay, Guess what we just had an email from English friends of ours saying they saw you performing with Fairport Convention and were very impressed!  So we were suitably surprised especially as they thought you live in Chesterfield now – is this right?  I am from Chesterfield – well Unstone and my mum still lives there!  Let us know how you are getting on – we are fine – Tommy recently finished making a CD of his own songs which he is pleased with and I am training as a counsellor.  Love Ruth and Tommy.”

 

DAY 26: Mon 23 Feb 2004: Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London

Another big day.  I can’t remember the last time I had a little one.  First stop – lunch at the Bell Inn in Horndon on the Hill, Essex, at the very kind invitation of Rob and the band.  Have discovered Fairport’s secret to finding their way around the country via the best nosheries -it-s the Good Pub Guide.  Rob and Simon say it-s a must.  It-s only let them down twice in 20 years.  Not bad.

If it yields places like the Bell Inn for lunch, then I and my stomach are all for it.  Tastiest top class gourmet tucker.  The company was first class too.  Had a good laugh, enjoyed the loveliest wine, the yummiest food.  How can we ever go back to Little Chef?  Everyone shared their desserts cos they were so scrumpti-licious.  We felt like a family.  The red wine went a bit to my head and I got very red cheeks and was very merry.  I don’t know how these guys drink so much at lunch time.  Chris had a smell of the wine but he never drinks it.  Very wise man.

Received thanks and “ripples” (not nipples) from everyone for being on the tour and doing a good job.  I think the thanks should go to Fairport, as it’s been such a brilliant time, and that is all down to them, and their wonderful audiences.  I apologised to the band for them having to go through the noisy Kookaburra sound every night.  Everyone said it was not a problem, as it actually provides the band with a very effective 5-minute call.  Glad to be of service.

We followed the band into Old London Town.  I am always filled with a sense of awe when I drive into this famous city.  We come here so infrequently, the incredible architecture never fails to inspire.  Beautiful sunny day but still FREAKIN COLD.

Queen Elizabeth Hall is part of the Royal Festival Hall complex on the South Bank.  There are three venues, the RFH where Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) is playing tonight, the QEH where we are, and the smallest venue the Purcell Room where there is a classical piano competition.  The QEH is a nice auditorium but to be honest, not as impressive as the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. Maybe itís just the interior colour scheme (see dull black vinyl chairs and Buff in foreground on drums).

But who can complain – not everyone can say they’ve played the QEH.  We can!  Haha!!  There were even groupies waiting at the stage door for Fairport’s autograph and they asked for ours too.  Were they just being polite?

Got the sound check out of the way early cos we’d been given free tickets to go on the London Eye by a nice man called Simon (another Simon)!  YAY!  YIPPEE! Very exciting!  I was hopping up and down with excitement last night when Brav (the Tour Manager from heaven) told me about it.

What a way to prepare for a show!  Went a-way up in our own little pod with Gareth, Frances and Buff/Boof.  A spectacular sunset.  It was gorgeous.  Felt really unreal – the movement of the pod is so slow you hardly notice it.  You’re out there gliding through the air looking out on this amazing view.  I love my job.

Buff/Boof went very quiet, which is unlike him. He is scared of heights, poor bloke.  He is normally very outgoing.  I think I forgot to write about the time at the Corn Exchange when he was bored.  He lay face-down on one of the backstage-trollies (a flat board on wheels) and went careering around the dance-floor.  He looked like a beached whale sliding around on his stomach on ice.  Hilarious!    Buff is not a man who sits around quiet and demure.  So it was weird seeing him go silent and pale.

Jay doesn’t like heights much either.  The two sat on the bench in the middle with Jay gently keeping up a dialogue with Buff during the “flight”, to calm both himself and Buff.   Jay is a darling.  Got some great pics.  Buff’s wife Maria called during the flight and advised him to “hold onto yer bollocks”.  “Her words,” said Buff.  Wise woman.

Walked back to the theatre to get ready, do our usual warm-up exercises.  Time is really tight tonight as the venue charge a big fee if the show finishes any later than 10.30pm, and then apparently another bigger fee if the bump-out goes beyond midnight!  This is the only place on this tour that does this (to my knowledge) and it’s pretty bloody serious.

The other strange thing here is the venue won’t let our merch crew sell CDs or books or programmes, only T-Shirts.  So our albums are not on sale tonight.  It feels not nice.  Not nice for Fairport either because CD sales make up a huge part of the equation when engaged in the expensive business of taking a show out on the road.  But ce la vie, ya take the rough with the smooth.

