Saturday

Normally, my Saturdays are quite busy. Rufus often stays over and we’re out of the door by 8am and on some windswept hill by 9. But last night I played a gig with the band and it ended up as a late finish. Rufus didn’t stay over as it wouldn’t have been fair to leave him on his own. I wasn’t in bed until 1.30am and I didn’t wake properly until 8. So this morning was a lazy, slow starter that still hasn’t quite got going. After typing this, I’m off to sit in the garden for half an hour with coffee and a sandwich.

The weather is gorgeous as I type. I’ve had my hair cut, I’ve done a load of washing (which is pretty much dry in the sunshine) and I’ve done the first cut of the back garden. I’d call it a lawn, but it isn’t really a lawn. It’s a collection of different grasses and other small green stuff that happens to be growing in close proximity. I fully expected to find small animals in the longer bits. It was hard going (I always leave it too long before the first cut) and I had to use the strimmer rather than the mower. There’s something more ‘hands on’ about the strimmer. But it’s also back aching. Most of it is done now (I ran out of cutting line about three feet from the edge of the garden).

(Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of cutting my hair and cutting the grass – they were both left to grow far to long, as was pointed out by my hairdresser.)

This evening, we have another gig at the Prince of Wales in Kenfig. So my afternoon will be spent sorting out a few things and maybe even changing the strings on my bass guitar.

I have some time off next week, so I’m hoping to do stuff and in so doing, generate more blogs. You lucky, lucky people!

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Sunday

Just another Sunday.

Wake up at about 6am but I don’t have to go to work, so turn over and wake up again at 7.30am. My ears are still ringing a little after last night’s gig despite earplugs. That’s down to where we had to set up in the pub. The walls reflected the sound back at us.

Up at about 8am. That’s late for me but it was a late night last night and a busy day yesterday. I walked into Swansea and back along the seafront, 12km in total, before the gig.

You may have read about my data loss so before I started breakfast, the PC was on and I set up the first of many CDs to rip on to the hard drive. Throughout the morning, I was changing discs and I’ve managed to go through four shelves by this evening – around 65 discs. I’m getting there, slowly.

I also had to update the band website, adding some new photos from last night and a new logo on the banner. I write the blog for the band too, and I try to put a note up about the latest gig just so there is something new for people to read.

Then it was time to pick Rufus up and allow him to take me for a walk. Today, we went up to the river for a short walk as I was feeling tired. I wanted to get out; the easiest thing to do today would have been to stay at home and slump on the sofa. But I have to get my act together, so off we went, across the river and up the side of the hill until we came to a small, hidden waterfall. Rufus chased stones and sticks, I took a few photos but really I just enjoyed the fresh air and Rufus’ company. We had a bit of a play fight on the side of the hill going back down; Rufus tries to push me over and I try to push him over.

Back across the river, I stayed high up on the back. It’s about 30 feet above the water. Rufus has to stay close to the river for as long as possible but eventually, he knew he had to climb the bank. He charged up at full speed but it was very steep and by the time he got to the top, he was barely jogging. I think he was glad to get in to the car. I hadn’t even started the engine when he was flat out on the back seat. I popped in to the shop to get some lunch, and when I got back Rufus was still flat out. He’s usually sat upright, more often than not in the drivers seat, keeping an eye out. One tired dog.

Then home for a snack, more CD ripping and I watched a bit of the rugby, willing Italy to beat England, of course. After a nice hot shower and tea, I watched Top Gear (back on form again with their Africa Special). I posted a photo on my Flickr site as part of my 1 photo a day project and then with tired eyes, typed this entry. The echo of the PC being switched off won’t have stopped before I’ll be in bed. Work in the morning.

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A difficult gig

We played in a holiday village pub on the coast as a four piece last night.  Great venue, lost of people there. But it was a difficut one for all of us because a great friend and long time member of the band, Neil, wasn’t with us.

Neil passed away on Wednesday.

When I played regularly in The Insiders, Neil and I would almost always travel to gigs together. His car swallowed all our gear with room to spare but if he wanted more than the odd pint at the gig, I’d take my car and the squeeze to get all the kit in was more of a challenge. We’d have lively conversations about new songs to play or the latest guitar he’d bought or his experiences while he was in the RAF.

At the gig, we’d alternate between playing bass and guitar for a half. Neil was an excellent guitarist and he had a really clean sound on his Telecaster which would cut through the combined noise of Stuey and me. He’d played in bands for a large part of his life and this experience showed in his attitude and playing skill.  He showed me a much quicker and more accurate way of tuning the guitar and he set up a couple of my guitars for me – a job that not only needs skill but patience too.

Neil and I would usually stand to the right of the drums and he would stand to my right. In small venues, we’d share a microphone. If I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be playing, I’d look over and get a good idea from Neil. We’d both moan at Stuey to turn down, with little prospect of any results. Instead, we’d share a joke and have a laugh, sing the (somewhat risque) wrong lyrics to ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and try and out do each other on guitar riffs to ‘Summertime Blues’.

