November, 2004

Well, I've taken the plunge, and booked myself another trip to the UK, since I can take advantage of the Christmas break to add a few days extra to my annual leave. The thought of being able to spend New Year's Eve at The Six Bells with my friends is irresistable! So much so that I'm going to brave the English winter to be there.

Hopefully there will be quite a few gigs - I never quite know, since I have to book my flights a fair way ahead, so I won't know until the January giglist is released.

At last it arrives, and the portents are good! A nice selection of gigs, with old favourites like The Six Bells and The Red Lion in Twickenham, as well as a few venues I've not been to before.

The contrast between my first and second trips, in terms of finding my way round, was quite amusing. On my first night in Brentford, back in August 2003, I had listened blankly to a conversation about the construction of luxury high-rise apartments nearby which were claiming the suburb name of "Kew" rather than "Brentford". The distinction had no meaning to me, beyond the fact that they were both placenames. By the second trip, I was acutely aware of the significance. I was even giving other people directions on how to get to Hounslow and where to park the car!

And this time...? Read on and find out!

Monday-Tuesday, December 27-28, 2004
The flights over are the way I catch up on some of the recently released movies I've missed out on, since I rarely get to the cinema. The personal screens are the best innovation since I started flying. Back in the "bad old days", everyone craned to watch one movie on a single screen and then spent sleepless hours in the dark... Not to mention that the airlines used to allow smoking! The distinction between the smoking and non-smoking sections were quite arbitrary after all, with everyone breathing exactly the same recycled air!

I had the usual cultural jolt with the American movies on show, all of the excessive violence and poker-faced lead males, but one that was quite delightful was "Swing Girls", a Japanese movie about a bunch of schoolgirls who form a jazz band - really quite good fun.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
It's not nearly as cold as I had feared, merely "crisp", and even Narita was pleasantly mild for this time of year. In fact, the summer in Sydney has been cooler than usual, and any very hot days had been tempered by rain and storms in the evening (and often a massive temperature drop!), so the transition has not been so bad. Now I just have to adjust to the time difference - and the early sunset :-)

However, the first thing I went shopping for was a warmer pair of gloves. Next stop was W.H.Smith to grab all the latest mags (Classic Rock, Record Collector, Rail, and my favourite web design magazines). I automatically look for both the "Latest Issue - Air-Freight" and the Australian dollar stickers and then remember where I am. No mark-up for fast delivery or currency conversion necessary!
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Today it was central London, Oxford Street, via Shepherds Bush, and I lingered until dusk stole over Regent's Street, so I got to see the Christmas lights come to life. It makes far more sense to have lots of lights at winter solstice, when the hours of daylight are so short! I can relish travelling right up the front, upstairs, on a double-decker bus, particularly since the route takes me past 2 of the regular Cry Wolf venues... and I see that The Six Bells has had a repaint!

The temperature is still mild, to my delight, but the forecasts for New Years' Day are for a significant drop. Luckily I've been promised the loan of a thick coat. :-)
Friday, December 31, 2004 Special Made
Where else would I start another UK gig-binge but The Six Bells, in Brentford! And what a fantastic way to see in the New Year, with some of my very favourite people.

It was fantastic to see everyone again, and a great gig to boot - a whole cache of new songs, a new PA system, and the band displaying their new spoils - Gary with a new slimline Ibanez and Line 6 combo, and Tom with a new amplifier and head, as well as having his beautiful custom-built dark metallic turquoise Warwick bass back at last!

What a way to see in the new year! I drifted off down the street afterwards, in my usual post-gig euphoria, when every step is effortless and I feel like I could walk forever... in no time at all, it seems, I'm back at the B&B.
Saturday, January 1, 2005
Happy New Year!

I fell into bed at 2am but was up again in time to stroll along the street for a nice big breakfast, and then back to start working on the first batch of photos and web page for this trip. In the evening, it's gig number two for the trip, at The Load Of Hay in Bedfont, my first time there. When I emerge from the cosy warmth of my B&B to go out into the street and wait for my lift, I find that the temperature has dropped quite a bit and it's been raining. However, I'm snug in my borrowed jacket (and beautiful it is too - thanks! XXX), and we're soon on our way.