The audience here are really fantastic – very happy and responsive and we had a brilliant time on stage.  I LOVE playing with Jay – it’s the biz!  He did something very weird in “Markham Main” on the line “he hung himself one night” and I got thrown off the beat.  I thought he was doing something different on the guitar for extra dramatic effect, and was unsure what might be happening, but we managed to keep on going.  The crowd always go for that song, I think because it tells a story of pretty horrendous times not forgotten in this country.

I love it when the band come on to join us on our song “Get There From Here” – these blokes rock.  I wouldnít mind playing with a band more often. I do enjoy the rockiness.  And playing cow-bell on “Si Tu” is just sooooo rocky – clonk-clonk-clonk-clonk-4-on-the-floor-baby!  Sometimes Simon forgets the words in the verses and it is very funny.  No one knows what he is singing in the verses anyway, unless they are good at French or actually French – and maybe not even then.

Everyone at interval was asking why our albums were not available.  We had to explain and hand out mail-order forms instead.  Loads of folks signed onto the mailing list so that is a good thing indeed.  Met friends of Ric’s – Paul and Judy, who made a DVD about the life and music of Stephane Grappelli, the late great Hot Club de France jazz fiddler.  They wanted one of our CDs and we were keen to have a copy of their DVD, so we did a swap!  Very cool.  Looking forward to getting home to watch it.

My sister Rach came to see us again tonight, at interval this time, after her belly-dancing class.  She was backstage and Ric invited her to come to sing “Meet on the Ledge”!  Hehe!  She didn’t though.

“Si Tu” was fun, especially when Simon stopped the song a few bars in, and demanded a re-start!  I spoke to a man called John in the foyer who has been to see the show a heap of times during the tour.  He must be a very serious Fairport fan.  I said “You must be getting sick of us all, the amount of times you’ve seen the show.”  He explained, “No, I never get bored.  It’s different every night, especially with Fairport.  Something different goes wrong every time!”

Quote of the night came from a punter who spoke to Gareth.  “Have Fairport Convention got any hits?” he asked,  “You see, I thought I’d booked to see Fleetwood Mac.”

The bind moggles.

 

DAY 27: Tues 24 Feb 2004:Pavilion Theatre, Worthing, Sussex

Oh I do love to be beside the sea.  We’ve played at so many different sea-sides on the tour.  It brings the fact home – the UK is an island.  A small one.

Arrived just as the crew were loading in.  Geoff yelled out to us “Go away, we’re not ready!”  So off we toddled into the town centre to do some errands (Post Office, Dixons for blank cds, Holland & Barrat for a munchies stop – love their dried figs on those long journeys) and to have a spot of lunch.

Worthing has so many cafes from which to choose but why do people smoke in them all.  Resisted the temptation to have fish and chips.  I was planning to take Jay on a romantic stroll out on the Pier, but by the time we’d got back from lunch it was pouring with rain and bitter cold, so we had a romantic snooze in the car instead.

The venue is another “On the Pier” type place, but unlike Portsmouth, boasts a real theatre and stage. The stage has a big curving arch with plaster muses all around it – Calliope, Terpsichore, Melpomene, etc.  Don’t ask me to name them all.  The sound in here is top-notch.  Band were a bit late coming down from Banbury, having been stuck in hideous traffic.  That is par for the course on the roads in the afternoon in England.  Rob was feeling the stress, but all was well when they got in.  Sound-check just goes so smoothly now so there’s no need to panic.

Gerry was there before the rest of the band – he is still travelling from home, as he lives in the South.  We had a D&M whilst he was setting up his drums – not a DM (that’s Dave Mattacks the previous FC drummer) – but a D&M about life and death. We gave him a copy of our album “Crooked House”.  It has our version of “Banks of the Nile” on it, inspired by Fotheringay’s version way back in the 1960s.  He said he wanted to hear our version.  Gerry was the drummer for Fotheringay and Sandy Denny was in it too – just for anyone who didn’t know.  This was all before I was born and is Very Important Musical History to know if one is going to be part of anything to do with Fairport.

Peggy gave me a pressie –  the book of annA rydeRís internet tour diary.  Fabola!  Simon said they didn’t want me to read it before the tour.  Why not?  It’s great.  Her comics are just so hilarious.  Very talented woman!  I love the “Many More Faces of Rob Bravinor” and Ric and Chris in their jostick and herbal tea dressing room.

