...which went well for the lad- rather better than yesterday, when he arrived at the shop without his keys. Ooops! After his parents had dropped them off he opened the shop to discover that Simon had phoned in sick, leaving him to face the masses on his own. I would have gone in to help him, but I was already partway into an unusually memorable day...
As I stumbled up the hill with a guitar over one shoulder and a clothes bag over the other I reflected on how difficult it can be to carry a large umbrella in the wind and rain- rather ironic given the fact that it's designed to protect you from those very things. I started to cross the road, which was a mistake considering that there was a car coming towards me at the time. It wasn't indicating to turn right 'though it was obviously about to do so, which was a controversial move as that it would mean jumping a red light- which it did. I caught a split-second sight of the woman at the wheel, she was maybe 50-something and looked terrified, like she was trying to escape from something or someone. I hastily stepped back on to the kerb and let her pass by; a car skidded to a halt to let her do the same. As I wondered why she'd done what she'd just done my mobile phone rang- it was Ian at the shop, telling me that he'd just found out that he was to be on his own in there all day. I felt guilty at not being able to go over there to help him, which was silly really as I'd said ages ago that I was unable to work as I was away gigging- but that's how I felt.
I called in to see Shirley at work to drop the umbrella off in case she needed it for her walk home. I think I was a bit shaken by the incident a few seconds earlier, and was feeling bad about myself regarding Ian's situation; either way I was rude to her. That's bad. As I made my way down to Uxbridge underground station I was wet from sweat and rain, and felt like I'd just been nasty to the only person in the world who was still on my side. It's funny how things get on top of you sometimes isn't it? Well, they certainly get on top of me... I sat on the train, trying to read an article in the latest 'Mojo' magazine about The Blues Brothers, but couldn't get my mind off the face of the woman driving the car- why was she driving like that? Should I have got the number plate in case I read about her in the papers tomorrow? I was so lost in it all that I nearly missed my station. That wouldn't have helped things- I was due to meet the band at Richard's at 12.45 and time was short. As I got on my connecting train I heard the station announcer say 'very good... not very good at keeping it up are you?' My mobile phone rang- it was Ian. Of course. The day was getting stranger.
By the time I got to Richard's I was soaked from walking from the station. His wife Isobel gave me a hairdryer, suggesting that I use it on my clothes; it sounded like a bit of a mad idea but amazingly it worked- with the rest of the band delayed on the M25 I had time to dry my jacket and trousers in between phone calls from Ian. Eventually they arrive, in a hired van which we've just started using. We're on our way to play an open air festival at The Lawn Pleasure Grounds in Sutton-in-Ashfield near Mansfield. Hmm... an open air festival... 2-and-a-bit hours later we arrive, it's obviously been raining but it's not too bad at the moment, there's a local band on playing 'Superstition', they sound ok if a little 'ordinary' if you know what I mean. We meet up with dep drummer Steve and dep trumpeter Adam and set off in search of food, pausing only to collect some free meal vouchers from the organisers. We're due on in a couple of hours time at 6 o'clock, with headline act Killer Queen (guess who they're a tribute to? I can't get away from them can I?!?) on at 8 o'clock. After eating in The Pavilion (veggie option- chili and chips, not too bad) it's back to the stage for a quick sound check- except that it's not, because Killer Queen haven't got their stuff set up yet. I go over to their guitarist, say hello and introduce myself, he looks at me blankly and walks off. I think about saying something like 'the real Brian May's a much nicer bloke than you are you prat'- but my phone rings. It's Ian. Again. Poor bugger.
It's 5.45 before they finished setting up and soundchecking, mostly because they play along to backing tracks (I wonder if their 'fans' know that?) and it took a while to sort everything out. From the little contact that I had with any of them I could say here that the other reason that it may have taken them so long might have been that they've all got their heads so far up their collective arses that they couldn't hear themselves playing- but I'm not going to say that here, because that would be unprofessional, childish, even spiteful, however accurate a statement it might or might not be... we get set up as quickly as we can, I've got a Fender Blues Deville combo to play through, very nice but deafeningly loud. It also had the wrong footswitch with it; I eventually found the correct one in the back of it- I wonder if any of the earlier bands had found it? We go on around 6.20, it's raining a bit but not too bad, people are getting into it down the front, Pete and Mike are working hard, the band sounds good and we go down pretty well considering that it's pouring down by the time we finish. It's maybe 30-ish yards from the stage to our tent- by the time I get there I'm soaked. Again. Oh well- it's not the worst thing that'll ever happen, and anyway we're finished early for once (7.45!) and with no one too interested in seeing Killer Queen we should be home in no time. As we're leaving the showground someone says something like 'it's still light, we never go home when it's light, can't we wait until it's dark?'
Be careful what you wish for my friends, because sometimes it comes true...
We made our merry way back to junction 28 if the southbound M1; great was the jollity at the thought of being home early on a Saturday night for once- Richard's off on holiday first thing Sunday morning, Tracy's got her parents coming round tomorrow, I've got to get up to buy the papers to see if the woman who jumped the red light's in them... suddenly someone remarks that the van engine's squeaking a bit- then there's a cracking sound and what sitting in the back felt like something hitting the underside of the van. 'Hope that wasn't the fan belt'- but all the collective hope of the band wasn't going to stop it being just that.
We pulled off the motorway at junction 26, Pete got on the phone to The A.A. and the motorway service vehiclemen that had appeared from nowhere advised us to pull round the corner onto the A610 where we could wait in a lay-by for help to arrive. So we did- and there we waited... and waited... and waited... suddenly Pete's phone rang, it's Jackson's recovery, they'll be with us in a few minutes- but the driver says that he'll be no good to us as his vehicle's too small to take the van and all of us. 'What's the point of that?' asks an increasingly agitated Pete, and it's hard not to agree. When he does arrive the man from Jackson's tell us that it's not just the fan belt that's gone, it's the bearing as well, and he'll call The A.A. to get them to send a more appropriate vehicle or 2.
To cut a (very) long story short just over 3 hours after the fan belt and bearing broke we got into a minibus on the forecourt of the garage just up the road from the lay-by, leaving the van there for the A.A. to pick up later. We'd eventually plucked up courage to drive around the corner in search of toilets and food- when we got out at the garage Pete pointed out the yard-and-a-bit long piece of fan belt hanging out of the front of the van. It did break then. In the meantime there's been frayed tempers and sanity, not to mention enough phone calls to keep the entire mobile phone network in profit for the rest of the year.
It's early on Sunday morning, as you can tell from the time of this posting. I should be asleep, but there's too much going on in my mind. What happened to the woman in the car? Why did I think it was a good idea to be so unpleasant to Shirley? How did Ian end up on his own in the shop on the one Saturday for ages that I couldn't get there to help him, and why did I feel so bad about it? What on Earth was that tannoy announcement all about? And maybe most of all, just how daft did I look with that hairdryer?
I think that was what's often referred to as 'one of those days'.