Jamie “Tragic Flantern” Doe and I went on what you could call a tour if you ignored the inconvenient gaps between the dates, the fact that we didn’t travel together, the lack of roadies, and the quality, tone, and size of the shows. Haphazardly, we navigated the length of England seeking an audience in six different towns. In some of them, we found one.
I originally wrote this journal entry as a blow by blow series of reminiscences from each of the shows we played, tempered with exciting “behind the scenes” stories (most of them about Jamie’s “jokes”) to excite the modern reader. But I’ve now deleted that in favour of this more free-form account. In part, this is because I think it makes for better reading, but it’s mostly because I have absolutely no desire to be forced by the format of this post into talking about the Birmingham show or recalling it in any way.
So let’s talk about London, where Jamie and I found ourselves sound technicians for an evening in a basement in King’s Cross, sidling back up to Angel where overpriced chips accompanied our frenzied religious and political debates into the wee hours. I turfed Jamie out of his own bed because of a grandfather clock and our supporting act turned up just as we were getting ready to perform without him. Or we could talk about Oxford, where our show was a warm-up to the May Morning festivities which followed (I’m visible on the BBC News for slightly less than a second). We bumped into an old supervisor of mine and I didn’t notice, possibly because I was in a Jamie-induced Jazz trance.
In Newcastle, we had an entire cinema to use as a green room – and a cinema which fed us and had its own ping pong table. Piped through an antiquated and home-built sound system, Jamie had cause to regret using the word ‘wench’. I got to duet with Ditte Elly, which was a joyous experience, and the next day I headed off for breakfast and a beach with some locals in order to console myself about Jamie’s early departure. There was a cat, taxis were affordable, the metro system had stolen its logo from Morrison’s, and we stayed up late into the night talking about the Olympics and house prices (we’re adults now).
Then we skated to the south west. In Falmouth I climbed a lot of stairs to play an open mic night with Rosie Caldecott – we met a guy with a fine moustache whose girlfriend used the same brand of pen as me. I saw the local aquarium and found a pub which sold books, then the next morning I found myself in a leisure centre swimming pool at 8:30, which was unexpected, and then drank an instant hot chocolate whilst picking wildflowers and looking at rain coming in off the ocean.
Skip arrived to fish and chips, soul and jazz sessions in an attic bedroom, and, at last, a venue with a harbour view. We had a midnight encounter with an albino rat called Paris, France. Then it was off up to Bristol, where an amazing thali lunch proved ample restorative after the experience of trying to get tickets out of a ticket machine in Truro (still reverberating through my karmic essence hours later). Stokes Croft looked worrying in the rain but some old friends turned out, the crowd was lovely, and the tour ended with warmth – especially after the acquisition of a (second) curry.
Here’s what we learned:
1) Outside London, open off-licences are hard to find late at night.
2) Trains are extremely expensive.
3) Our friends and fans are a talented, warm, intelligent diaspora whom it’s an absolute pleasure to know.
4) Even at its lowest ebb, this is a charmed occupation, and we’re lucky to get to be doing it.