Enjoyed playing our set immensely tonight.  The sound is just so great, a sheer joy.  Geez, we are gonna miss Rob and Geoff’s sound big-time.  I want them on tour with us all the time!  Who knows?  One day we may be as rich and famous as Fairport (Ha!).  Though the audience seemed a little quiet at first, they soon warmed up and gave us a fantastic cheer at the end, then came up with lots of smiling faces and happy comments in the interval, and lotsa albums for us to sign!  Yaya!  The FC boys are sounding as great as ever, and the crowd just adore them.

The finale is always “Matty Groves”, followed by a set of rockin’ tunes under the title “Dirty Linen”.  My fave part of the Linen medley is the tune done over a grooving reggae beat.  It always makes me dance in the wings, it’s such an arse-shaking rhythm!  I asked Ric what the name of the tune was, but he wasnít sure and said to ask Chris.  Chris said it’s “Paddy on the Turnpike”.  I’d like to learn it.  Chris knows all about these folk tunes.  Chris said the reggae beat was Simon’s idea – he just started doing it during a jam one day.

Fairly big drive tomorrow up to Preston, Lancashire.  The crew are travelling there overnight and won’t arrive until 6 or 7 in the morning.  Bluch.  Buff has the day off, so Andy Salmon the owner of the rig is doing the driving for the Preston gig. We will miss Buff, even if he does disgusting things like blowfish on the windows.  He always sings the opening Bah-Baars of “Monday Monday” by the Mamas and Papas whenever I come into earshot.  Mundy Mundy.

The band is going home for the night, which makes sense, as they live around Banbury which is en route.  We are staying nearby in Emsworth at Nigel and Sarah’s again.

Fan Email:  “Hi both!  I thought I just had to mail you to say how fantastic I thought you were last night in Worthing. I was slap bang in the middle of the front row and was treated to some of the best new music I have heard in a very long time.

I think the thing that shone through the most (even more than the passion you feel for your music – as shown by your excellent rendition of “Markham Main” – I used to live in North Nottinghamshire, nr. Chesterfield and my family were miners, so I know how hard the miners strike hit the area) was the love you two have for each other – it really showed in the way you performed, and it made the evening that much more special.  I think Fairport made the right decision, giving you the chance to take your show on the road.  I think you will gain a lot more fans in the coming few weeks!

I will definitely be at your gig in Arundel in a few weeks time, so I look forward to meeting you then, and buying you a beer!  Oh, and it was great hearing someone say “Ayup, me duck!” again – it fair takes me back!  All the very best for the rest of the tour.  Kevin”

And Some More: 
“Hi cathy,and jay, Hi its martin a fairport convention fan and now you are a new group that i will try and come to the arundel concert in april 2004. Iv e been a fan of fairports for about 5-6 yrs now and they are always a pleasure to see and it was nice to see a new folk band as surport at their concert and i wish you well and im sure ill like your cd the one that i brought last evening. I thought the howling call of that bird the cooker bourghs was very good and so loud.best wishes  and good luck with your tour with fairport and your own tour as well.regards from martin.”

 

DAY 28: Wed 25 Feb 2004:Charter Theatre, Preston, Lancashire

“Where is Johnny Gale?”  Dear John – he’s always in demand for running about doing all sorts of jobs, plus he’s responsible for tuning and restringing instruments, etc.  He works really hard and is such a pleasant chap.  But it’s uncanny the knack he has for disappearing.  He’ll be hanging about for ages on stage, and no one asks for him.  As soon as he has gone off to do something else, Brav calls out from his usual post at the front-of-house mixing desk “Where is Johnny Gale?”  And Johnny Gale is no where to be found.  Brav says “That lad has a cloaking device the Klingons would envy.”

I feel a little flat tonight.  Jay says I look tired and my eyes look sad.  I reckon it’s because we’re now nearing The End.  It’s been such a fantastic time.  It’s like facing the end of a run of a musical.  The cast and crew become like a family for that short and rather intense time working together.  Then it finishes, and the family dissipates.  The band have the next album to look forward to recording in March, but what will I do to get my daily fix of Fairport now I’m addicted?  Hmm.

