Monday, January 02, 2017

'I'm back - in full attack...'

Friday 30th December at 4 pm, in seat 15D on British Airways flight number BA542 not long after take-off.

Well it's been a while since I've done this. Blogging I mean. I think that I've, for want of a better term, lost the habit. Time I got it back then.

Somewhere near the end of October - or was it the start of November? - my computer went wrong. I switched it on one night - to write a blog post if I remember correctly - and the screen remained defiantly white, albeit with a little question mark in the middle. A quick scout around the Internet (we've all got that on our phone these days haven't we? It's funny how you go to use it almost with out thinking isn't it?) revealed that it was likely to be a hard drive problem - so what was I to do? Hmm... I wonder if that computer repair shop down the road could sort it out for me?
Well it turned out that they could. Eventually. My new friend Terry phoned me after he'd had a look at it to tell that I did indeed need a new hard drive ('you have backed it up haven't you?' he asked somewhat ominously and clearly expecting the answer 'no' - yes, incredibly I had, and fairly recently too) and went on to tell me that being an 'old' (i.e. not 'new') MacBook there were limits to what could be achieved. 'How about a hybrid drive?' said he, rather more cheerily than he'd asked the previous question; he'd usually suggest a solid state drive but my ancient device wouldn't be able to cope with that but this would do the trick. Well it sounded like a good plan and was a lot less expensive than I was fearing so I gave him the go-ahead. 'No hurry' I replied when he asked when I needed the computer back. This may in retrospect have been a bit of a mistake.
After a week or so I called to see how things were going. My new mate Terry was still very much my new mate, and he lost little if any time in telling me that things were going well and that he should be able to have my computer back with me by, ooh, the end of next week. 'Oh that great' said I - it was only after I'd put the phone down that I realised that it would by then be over three weeks since I'd had the computer at home. I had several outstanding invoices to send (if you're a self-employed person like me then you'll know what I mean!) and had among other things an increasingly dim recollection of writing something called a 'blog'. I used to enjoy writing that, even if I was never really sure if anyone actually read it. I'd been able to update my Facebook page on my iPhone but writing anything more than a few words was just too fiddly. A snap decision saw your humble narrator purchase an iPad Mini as there were bills to pay online - it's amazing how much of that we all do online these days isn't it? - and anyway, I'd fancied an iPad for a while as it'd be handy for taking away on tour. I'm finding it less fiddly to use than a phone but trickier than a computer - oh well, I'm sure it'll be ok in the end.
In the meantime my afore-mentioned computer reappeared at the afore-mentioned shop. Hurrah! I rather nervously switched it on - it worked. Good! But wait a minute - something was different. Well, actually quite a lot was different. It was... well, it was like I remember it being when I first got it all those years ago. It's not how I remember it before it went wrong. Bugger! Oh hang on - I guess that means that I have to, I believe the term is, 'restore my last back up' from the external hard drive that I've got all this stuff sitting on. Well that should be simple enough shouldn't it? Well indeed it should, but after what felt like an age on the Internet I still could get the bloomin' thing to work. Terry - help!
'You probably need some iCloud settings updating, and maybe a few other bits and pieces looking at - drop it back into the shop and I'll sort it out for you' said my by-now-old mate Terry. Will do. Could I have it back a bit quicker than last time please?
Well it finally made it's way back to me just before Christmas and I'm pleased / relieved to say that it seems to working fine. Having spent years being clogged up to breaking point with far too much music in iTunes it's now less than half full - plenty of room for yet more music then - and it's good to have it back working at something faster than the proverbial snail's pace. I must still keep using the iPad though mustn't I? All's well that end's well - except that I tried to back it up last night (I thought that I'd better have a go!) and it wouldn't work. I'd better look up 'Time Machine Settings' or something like it when we get back hadn't I?

And it's been a while since I've done this too. Flown to a gig I mean. Ruts D.C. have a New Year's Eve gig at The Covo Club in Bologna. I think that the last time that I saw the original band was New Year's Eve 1981 at The Fulham Greyhound. That's 35 years ago. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun. Doesn't time fly anyway?
Since last we spoke here I've been gigging a fair bit, mostly with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks as well as a Boxing Night bash at The Dolphin in Uxbridge with The Upper Cut which all but erased the memory of our last not-so-good gig there. I've also worked many-a day at Balcony Shirts which has maybe not been quite as busy as at the same time last year, and spent most of Christmas Day ill with food poisoning or something like it. Urgh! I've managed to have a couple of much-needed quiet days after Xmas before before Segs, Dave and myself got together yesterday for rehearsal - buoyed by the recent news that 'Music Must Destroy' was voted Album Of The Year in Vive Le Rock magazine ('I'd like to thank the academy' etc) we spent four very enjoyable hours running through material for tomorrow night's show. 
A lot of people don't seem to be sad to see the back of 2016. There do seem to have been rather a lot of celebrity deaths don't there? Incidentally I was very saddened to hear that Rick Parfitt left the building just before Christmas - one of the great rock 'n' roll rhythm guitarists, I met him once and he seemed to be a very nice chap. And I was never exactly the world's biggest George Michael fan, but you can't deny that the guy could certainly sing... and then there was that little matter of the vote to leave The E.U. (am I the only person that thinks that we won't actually leave?) and the truly astonishing sight of someone who appears to be a complete and utter lunatic being voted President Elect of The U.S.A.; it remains to be seen how we fare in 2017 but surely it can't be quite as crazy as 2016?