Though Gary and Pars are both suffering badly from the lurgy, it's another great gig. Particular highlights for me are the new songs in the set, especially the arrangement the boys have built around Joe South's "Hush", a song covered by Deep Purple way back in 1969. I never cease to be amazed by the chameleon-like qualities of Tom's voice, being able to cover so many performers' songs in so many styles.
Sunday, January 2, 2005
Nothing like a couple of gigs in a row to get my body clock onto UK time! I wake much later than I have been for the last few days, quite civilised for a Sunday, really. After a late breakfast at the noshery across the road, I head off to Camden and the markets, and spend some pleasant hours wandering around all the stalls. I still can't get over the huge choice in footwear available, compared to what we have in Australia, where everything is both overpriced and very limited in style. The same can be said for clothing, and, in fact, even for basic groceries. I can't resist, in fact, and buy myself a pair of boots - not only do they look great, they were divinely comfortable when I put them on - they were obviously meant for me :-)

Camden is far more crowded than it ever was on my previous visits, not surprising for a holiday Sunday, despite the chill. I have to admit, on days as cold as this in Sydney, I wouldn't really venture from the house, but then again, it's very rarely this cold! The early sunsets are disorienting - back home the sun sets around 8pm at this time of year, but here it's 4pm. I catch the tube and the bus back, and spend the evening checking out the previous night's recordings, working on web pages etc... i.e. catching up with myself.
Monday, January 3, 2005
 Where else, but to the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden? I had a wander through the Covent Garden markets before I went into the museum, feeling a bit like I was on the set of the Antiques Roadshow! Fortunately, despite being a Bank Holiday Monday, there weren't too many screaming little monsters. I went a bit mad in the giftshop, as there were so many interesting publications. After satisfying my anorak-wrapped soul, I headed a few streets further north to Denmark Street, London's self-proclaimed "Tin Pan Alley", there to drool over a vast array of guitars of all makes, models, and colours. Alas (or possibly, luckily!) most of these glorious instruments are for right-handers. In one store, a fireglo Rickenbacker was (quite rightly) labelled "the most beautiful bass guitar in the world" - hear, hear!
The London Transport Museum

Further down the street, I passed the famous London Astoria - look who's going to be playing there soon! Shame it's not in the next week or so - it would have been great to see Megadeth again... even without David Ellefson. Ah, well. Let's hope that Mustaine and co. will venture back out to Australia. I'm going to miss Glenn Hughes (again) too - he was touring last time I was in the UK as well. Damn.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking promising, with wind and rain predicted for the afternoon. I can't complain, I've been lucky so far...

London Astoria
Tuesday, January 4, 2005
As always, my sense of the time of day is really quite fluid, since my body clock hasn't locked on to local time with any great accuracy. What this means in practice is, with 16 hours of darkness, I'm as likely to wake up at 3am as 8am, and to sleep for 3 hours or 9! Today it was 5am :-)

I finally got myself to the Natural History Museum. Way back on my first trip in September 2003, as I was driven past this majestic building, I was determined to visit it, but it wasn't until today that I made it. All of the displays of the awesome power of the planet we live on were a sober reminder about how puny and helpless we humans really are in the face of a natural disaster. Standing within the Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake simulator was eiree - I imagined that in future years there will be a display of "The Tsunami Disaster".
The collections and the exhibitions and even the building itself were all magnificent. It was a great way to spend a day, and I also managed to miss out on the rain, which was falling only very lightly as I headed back for the evening.

I'm quite an old hand at finding my way around by bus and tube, though I didn't think far enough ahead to snap up Saver Tickets at the old price (since public transport charges increased on January 2), the way all the locals did. There didn't seem to be any left in the whole of London, though I DID find some this morning, at last!

Ancient Roman wall, modern office building...
One of the highlights of the trips was the bus driver who had cleverly phoned ahead, so that by the time we got to Brentford High Street, a toot of the horn brought him a hand-delivered pizza from a shop nearby while we were stopped at the traffic lights!

Ah, UK TV. Back home, it's a single cable television channel. Here, it's 5 free-to-air channels, and where else could you see such gems as "How Clean Is Your House?" and "Star Spelling" (yes, that's right, it's a celebrity spelling contest)? But wow, I get to see the latest episodes of shows at least 6 months behind back home! And the comedy - I love it :-) In all honesty, it's streets ahead of Australian television, which I generally can't tolerate, even in small doses.
Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Happy Birthday, Alan Jones!