Driving home last night we got flashed by a speed camera.  Drat and dammit!  It was a dual carriage way with no houses so assumed 40 would be alright, but it must have been 30 cause the camera definitely flashed us.  Could see no sign stating the speed limit after the camera.  And it was deserted dual carriageway ring road around the edge of town.  How could 40 mph be an offence?

We heard on the radio about someone blowing up these speed cameras in the West Country using dynamite.  Not a bad idea.

It was a long drive up here today.  Jay and I got a bit hysterical in the car, laughing at very silly jokes. This is always a sign of having gone over the edge of mere tiredness into near madness.  Jay was singing to the tune of the old standard “All the Way” but he sang “If ya go to Preston, ya have to go to Preston –  aaaawwwll the waaaaaaaay.  You cannae go to Cannock – ya have to go to Preston – aaaaawwwll the waaaaaaaaaay.”  The Cannock bit cracked me up.

Good show, and nice to meet some of the Scottish fans who’d travelled such a long way to be there.  A camera crew were filming “Si Tu Dois” tonight for the next Fairport DVD, so they couldn’t have us singing it tonight.  Hmph.  They said this was for Continuity, but I think it’s really because we’re not good-looking enough for cameras.  We try, but not everyone has the natural charisma of Fairport.  Instead of singing and playing as usual, our sole contribution to this number tonight was to shuffle on sideways like a pantomime act holding the big sheet of lyrics, stick them on the front of the stage, bow and shuffle off across to the other side.

At least I could give my poor cowbell-stick a rest.  It is moulting every time I hit with it, showering splintery bits of wood all over Ric’s fiddle FX pedals.  Sorry Ric.

Fan Email.  I like getting fan email!  “Hello Cath and Jay, Attended Fairport Tour with my husband last night at Preston.   Enjoyed your set.  Please add me to your mailing list.  Also enjoyed the song about Miners strike in Derbyshire.  Please advise if this is available on CD.  I understand you will take time to answer as your are still travelling with Fairport.   Regards, Wilma”

 

DAY 29: Thurs 26 Feb 2004:Winding Wheel, Chesterfield

As we drove home from Preston last night (ye have to go to Preston – aaawwwwl the waaay), we noticed SNOW on the sides of the road.  Tempertaure: minus bloody 3 celsius.  But ever since Barnstaple, we’ve noticed the signs of an early Spring – daffodils and bulbs coming into bloom, lambs being born, fruit trees in blossom.  Will all this growth cease now there is this cold snap?   I dunno – this is my first winter here.

Aaah, but it was good to sleep in our own bed again, after 16 or so nights away.  We slept in (bliss), awoke to a crisp sunny day, then ran around like headless chooks doing the errands that build up when you’re away – laundry, emails, banking, posting mail-orders.   Oh the glamourous life we lead!

I’ve driven past the Winding Wheel a heap of times, being in our “home town” an’ all, but never been inside before – it’s real nice.  Used to be the Odeon Cinema I believe.

Kaz (best friend from Coventry) turned up and surprised us – she was not due till Lowestoft!  What a darling. She was video-ing us tonight, which made me feel a bit nervous.  And our other special guests are Jayís cousin Brian Turner who lives not far from our place and his friends.  They are musos too.  Jay dedicated “Markham Main” to Brian.  Jay & Brian both are descended from the coal-mining Turners of Hepthorn Lane, not far from here.

Great to play to a home crowd – we only live 8 miles away.  The organisers from Belper Folk Club are in the audience – they’ve been very supportive of us during the last year.  The sound was excellent as usual but I couldn’t see the audience at all.  The follow-spots were blinding!  And they kept following our every move.  That’s what follow-spots are supposed to do I know, but surely this chap took it too far.  Surely one does not need to be followed by a big light every time one bends down for a subtle sip of water.

Tour Manager Brav had a very good day yesterday, apart from losing his hat.  You can see him in his hat pictured in the programme.  It kept his ears warm, so I hope he finds another one.  I asked what size he was, thinking we might see one for him in the shops, and he asked if I’m always so forward.  These guys.  The double entendres keep flowing.

Buff was back today and said that he spent some time last night reading my internet tour diary.  He said he thought the crew didn’t feature enough.  But I thought I’d given him a starring role!  Well it goes to show, you can never please everybody.  Hope he likes the picture of him blow-fishing the glass door at Worthing.  Brav said I was going to get in trouble about something in the diary.  I bloody hope not!