I have many happy memories of Neil, which is how we should remember our friends and loved ones. Some are hard to share because they depend on the moment, others raise a smile when I tell them. I can picture the moment we started playing in a social club and I turned to my right to see Neil facing away from the audience. He’d spotted an old age pensioner dressed in an outrageously tight pink plastic dress dancing with an short old bloke in a terrible wig. Neil was laughing so much he couldn’t really play properly and had to look away. In the end, we all had to avert our gaze and we chuckled for most of the night. Another time, he turned up for a gig in front of the Mayor of Swansea slightly worse for drink after having spent the day watching Wales beat England at rugby. He grinned all night, but he was still the best musician on stage. When I think of Neil now, I think of that grin and that he was always smiling on stage.

Before the first half of last night’s gig, we didn’t really say much. I certainly felt subdued and I think Stuey and the others did too. We played the songs and when it came to ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, I deliberately looked over to my right where Neil should have been. There was a big gap that we couldn’t fill but I sang his words and they made me smile again.

During the break, Stuey and I talked about playing a song for Neil. In the second half, Stuey introduced ‘Hey Jude’ as a song for a friend who couldn’t be with us. It’s a great song but this added something to it and the lump in my throat came very soon after we started playing. The tears came during the chorus part at the end (as they are again now, as I type this). It was a good version, worthy of his memory and, as Neil would have pointed out, we played it loud enough for him to hear wherever he is now.

We went down well at the pub. We had a guest singer who did a great version of ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’. Surpassing the usual situation where Stuey tells me that we’re playing a song I’ve never played before, last night we played a song and I still don’t know what it was. I couldn’t hear Stuey from my place on the other side of the drums and before I knew it, I was busking along to the song, trying to make out what chords Stuey was playing whilst being blinded by the flashing stage lights. It wouldn’t be the same without the adventures and challenges Stuey sets.

When I started loading the car up at the end of the night, I found that some joker (not the original word I used) had prised the mirror out of the housing on the driver’s side of my car. It went back but I haven’t been able to check it properly yet.

It was a lonely drive home

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Gurgle

This time, the phone call came on a Friday. I was in the gym, working up a sweat (it was hot in there) but I managed to answer the phone. It was Stuey.

“Mumble mumble mumble gig mumble mumble Sunday.”

Maroon5 were blasting away in the background. They were moving like Jagger. I was moving like Jagger’s granddad on some machinery of torture.

“What?”

“Mumble mumble move like Jagger.”

“Stuey, are you okay?”

“Can you play on Sunday?”

“Yes. Where, when, what… Stuey, are you there?”

He rang again on Saturday. I missed the call but managed to get a message to say it wasn’t that Sunday but the following one – yesterday. I had another call to say it was at the Gelli Aur club in Grovesend. I dug out the kit and got myself ready. I didn’t bother to try and find out what songs we’d be playing. There’s no point. It won’t be the same list on the night.

Another phone call told me we would be a three piece. The same line up as The Insiders (note the s, not z) first gig at the Fleur de Lys club in 1997. The classic line up. I was looking forward to it.

On the day, I headed out for the club only to find it had changed it’s name. In the confusion, I sailed past and it took a little while to find a place to turn around. By the time I got there, the others had set up. I quickly got the gear in and started to tune up. I looked around.

“Stuey, what time are we starting?”

His reply of “Heroes in E, one… two… three… four…” was not the one I was hoping for. Luckily, I know Heroes well and was able to start on cue. Luckily the bass was in tune. Luckily, the amp and speakers were working properly. I noted a microphone in front of me, too. I hadn’t sung with the band for several years. Some would say I had never sung with the band and only made odd, vaguely musical sounds.

After the first couple of songs, it felt natural, as if we’d always been playing together. Chris is a loud drummer, but he has a great sound from the kit and his harmonies are spot on. It was reassuring to have that familiar sound behind me. For the songs I hadn’t played before, I could see Stuey’s fingers on the fretboard and I could figure out what he was playing. We had dancers up from pretty much the start and that always helps. I found I was enjoying myself.

The second half was better, apart from when Stuey went in to ‘I Predict a Riot’. I know and like the song but I haven’t played it for five years or more. I fumbled through the crib book of chords but couldn’t find it. By the time I’d located the page, we had segued into another song (I think it may have been ‘Hound Dog’). I may have played three notes of ‘Riot’. One of them may have been the right one.

It was an early finish (school in the morning) and we spent some time talking about future plans. As we always do post gig. “It’s gonna be great,” etc etc. Then we packed up again and after a 38 point turn in the car park to get my car facing the right direction, it was off home to a cup of tea and bed. Ahh, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle!

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