Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

I don't even know where to start to update this thing - all I know is I can't stand the sight of my last post at the top of the page any longer.

We're holed up with our friends Peter, Karen and Daisy in the Norfolk countryside. Like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow - we're battered, bruised, wounded. Not quite able to face the long drive south.

Ireland was cold. So cold that Eric burned his leg on a space heater, and was then too cold to notice how bad the burn was. He got food poisoning and laryngitis, I had all other manner of complaints. The ambulance, filled with a host of medications, was feeling like its old self again.

Ireland was depressing. Stuck in winter mode. There were unfinished apartment complexes and shopping malls everywhere. All the people in the service jobs are now Polish. Before we left, I'd had some great conversations with Irish journalists - that was almost the only talking with actual Irish people I did. For all the publicity we had, you'd think me and Eric playing was some kind of event - but articles, radio interviews and a TV appearance are not enough. The shows were really badly attended, the promoter so maudlin we ended up consoling him.

The people who did come told us they loved the show. We had some laughs and stayed in a nice hotel in Cork, after rejecting the cold water fleabag they initially sent us to - "But Pete Doherty stayed here!" shouted the desk clerk. When we caught the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer, I found myself writing down the phone number of the entertainment company that booked the onboard entertainment - a woman in her 60s who sang Patsy Cline and a man that whipped the Mother's Day crowd into a frenzy with "Danny Boy". At least you've got a built-in audience on the ferry. As an alternative to playing in a mostly empty club in Cork on a Thursday night, how bad could it be?

Should I be telling you this? I could just as well say we triumphed, that the shows sold out, and the Irish crowds carried us around the towns on their shoulders. Who's going to check? Or I could talk about the food (pizza) or the wonderful friends of Eric's that we stayed with, who train horses and who really made the visit for me.

We stopped off to visit our pal Lindsay Hutton in Scotland. Always relaxing staying with Lindsay. We sat back and waited for him to cue up a nice film for us. Along with a great Cramps collection he had a Fleshtones documentary - I'd just had a great time seeing them in Bergerac before leaving on the tour. In the movie they talked about how hard it was to keep going, playing for small crowds. "Wait a minute," I thought. "In Bergerac, there were probably two hundred people in the audience. At the rate we're going, we'll be lucky to play for that many people on the whole tour." We begged Lindsay to put on a cheerier film, like "Atonement" or "City of God" or something.

Things picked up in England - we started slow in Bristol and Portsmouth but Brighton was full and fun. Birmingham in the Garden Centre was a little odd but there was a line of people waiting in the rain to get in. A Black Country pub gig on Saturday night made Basingstoke last year look like a tea dance - our host Chris and his band were so warm I hardly noticed the drunk people shouting abuse and throwing things at us. I enjoyed playing simply because it was so bizarre and because it mattered to Chris. In the film version, we would've brought the audience around, to where they became hushed and reverent during Don't Ever Change and started swaying and singing Whole Wide World, arms aloft. A few actually did. But mostly they carried on drinking and simulating sex on the pool table.

Ten years ago I'd probably be looking online for haircutting classes or law school applications. But it starts to sink in that I may be too old to start over doing stuff like that. There is that Stena Lines ferry number to try. They take over-50's.

But. We played the first four tracks of our new album for Karen and she loved it - I started getting that hopeful excitement again, that same feeling that keeps me going. Hope or foolishness, or both. We've got a US tour coming together pretty well for June. Some English dates in August. The Garden Centre said they can fit us in again for October. And if we got the Stena ferry job, well we'd end up in Belfast anyway, so...

Thursday, March 4, 2010


You remember I wrote about our useless experience at the Pole Emploi (French employment agency) the other day? And Eric described it in more detail than I had the stomach for.

It was all under the guise of trying to find out how we can work as musicians here. Now I can reveal, we were actually doing undercover work.

Everything came out in the newspaper yesterday when Le Populaire revealed that employees of the Pole Emploi are badly trained and unable to handle the number of confused people they have to deal with every day. They lack anything but the most basic ability to log people into the system. Some of them have even gone on strike to call attention to the situation.

Just call us the unemployed man's Monsieur Woodward and Madame Bernstein.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

la reine des pommiers

Could it be that this dark cloud over me is lifting? I hope so because lately I have been depressed and unable to shake it.

Today, three good things happened: I had a message from Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones and I'm hoping to go see them play in Bergerac this coming Sunday. I may have seen their first gig ever at little Club 57 and many times after, but it has been awhile. I even forgive them for that time after Mardi Gras when we were held by police because they left the hotel without paying - I know it wasn't their fault.

What else - I sent off all my tax info, shockingly early. That audit put the fear of God and/or the IRS in me and my record keeping this past year was the work of a pedant-in-training. One of the benefits of time spent in France!

But the most wonderful thing that made me feel like a queen or princess at least - a guy came and cut back the fruit trees. They were a brambled, tangled mess and one or two of them were threatening to die. I haven't known the luxury of paid household help but this was better than that because I can definitely clean and scrub but knowing how to deal with plants and trees is beyond me. The local garden man worked like a demon out there and when he finally came in, scratched and sweaty, I felt like Marie Antoinette as I offered him something cool to drink. But he had other clients to see.

Now there's a pile of branches in the garden and even though it's not exactly legal to burn stuff in your backyard, the jardinier said as long as there aren't high winds like there were this weekend everyone does it. And since Eric and I have spent the last two months doing an informal stage on blowing shit up and watching stuff burn, I think we're up to the task.