Saw annA rydeR again tonight, and chatted about her internet diary.  She said she worked really hard on it, doing a comic strip every day as well.  How did she manage the comics AND the writing?  I find it’s hard enough keeping up with the written stuff!  Because we’re driving ourselves etc, the only time I get is during Fairport’s second set before “Si Tu”, which means I miss out on some of the music.  We do hear it through the tinny dressing room speakers, but that’s not the same.

Simon had a joke on me when I came on for “Si Tu” tonight.  I think he was getting me back for standing there facing HIM (instead of the audience) with the big sheet of lyrics a coupla nights ago.   So tonight, I went out with the sheet and Simon asked me, on mic ,”Have you got it up the right way this time?” Touche.  Gave the audience a chuckle.  Smacked him on the bum with my cowbell stick as I went past.  Just had to.

I got some lovely pics of Gerry in full flight on the Winding Wheel stage.  He gets so deeply involved that basically, he IS the drums.  It’s poetry.  Some people have said to me they think he’s like the character Animal from the Muppets.  I reckon Gerry is Animal minus the aggro.

From the Belper Folk Club folks: “I don’t know when you’ll get to read this with all the touring etc but we just wanted to say how much we enjoyed your set last night!!!!  As I said at the time, it passed too quickly – something that doesn’t happen with other support acts we’ve seen (and I don’t mean Jay in 1991 ‘cos we weren’t at that concert)!  We’ll certainly be along to the Arts Centre next month when you are on there.   All the best – CU soon, Kath and Geoff.”

 

DAY 30: Fri 27 Feb 2004:The Anvil, Basingstoke

Woke up to another sunny day.  Our backyard was covered in 3 inches of the lovely white stuff, which must have fallen overnight.  You can’t hear snow fall.  It’s really magical.  Coming from a non-snowing place like Brisbane, I’m always as enamoured with it as a child.  Jay says “As long as it doesn’t stop us driving to Basingstoke!”  Well it didn’t – we are here in Basingstoke.  Jay doesn’t feel well again -sore throat and pretty tired.  Bummer.

Called my Dad before we left the house to let him know we are alright.  He’d left 3 messages on the home phone while we were away touring.  He’s like that.  Dad said he’d been reading my Tour Diary on the web-site and found it very interesting.  Good to hear.  I was worried it might be boring for people outside the tour.

The Anvil is big, swish and modern inside – a really lovely auditorium with a huge open stage, no proscenium.  At the soundcheck, Peggy said it was here that he played his last gig with Jethro Tull and that the previous Fairport drummer Dave Mattacks played his last FC gig here too.  Then Peggy said “I wonder who’s last gig it will be tonight?”  Tempting fate?

Martin is here again tonight, a very kind FC fan who has been backstage at lots of the shows on tour.  He really likes my song “William Jolly”.  He introduced us to a lady called Gabbi from the BBC.  She is a producer for Radio 4 and is going to do a special feature on Fairport’s fans.  Ric told her, “We think of them as more friends than fans.”  That is the nice thing about Fairport’s relationship with their audience. You don’t get that with pop-stars.  Gabbi said she’d read lots of good things about us on the Fairport chat page on the net.  “Everyone is saying how fantastic Mundy-Turner are,” she said.  Wow.  How do we get into this chat-room?

There was a review in a national paper about Fairport’s performance at QE Hall.  It didn’t mention much about the actual music or the support-act AT ALL, so it just shows what a stupid reviewer he was. Perhaps his interest was more fashion than music.  He said that Fairport looked like a country pub darts team, which Brav said was a compliment.  So tonight, for a joke, John Gale has put a dartboard on Gerry’s drums, the type with magnetic darts.  Seeing there was no table-tennis on this tour, I thought it was a shame we hadn’t had the dartboard all the way along.  It made for lots of fun at soundcheck.

We changed our set tonight because we have effectively sold out of our album “Crooked Houses”.  Yay!  It is a good thing to have sold so many.  But we didn’t realise till this morning when we went to the stock cupboard at home and the cupboard was bare.  So instead of “Rainmakers” and “Markham Main”, we sang “Dreamtime” and “Little Birds” from the “High Life” album.  Wonderful to revisit these songs after such a time away from them and the audience loved them just as much I think.

My turn for a stuff-up on stage this time!  I ruined the entire third line, 2nd verse in “William Jolly” which normally goes “Let the twilight thread stars one by one”.   Instead of real words I opted for mushy sounds disguised (not very successfully) as words.  Drat!  The audience seemed very friendly about it though.  John, the man who made the comment “I like coming to multiple shows cos something different goes wrong every night” was in the front row.  He would have enjoyed this.