Today it was the Museum Of London. It was noticeably colder outdoors, but still fine (at least while I was out and about!). I now understand far more about this city I'm visiting and its amazing history. It was also a chance to explore yet another new part of London, but I realised that I'd been here before, years ago, when I saw the preserved section of Roman wall beside the building.
  the Cutty Sark, 2005
Thursday, January 6, 2005
Today I ventured to Greenwich, my first time on the Docklands Light Railway this trip. First stop was the Cutty Sark, a beautiful ship indeed, though sadly now in poor condition and urgently in need of restoration... she was the site of a Blackfoot Sue photoshoot some years ago.
Blackfoot Sue onboard the Cutty Sark 1973
Blackfoot Sue on the Cutty Sark, 1973The Cutty Sark, 2005
Next was a walk up to the Royal Observatory, in Greenwich Park, and I belatedly recalled how enjoyable my winter trips to Japan were - since most sane, normal people were somewhere snug and warm, either at home or at work, it was only the most hardy tourists like myself who would brave the cold and wander about, so that there were no crowds at even very famous landmarks, like Himeji Castle. The same is true today. It's cool but clear, and I just happen to be there at the exact time of the 12.58pm raising (and 1.00pm lowering) of the Greenwich Time-Ball, despite knowing nothing at all about this ritual all of 5 minutes before!

The difference between here and Japan, however, is how green everything is. In Japan, the grass dies off in winter, and in Australia, of course, it's never really very green at any time of year - and certainly not this rich, verdant, lush green. It's also strange seeing how low on the horizon the sun is, even that early in the day.

foot tunnel under the Thames After standing astride the Prime Meridian - something I have wanted to do ever since I was a child!, I set off back towards the Cutty Sark and then walked through the foot tunnel underneath the Thames, another one of those Must-Do things (and also, I found out later, when David was looking over my photos, the location of an Outside Edge photoshoot - the Running Hot cover sessions, no less) ! Then it's time to head back and get ready for tonight's gig...

Outside Edge and the Thames tunnel
The Thames tunnel, 2005Outside Edge and the Thames tunnel, 1986

Tonight is the first of a three-night run of gigs, at The Globe Inn, Brentford. Back in April last year, I was lucky enough to be present when Cry Wolf played there for the first time in a long time, and I'm sure tonight will be just as good!
Friday, January 7, 2005
Tonight is going to be a biggie. It's The Red Lion, in Twickenham, ALWAYS a popular and crowded venue, but tonight is even more significant. Just for starters, nearly everyone I've spoken to is going to be there, and secondly, well, it's the moment I've been waiting for - all four original members of Blackfoot Sue together in the one room.

Alan and I met up for lunch - I had delicious scampi and he had bangers and mash, how traditional! Then it was on to The Windsor Castle, Blackfoot Sue's local when they lived in Hounslow, for a drink, while Alan recalled what it used to be like. From out of the pub window we could look across the road to the house that the band used to share.
Blackfoot Sue 2005
A few hours later we reconvened at Hounslow Bus Garage to get the bus down to Twickenham, ready for the gig, and dinner at Pizza Express with Eddie, Lynn and Josh. Then it was on to The Red Lion.

And EVERYBODY was there! It was great to see Sue and Miranda again, and also that Ali managed to organise transport and come down to join in the fun. The newer songs in the set are going down a storm - Rebel Yell is, quite literally, smashing, and Wild Cherry's Funky Music is another fabulous addition, reflecting the band's versatility in all kinds of musical styles. I have to say that the new PA is worth its weight in gold, its made such a difference to the sound quality. A certain "critic" in the audience noted that The Boys Are Back In Town was played in G rather than A, however...
Saturday, January 8, 2005
Tonight was the Coach & Horses, Isleworth, and a chance to catch up with some friends who'd missed a few gigs because of the lurgy going round. A bonus was Pars launching into the riff for Dance With The Devil. Fantastic! Another great gig.
Sunday, January 9, 2005
I'm running behind in keeping the trip diary up-to-date, but there's lots more material to be uploaded. In particular, I've been loaned a priceless treasure trove of archive material which will keep me busy for some considerable time, and will certainly add much more detail to the Blackfoot Sue story. More later, but now I'm off to a nice big, hot, traditional English breakfast, just the ticket for these cooler days! I should also add though, that it continues to be mild (as an Aussie I'd say cold!, but everybody keeps reassuring me that it's really quite good - and I believe them, too). I am very lucky that the weather's holding. Every night on the news I hear the forecasts for the weather up north, and it seems to be all lashing, strong winds and pelting rain, and there have even been floods in some places. I'm SO glad that Cry Wolf play in temperate SW London!