Anyway the screen says that we're 51 minutes away from Bologna and I've got 'The Liberal Politics Of Adolf Hitler' by John King to read. That's quite a title isn't it? I'm told by the author that the band are in it somewhere (that wasn't the only reason that I bought it, honest!) so I'd better get on with reading it hadn't I? 

Saturday 31st December at 11.24 am, in Room 354 of The Ramada Encore Hotel in Bologna

Ah, that's better. I sometimes wonder if there's anything in the World that a hot shower or indeed a hot bath won't fix. Not that I had anything in particular that needed fixing, but you know what I mean I think.
It's a lovely sunny morning here, so perhaps I should be out and about rather than languishing in a hotel room. Fair point - but since we have a very long day in prospect (we're due on stage at 12.30 am) a lazy morning might be a good idea.
I bet you thought that
I'd made those names up?!?
'Twas a splendid evening just gone - we were met at the airport by Mars and Angela (I first met Mars several years ago when as a member of The Valentines he was backing T.V. Smith on some British dates) who took us to our hotel for check-in then to The Jukebox Cafe for some food. The Cafe (which incidentally serves such delights as Punkcakes, Eggy Pop and, believe it or not, a Ruts Burger - if you're in Bologna then visit immediately!) is part of The Covo Club - with no table available for a while it was suggested that we had a walk around town which turned out to be an excellent idea. Whilst musicians are lucky enough to find themselves in all sorts of interesting places there's often very little time to see anything other than where you're playing and where you're staying so it was great to be able to see some of the local sights. Mars recalled seeing The Clash play an open air show in the Town Square in 1980 - Topper was late so they played the first few songs with the drummer from the support band Whirlwind on drums before giving a blistering performance. 'It changed my life' said he, looking visibly moved. I bet that it did. They changed mine too.
Outside the cafe a board advertises the (very) imminent appearance of 'U.K. Punk Legends' Ruts D.C.; the jukebox is blasting out early Stones singles and the food is going down very well as is the local beer and wine. We all pretty much ran out of steam around midnight - it had been a long day. A taxi was called but few if any other attendees were leaving - The Jukebox Cafe looks like a good place to be.
Meanwhile I've got Creedence Clearwater Revival playing on the iPod (Keith Richards earlier, it's funny how some songs come to mind when you least expect it isn't it?) and I've got a bit of time to myself, which is good because J.K.'s book is every bit as good as I was hoping that it would be. It's all go isn't it? Well, it certainly will be later.

Sunday 1st January at 2.05 pm, in the hotel lobby

Ah - the wonder of the late check out. Mars spoke to the person behind the desk yesterday who apparently is a regular at the club. That was lucky.
We got back to the hotel not long after 5 am. It had been a long night, but a good one. Opening act Mars Valentines and The Illuminations had warmed the crown up with a set of suitably punky cover versions ('This Perfect Day' sounded particularly strong I thought) and had all looked as though they were having a whale of a time. They went on not long before midnight, and stopped after a couple of songs to open a bottle of champagne (or something very like it) and to toast the start of 2017. And why not? It was Mars's first stage appearance for over two years, and he made a great job of it. And let's face it, anybody who plays a Gibson Firebird has to be alright don't they?
When we were first offered the gig (not that long ago, around October if I remember rightly) I must admit that I for one was a little bemused. Are Ruts D.C. a 'New Year's Eve type of band'? I suppose the answer to that question is something along the lines of 'it depends on where you are on New Year's Eve'. They were certainly the right type of band for The Fulham Greyhound on NYE 1981, and it turned out that we were the right type of band for The Covo Club on NYE 2017. As previously discussed we'd not played a show since November, and while there was no reason that this show shouldn't have been a good one (after all we'd sounded fine in rehearsal) there is often an element of 'ring rustiness' in situations such as these. Thankfully that wasn't the case here, and our 18-song-set-with-a-4-song-encore roared by in no time - always a sign of a good show. Afterwards there was time for a drink (or two) and a chance to talk to some of the audience, many of whom were very emotional about our performance. It's easy to forget how powerful music can be - how it brings like-minded people together, how it can stir up often unexpected emotions and feelings, and how it can mean so much to players and listeners alike. This was definitely one of those nights, a pleasure to part of from start to finish. I often bang on about how lucky I am to be able to play music - I'm not going to do that again here (for once!) but suffice to say that it's good to be reminded of it sometimes... 

Monday 2nd January at 12.26 pm, back in Blighty and at home

So there you have it - a return to blogging after what feels like ages. It's actually only a few weeks, but having written something most weeks for the last 10 (10!) years it's something that's a bigger part of my life than I perhaps realise. I started it to learn to type and to find my way around a computer - despite still being a 'two finger typist' most of the time (thumbs and the odd second finger creep in here and there) I can now get up a reasonable head of steam, and whilst I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as being 'computer literate' I can do more on a computer than I ever could, especially when the damn thing works... I'm still not really sure that anybody reads this stuff, but I'm in too deep to stop now. So I'd better carry on then! Forward!

Oh and I nearly forgot - happy new year y'all!
(Assuming that anybody is reading this…)

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