Interval was such a blast!  Bloody fabulous audience!  Non-stop signing cds and handing out the mailing list to so many eager new recruits.  Most nights are great at the Merch stand for us, but this was really fantastic.  Run off our feet.  Everyone saying wonderful things to us.  Yep, I love it here.  So do the Merch crew.  Gareth said “Can we play here every night?”  It was nice to see more Turners here tonight -Nigel again with his wife Sarah and their fab Emsworth friends.  They really loved the show, and thought Fairport were wonderful.

Quote of the night:  Goes to a male punter who came up and asked me “What happened to Sandy Denny?”  When I explained about her untimely demise some 25 years ago, he looked shocked.  Obviously he’d been following her career with close attention to detail!  But still even after all these years, it is sad and shocking to think of her talent not being around anymore.

 

DAY 31: Sat 28 Feb 2004:Marina Theatre, Lowestoft

I’ve been given the Yellow Card.  Oh dear and oops.  It was an innocent comment that did it, but I’ll not argue, as Brav told me that any arguing with the Ref gets you a second yellow card.  Then it’s the slippery slope to a Red Card.  Brav is the Ref.  He says he never gets carded, he only gives them.  Someone said, “But didn’t you get the Red Card in annA rydeR’s diary?”  Rob said “So she’d like to think!” Hmmm.

I didn’t know the rules (not being a football fan), so asked Rob to explain.  Apparently a Red Card means you have to buy drinks for the entire band and crew for the next day.  Eeek!  I better shut up my face, as tomorrow’s the last night and I bet they will want to drink more than usual.  The usual is pretty impressive (the gentle Chris Leslie is obviously not included as he NEVER drinks).

At interval it started!  Beautiful huge big snow-flakes falling in front of me!  Wonderful!  I ran outside in my stage-clobber and soaked it up for a while, until it got TOO nipply.  Gareth followed me out and got some great shots on his digi-camera.  I love the snow.  Jay says “Wait till you have to drive home in it!”   I don’t seem to care!!

Never been to Lowestoft before – another seaside place.  Couldn’t find the theatre when we arrived.  There were signs saying “Marina Theatre”, then they petered out.  We seemed destined to drive around and around the one-way system forever.  In desperation we pulled up and asked a local, but his accent was so weird I couldn’t understand a damned thing he said something about “rude-works” and “roondaboots”.

Then we found a man called Wayne who hopped in the car – he knew about the Fairport gig – and accompanied us to the theatre.  He asked what it was like being musicians, and we said it was hard, probably because we were tired & cranky from going around the one-way system.  I gave him our Spring Tour postcard in return!  Nice man.

Lowestoft has a lovely crowd who were willing to have a laugh.  They went crazy for the Kookaburra.  Astounds me still.  But funniest thing for me during the set was being afflicted with a severe case of Drooping Mic-stand Syndrome during the opening number “Dreamtime”.  By the instrumental, it had dropped considerably, and by the end of the song the mic was pointing in the vicinity of my belly-button.  I couldn’t do a damned thing about it with my hands full of violin plus the added need to be playing said violin.  So I just kept bending my knees lower and lower and sang more loudly.  John came out and fixed it all up before “Little Birds” – bless him.  He’s always there when I need him.

Kaz and her mate Craig came tonight, Kaz bearing gifts of chocs and champers for the band and us as a “thank you”.  She is sooooooo generous.  Chris Leslie went straight for the chocs and they had to hide the champagne from Peggy.  She is too much!  Love ya Kaz.

 

DAY 32: Sun 29 Feb 2004: Alban Arena, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Driving back to our friend’s place last night was a bit hairy with thick snow falling.  I’ve never really driven in heavy snow before.  Fascinating!  It looks so weird in the headlights coming towards you out of the dark – a spiralling tunnel effect.  Mesmerising.

We are so lucky to have a fabulous place to stay with our friends Steve & Jill.  They live in a pretty thatched cottage in the countryside and are the loveliest couple.  Steve is sort of related to me – a special cousin of a special cousin.  Last year they put on a brilliant house concert for us.  As with all our friends/hosts, it’s great to be able to see them during the tour.  BIG THANKS GOT TO ALL OUR HOSTS!  You made the tour possible for us.