After a trip to Twickenham (in vain, alas), to see if my lost black suede vest had been found at The Red Lion, I headed back to the B&B. The temperature was noticeably dropping, and the rain had gently started by the time I got to the door. It's been a quiet but busy afternoon/night in, pigging out on Jamaican Ginger Cake and working on this fabulous material - the scanner has been "running hot", and there is some truly amazing stuff here. Expect a LOT more on the website in the next few months.
Monday, January 10, 2005
It wasn't so cold today... I didn't need gloves even early in the morning when I ventured out for breakfast. However, the rain just got heavier and heavier, so after a brief trip up the road to check my Lotto ticket (no, I didn't win), a side trip to Primark where I got a T-shirt of the most amazing colour for all of £1, and a quick half hour in an Internet cafe, it was back to my cosy editing studio for another afternoon of scanning.

Along the way I heard from Alan, safely back up in Brum, Kevin, down in Slough for the week, and my friend Sarah from Australia, just in from Germany!
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Me and a friendDespite fairly constant drizzling rain, Sarah and I ranged all over London, starting at Notting Hill Gate and Portobello Road, all the way down almost as far as Shephard's Bush, and then bused back into the heart of London, on to Covent Garden and a most fabulous vegetarian restaurant called Food For Thought. So good, in fact, that we doubled back there many hours later to have dessert!

We also walked down Charing Cross Road, past all those Oh! so tempting bookstores, took a quick detour to Denmark Street where we chatted up a musician (how unusual :-) !), and then doubled back and headed down to the Thames and Cleopatra's Needle, then as far as Embankment where a local threatened to stab me because, he said, "I was rude to him," when he started his sob story about needing money. In fact I'd said I was busy as I was trying (unsuccessfully, as it happens) to get to a voicemail message that I'd just been sent. We hopped the tube again, back to Covent Garden for dessert, windowshopping along the terribly trendy streets, found ourselves at Seven Dials (where John Du Cann's "7 Lonely Streets" immediately sprang to mind), and then headed off to Waterloo to meet Sarah's Mum for a quick drink and chat before parting company. A long, fun day, and really nice to catch up again. I also felt like I really got the value out of my Day Travelpass.
green Rickenbacker!Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I didn't range all that far after my long day the previous day, concentrating on BFS "research", particularly since that voicemail was a message that my negatives had been printed and were ready to pick up. In the evening I caught up with Kevin for dinner, which was great as we won't manage to both be at a Cry Wolf gig at the same time this trip.

I have far more understanding of the weather patterns here in the UK now - London and the south-east escape, at least at this time of year, most of the rain, wind, sleet, ice and snow which lashes the rest of the country, that comes sweeping in from the north-west. I'm coping okay, but most days have been fine, and the temperature mild compared to what it could be like. It will be quite a jolt to the system to be back in Sydney's hot summer next week.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
It was a few degrees colder today, so I took the precaution of wearing tights under my jeans, very sensibly, as it turns out! The skies were clear and bright, so it was the perfect day to revisit Windsor, which had been on my list ever since my flying visit last trip.
 Yum! :-) Right guitar, right colour, wrong handedness... and probably just as well.
Slam door train at Windsor and Eton RiversideTo my delight, both the trips to and from Windsor were slam door trains, some of the few still left on the network, with South West Trains being one of the last operators still using this rolling stock. At Staines station I was absolutely delighted to see something which I have always thought should be an institution at every airport, and probably at many commuter stations as well! There was a whole rack of secondhand books available, with a modest fee to be paid, to go to a local charity - what a great idea :-)

Oh, and it was my first trip to the post office to mail a package of this trip's excesses back home - with more to go yet! I'm at the stage of working out precisely what will fit in my bag for the trip home, or more accurately, how not to exceed the baggage allowance. It will fit - there was plenty of space in my bag when I came over! It's the weight of it I'm worried about.

