Sunday, June 29, 2014

'Time is a train, makes the future the past...'

'Oi you know 'oo you look like? Vat bloke, oh wattsis name... ver bloke in "Bottom", not ver dead one, ve uvver one...'

The two young ladies that have just sat opposite me are cheery enough but they are a bit, shall we say, rough around the edges. It had clearly been a good Friday night. 'You might want to move' said the taller of the two, smiling as she produced a bottle of vodka, some lime cordial and two cardboard Costa coffee cups. No, no, I'm fine where I am thank you. In fact, I'm rather looking forward to the rest of my journey.
We're on a train travelling from Liverpool Street to Southend. I'm on my way to meet Austin who I'm playing a gig with that evening and up until this point I've only had the latest edition of 'Vive Le Rock' magazine for company. They - well, they're going wherever the action takes them.

'Wassat? Vat fing in the seat next to ya? Are you a musician? I bet you're a right show off aintcha?'

At this point I should say that despite the shorter girl operating at a volume that probably ensured that everybody else in the train could hear her, I was having trouble working out what she was saying. Hay fever has given me bunged up sinuses and ears full of wax, a situation that had conspired against me the previous evening when The Upper Cut had played a short notice gig at The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham. I didn't particularly enjoy the show - nothing to do with the band, it's just that I had real problems hearing what was going on and so missed a few cues. I also couldn't gauge how loud I was playing - from what I'm told I was a bit too loud at the start, too quiet in the middle and more-or-less at the right volume by the end - and it was hard to pitch my vocals. Still people were dancing and everyone that I spoke to after the show said that it had been a good gig so I guess we must have been doing something right. Sadly my ears hadn't improved the next day (they're still bad as I type this, perhaps I'll get some Otex tomorrow) which meant a potentially fraught Saturday night gig in prospect, depping with The Essex Blues Brothers at a 40th birthday party in Maldon. Having spent a fair few years playing in The Chicago Blues Brothers band I was reasonably familiar with the material, but whereas that was generally a full band here the drums, bass and keyboards were on backing tracks with the guitar, horns and vocals being performed live. Austin had sent me the tracks to practice with (I worked with him in his duo Liquid a few years ago, and both he and his fellow Blues Brother Chris both depped with the CBBs) which were a great help, to such an extent that I dread to think what sort of a mess I would have been in if I hadn't heard them first. That said I don't mind admitting that it all gave me the rather odd feeling that I was going back in time. Sort of. A bit. Maybe.
I'd not met Graham (trumpet) or Anita (saxophone) before but they were both very friendly and helpful, going through the music to answer any enquiries that I had, and I hadn't seen Chris (a.k.a. C.J.) for ages so it was good to catch up with him. The gig was in a marquee in a field - we got there to be told that they'd just finished building the stage (!) and that they were ready for us to set up. I was using a Pod rather than an amplifier and so was concerned that I wouldn't be able to hear what I was playing (and given my current plight, whether I would be able to hear anything at all) but by the time we'd run through a couple of songs it all sounded pretty good, even to me. With guests already arriving we retired to our dressing room / portacabin to get changed and to plan the evening - there's a hog roast at 8.15 (there's no vegetarian option so it's a bread roll and some coleslaw for me!) followed by our first set from 9.15 - 10 o'clock and our second from 11 until midnight. I was feeling a bit rough (having hay fever in the middle of a bloody great load of grass is definitely not to be recommended!) so I cowered in Austin's van until showtime, and barring the odd mad moment on guitar our two sets went very well, although how we managed to wind up ending the evening with 'Weather With You' is frankly a bit beyond me. Mind you, it had been that kind of day...  

Ade Edmondson,
earlier today.
Back on the train, the shorter of the two girls won't stop talking. To me.
'You do look like 'im, you really do... so wot sorta music d'you play? We're from Stevenage, it's my birfday, firty five, we're going to Sarfend, d'you know it? 'Ere if 'ee's a musician, 'ee might know where we can get some gear from - 'ere d'you know where we can get some gear from? We done all ours last night...'
No I didn't know where they could get some gear for the weekend, which was a bit of a shame as I was beginning to feel like taking some myself. That said they've now forgotten about me and started on the young lad across the aisle from us, telling him he's got eyes 'like marbles' and that he must 'drive the birds mad' - at which point a burly chap in high-visibility clothing walked through to use the toilet at the end of our carriage. They like him. They like him a lot. He seems to like them too. There are smiles all round, including from me. They're alright really, just out for a good time - and what could be wrong with that? Oh hang on, they've spotted me again...
'You oright vere? Wot? You talk quiet dontcha? Oh yeah you carn't 'ear can ya? Wot you reading? Never 'eard ov it, what's it abaht?'
Well I still couldn't hear her too well but I could certainly hear the shouting and crashing coming from behind the toilet door. 'I'm farking locked in!' roared Mr. Hi-Viz from within, 'I can't farking git aht!' Before anyone else could move the two girls had leapt into action, attempting to open said door by shouting and swearing at it (let's face it, we've all tried that option in this sort of situation haven't we?!?) before kicking at it with all their collective might. 'Oi farking watch it!' bellowed Mr. Hi-Viz - 'we're only tryin' 'oo open it' shrieked the taller girl as a ticket inspector arrived with the words 'Sir? Sir, are you in there sir?'
'Course I'm in 'ere, I'm farking stuck!'
He quietly suggested how the door might be opened - something to do with using the handle correctly if I remember rightly - and a few seconds later Mr. Hi-Viz emerged triumphantly. His phone rang as the shorter girl offered to, shall we say, pleasure him if he could get them some gear for the weekend; meanwhile the inspector and myself smiled at each other as he asked to see my ticket, and normal service was resumed on the 14.35 service from London Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria. 

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