Woke up to a beautiful sunny morning with an empty realisation in the pit of my belly – “it’s the last show tonight”.  Youch.

Strange how it feels like it went so fast, but, as Ric says, the start of the tour in Tewkesbury feels as age away.  I feel like a different person than then.  My hair has grown for a start.  It takes more and more hair-goob to get it into shape every night now.  I like my hair sticking up on top.  The longer it gets the higher and wilder it looks when I goob it up to go on stage.  Simon says I should try sticking my tongue into an electrical socket.  Hmmm.  Dangerous, painful, potentially lethal – but it would save money on goob.

The Alban Arena auditorium is dank and dim when we walk in – the lampies are checking out the lighting plot.  There were cakes on the front of the stage and Geoff and Buff/Boof were eating them.  Typical.  Geoff says that the cakes are from James, a melodeon-playing boy who looks like Harry Potter who has come to help out the crew at some gigs.  My hands are full of gear, so I don’t eat them until later.  As I eat, it is suggested that there may be something adverse in the cakes.  “You do know that Fairport always play a trick on their support act on the last night of the tour?!”  But surely they’ve not had time to bake cakes with funny stuff in them, not with their gruelling schedule?

Gerry came to our dressing room before the show with a bottle of Moet as a gift!  How very wonderful and kind and too-much of him.  He said “thanks for the company”.  Geezz Gezza – you are a koala.  He, like the rest of the band, doesn’t take compliments very well and gets all sheepish (or koala-ish).  We are really touched by his kind and generous gesture.

Ric did an extra special intro for us tonight, saying what a success we’d made of the tour.  Thanks Ric!  Our set was OK but a bit funny, I think because it was the last night.  I didn’t feel settled at all.

But the best unsettling thing was yet to come – THE NAKED GEOFF.  Nothing prepared me for the sight of Geoff the monitor engineer walking on at the end of our set to clear our stuff, COMPLETELY IN THE NUDE, except for a piece of cardboard on a string dangling uselessly from his neck.  (I better be careful where I use the phrase “dangling uselessly”..!)  Yes the tour of double entendres and bawdy humour goes on to the last…

The cardboard was supposed to cover his parts, but it (the card) was swinging from side to side as he walked and failed dismally in its mission.  We were all on stage – the Fairporters, Jay & I having just finished “Get There From  Here” and taking our bows.  I squealed in shock and surprise.  Peggy was speechless.  It takes a lot to do that to Peggy.

Then I realised Geoff was acting out the opening line from “Naked”, his favourite song in our set.   “Youíre the only one who sees me naked, though many more have seen me undressed.”  He’s either crazy or brave, or both.

I ran downstairs to the dressing room to get my camera, but by the time I got back to the stage Geoff was already sitting at the mixing desk with his jocks and a t-shirt on. Chris Bates, official photographer of the night, was spitting chips because his camera battery had gone down and he missed the whole event.  Bummer.  Why was his battery down only 30 minutes into the show?  He missed the best bit!

Exhilarated by his nude onstage experience, Geoff was egging us all on to go on naked for “Meet on the Ledge”.  Then he got fixated on me and was begging me to go au naturale for “Si Tu” using the lyrics-sheet to cover my bits.  No Chance Geoff!  I’ve got to play the cow-bell.

Peggy said more nice things about us to the audience – how we were wonderful people and musicians.  It was hard not to get teary!  During “Meat & Two Veg” (Meet on the Ledge) the crew came on and sang too.  It was great, although no one was naked much to Geoff’s disappointment and, I reckon, the audience’s relief).

Then it was over.  All too soon. 32 days gone forever.

After the show, there was merching in the foyer and then merriment in the dressing room.  Chris Pegg, the Powerhouse of Woodworm, was there tonight, looking gorgeous in bright luscious outfit.  Peggy said she was dressed so brightly tonight that she outbrighted even me.  We opened Kaz’s champagne and ate the rider sandwiches that had gone a bit dry by this time.  I got everyone to sign me programme – my turn to be a groupie.  I love these guys.

Jay made sure that everyone had received the cards and chocs that we’d left for them in the dressing room.  The crew were given theirs during the show, because after the show they are too busy working.  Mr. Leslie loved his card, which was decorated with all sorts of tea-cups.  We inscribed it with “You’re our cup of tea!”  Because he is.  Simon said he liked the card but he didn’t eat the chocs.  He said he is more of a savoury type man when it comes to food.  Yes, I could tell that by the way he tucked into those desserts at The Bell last Monday.