I haven't quite gotten to the point of getting last weekend's gig pictures uploaded yet, but they will get done. Eventually. :-)

This has been the trip where all the pieces have come together. I know my way around fairly well, to the point of knowing the most efficient method of getting from A to B, and there's enough free time between gigs to do the touristy/historical things, plus there's all this glorious television - and I'm NOT being sarcastic. For example, I just happened on a brief documentary on the wonderful Hammond organ (think Vincent Crane, Jon Lord, Rainbow, Keith Emerson... you get the idea). Oh wow.
Friday, January 14, 2005
A busy day. Firstly, a second trip to the post office to send some more magazines on their way home (they'll arrive back in Australia about 10 weeks after I will), then back into London to meet up with Sarah. She's flying out to Amsterdam tonight, but we've time to take a walk around Camden Town - VERY quiet compared to how it was on Sunday two weeks back! After a quick, late lunch, we head off to London Bridge, and walk back along the side of the Thames as far as the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It's too late to spend time on a tour, so that goes onto the "Things To Do Next Trip" list! Then we part company, Sarah to head off to Gatwick, and me to go back and prepare for the evening's gig.

Though it's not all that far as the crow flies, the connections are quite awkward to get to South Wimbledon - there IS a tube station right across the road from the venue, but it would take me about 4 changes to get to it, so I elect to do a single change, and stay on the District Line as far as Wimbledon. The rolling stock is, quite frankly, horrible compared to the new trains which populate the other tube lines I've travelled on. On the outside, they are a stained, dirty matt white, and inside, the wooden floors are badly worn. I start down the street once I get to Wimbledon, only to be picked up on the way by Gary and Mandy, for a quick, cosy ride right to the Grove Tavern. We all pile out into the cool evening and lug the gear into the venue.

I like this stage, as it's long and narrow, one of the few places where all four members play side by side as there isn't the depth for the drum kit to fit behind the rest of the band. It's an energetic gig, the band are very clearly enjoying themselves, and a very late finish too. The crowd thickens the later it gets, as this venue has a late licence and tends to fill up after the other pubs in the area empty out.

Pars very kindly gives me a lift back afterwards, so we went cruising through the streets of SW London to the strains of Dream Theater's Awake, absolutely awesome, the effect with the streets flashing by, from high street to historic building, terraced housing and field, and everything inbetween, magnified the post-gig euphoria so that it was almost like I was tripping - and I hadn't touched a thing - honest! I fell into bed at 2am with a big smile on my face, and another band to research and add to my "Must Buy" list.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Here we go again, gearing up for the last gig of the trip, always bittersweet. Like my last gig last time, it's a fairly long journey to get there, so we'll be setting out early to be there in time for the 9pm start.

I take a leisurely stroll down the street after breakfast, check my email and upload some updates to the website at the Internet Cafe, then have cherry cheesecake at a cafe further down the road - there isn't a spare table inside the cafe, but I'm perfectly happy to take the solitary table outside in the cold, as the cigarette smoke inside was far worse than most pubs I've been to this trip! And English cheesecake, I must add, is delicious, so much nicer than what gets palmed off in Sydney as cheesecake. Then it's back for a powernap to banish the headache I woke up with, and here I am! My accompaniment while I type is one highly recommended by David, Feeder.
My cosy editing studio away from home... and my gigging jacket :-)

Soon it's time to get ready for the gig. Batteries fully charged, it's time to go! It was a long way to travel, but a great gig at The Marne Inn in Bishop's Stortford, and another venue to tick off on my list. The boys are almost back in full voice, and it was the first time this trip I had heard Whitesnake's Here I Go Again. Beautifully done. The acoustics at the venue were great, I could hear the glorious vocal harmonies more clearly than ever before.