Ric said that at 7.30pm tomorrow he will be introducing us to whoever he is with at the time.  I understand what he means.  It will be hard to let go of the routine.

Will I need counselling to get me through this transition?  It’s been the most fantastic time EVER and I hope that we get to work together again soon.  REAL SOON!

Everyone had bought a big bunch of gorgeous flowers for me.  I was most touched.  The card read:

Well done!  All the best Chris Pegg x

Much Love TM Rob B

It was great working with you Love Gerry Conway

Always, Simon xx

Thanks – you were and are fab – love Peggy xxYouíre fab!!!

With love and thanks, Ric

Love is Geoff Jeff

Two lovely people!!! With lovely music!!!! With my love and thanks to you! Chris

A picture of an electric guitar. Buff/Boof

Zoomed up the motorway to Banbury, the Fairport boys’ bus going very fast indeed and overtaking us.  We went to stay with the lovely Pam & Oliver near Banbury.  Drank G&Ts till really late and really tired and really tipsy.

Fell asleep while visions of Fairport danced in my head.

 

Day 33: Monday 1 March 2004:Oxfordshire countryside, Somewhere near Banbury

Oops, we slept in!  Had to rush to Woodworm for 1pm.  Missed Rob and Geoff and the truck which came at 12.45 to drop off all the instruments.  Pooh.  Missed Simon too.  Pooh.  But luckily did not miss Gareth, Frances, Christine and also Tracey who works in the Woodworm office.  Tracey wasn’t there last night, so we gave her a card of Thanks for all the hard work.  She is fab.  Collected our instruments whilst Gareth and Frances counted our remaining stock. We’d kept topping them up with stock throughout the tour but happily there wasn’t a lot left.  Our albums sold soooooo well, especially when you realise that there was one night when we couldn’t sell cds at all (thanks QEHall).  Yippee!  It is a great feeling.

Home via Birmingham to visit our two of our Admin-Angels, Martin and Irene.  With their wonderful and so clever daughter Naomi, they are helping us with our mailing-list.  Martin and Irene do the stamping and sending, while Naomi enters the data into the computer and prints off the address labels.  This helps us incredibly much.  We are very grateful to them.  Throughout the tour, we had so many people sign onto our mailing list.  I sent pages and pages and pages to Naomi and she’s done a great job with them, typing them all in and deciphering all the funny handwriting.  Not easy!   Through our mailing list we can stay in touch and hopefully see these lovely folks again at our own concerts.

When we finally arrive home we check the odometer on the car to see how many miles we’ve done on the tour – 5380 total miles!  Ohmigod!  There are cd mail-orders coming through the door and cd orders coming from our website and it’s all very good.  I think we will be kept busy with trips to the Post Office.  Fan mail is still coming in too 🙂

“Cath and Jay, Came to see you with Fairport in sunny(!) Weston last month and was blown away. Your music is wonderful, got to come and see you again soon. Your songs cover so many different emotions, and touch so many different aspects of life, and it’s a treat and a priviledge to listen to you.  Once again, thanks for your music, it’s beautiful. Hope to see you soon.  Cheers, Jack”

“Hi, We saw you in Southsea with Fairport Convention, for someone we have never heard of before, we thought your music, writing, & performance was magical. We have looked up your gigs, & note you will be in Arundel on April 21st 04, we are looking forward to seeing you again.  Is there any possibility that you could include Refugee & Youíre no angel?  We already have two of your CD’s ( signed by yourselves )  and they are nearly worn out.!! Kind regards”

John Gale wrote us: 
“Hope you are all well…. have you both recovered yet? I haven’t!Thanks for the CD… had a listen this morning… it’s top! It was great working with you guys and hope to work with you again.   Keep in touch, and next time you’re down my way give us a call and we’ll meet for a few sly drinks. You are both top chaps! Cheers, John”

No we haven’t recovered yet, and I wonder if we ever will!  Thank you everybody for the Best Tour of our Lives.

HUGS and HUGE THANKS TO:Fairport Confection (sweeties ;-)), the Crew, Christine Pegg & Tracey at Woodworm Records, Rob the Great TM, all our Kind and Generous Hosts, every Venue and their Staff, and not least, every Person in Every Audience, especially those who applauded, cheered, arrived on time to see the opening act, wrote or said nice things to us, bought our cds and signed to our mailing list!  You are all really….BONZER!


 

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