Usually we all straggle off from gigs at our own pace, but as it was quite a trek for everyone, we all piled out of the venue at the same time and peeled off to our respective cars for the late night trip back home... a nice way to finish up for the trip.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
I got up a tad later than usual, after those two late nights, and got myself in to London to revisit Island Gardens and the tunnel under the Thames, to get some more photos. Then came a trip up to the north-west of London to visit some very dear friends for Sunday dinner, a trip made interesting by the fact that the Metropolitan line is out for the weekend, and there's a replacement bus service from Baker Street. We chat for hours, and have a delicious, relaxed dinner - it was a lovely way to wind down on my final evening in the country. All too soon I have to leave - my hosts have got to go to work tomorrow, and I have to get myself back across London before public transport stops for the night!

The replacement bus service turns out to be a very good thing indeed. It was a speedy non-stop trip back in to Baker Street, and the connections were superb - only a 2 minute wait for the tube, and about 10 for the bus. I was pretty proud of myself as I took a route I hadn't used before, and it worked out well. I even got my favourite seat on the bus, up the front on the left-hand side upstairs, so I was able to pass by The Six Bells and The Coach & Horses one last time, and sent them both a private nod of appreciation. I also took the opportunity to film the view from the bus window as we drove along, since I had my camera with me, creating a nice memento of my regular homeward journey. :-)
Monday-Tuesday, January 17-18, 2005
The last day of the trip is always the worst. Not only is it painful to say goodbye to everyone, but there's the awful anticipation of that long, long plane flight to get back home. I am marginally headachy at this point in time (mid-afternoon), but hopefully I can kick it before I get onboard the plane.

I've sent off home my last parcel of magazines and maps, making a grand total of only 3, and weighing less that 7kg in total. I've also spent a lot less on transport this time. Only £8.10 all up on British Rail, about 3 books of Saver bus tickets, and a handful of All Day Travelpasses. Very economical.

The weather has turned cooler and it's raining this afternoon, in fact very much like my last day last time, rather fitting, in fact. I almost forgot to go and check my Lotto ticket, but alas, it's not a winner. There won't be a fully financed Cry Wolf tour of Australia this time around. Perhaps next time...?

Outside my window, the planes go roaring by, up there in Heathrow's sky, and all too soon I'll be on one. My bag is now completely full, but comes in at an impressively accurate 20.1kg when I check in, as if I'd planned it that way! The flight out from Heathrow is a wide-body 767, and not full. I'm tired enough that I successfully drop off to sleep a few times, and it's really not too bad. Soon I'm back at Narita Airport. While everybody else haltingly makes their way through the terminal, peering at the multilingual signs to figure out where they need to go next, I make a beeline for the shuttle and the other concourse, as that's where the Internet cafe is! It's only about 2 1/2 hours before I need to be at the gate for my ongoing flight to Sydney, and passes quickly.

The next flight is a less luxurious 747, and it's completely full, as well as much colder than usual, but I have my beautiful jacket to wrap myself in, so I'm fine. I doze a little and spend the rest of the time catching up on the other watchable movies on the programme, finishing up with Swing Girls again, marvelously enjoyable.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I arrived back in Sydney with a queasy jet-lagged stomach, to beautiful clear skies and lovely weather. It's time for bare legs and a summer dress now - there had to be something worth coming home to, after all! This time I even remembered to wash out the coffee maker before I went - last time I came home to a mouldy disaster that I had to throw away. Then came an emergency dash to the supermarket to buy another one! This time, happily, it's sitting waiting for me on the draining board, clean and dry, so I reassemble it and brew some coffee while I get ready to go back to my other life, and do some mundane things like put my trip clothes in the wash. At least it's a great drying day outside! The cats are home-delivered in the afternoon, and after carefully exploring the house for intruders, are quite happy to lay about and relax. Unlike many cats I've known, they readily forgive me for being away. Luckily.

I'm on autopilot for the rest of the day, trying to resist falling in to bed in a vain attempt to readjust to Sydney time, but I only last till about 8.30pm. Another trip over...sadly.

A big hello and thank you to friends old and new,
you've made it a fun trip and I've loved catching up with you.
I especially want to thank all of the members of the band,
original and current, you are wonderful people
and I count myself blessed to be able to call you my friends.

Certainly I'm already looking forward very much to the next time!

Continue on to my August/September 2005 UK trip diary

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