Next week, I’m driving!

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

                 “Trains and Boats and Planes” was a Burt Bacharach song recorded by Dionne Warwick and Billy J. Kramer, among others. “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” was a Steve Martin/John Candy comedy film. However, my weekend odyssey, subtitled “Trains, Trains, and More Trains with the Odd Replacement Bus” would not record many laughs. The number of cows and sheep I saw out of train windows this weekend is limited to only a few thousand due to the long periods of time I spent not even bothering to look up from my newspapers. 

                     Where the journey begins is a booking which went down in my diary as somewhere in Yorkshire, but a week before was confirmed as being in Longiddry, Scotland, about 20 miles east of Edinburgh. That didn’t exactly brighten my day, knowing that the day after, my gig would be in Cardiff, Wales, nearly 400 miles away. I could have flown, but wasn’t getting paid enough to justify it. So it was the trains, which would have cost me about twice what I paid had I been a mere 6 months younger and didn’t have my Old Fart Discount Card.

                      The first leg of the journey was a direct from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley station, where I’d be picked up by Stu Who, a veteran Scottish comic and good guy, whose house I’d be crashing at later. This 4 1/2 hour ride got jinxed before even leaving the station: A train which had left earlier for Glasgow had broken down, was coming back to Kings Cross, and we were going to have to wait to allow those passengers to board our train. This meant a rather crowded train became a VERY crowded train, and since I was riding in a First Class coach, there was a larger concentration of rich, pompous twats. More than screaming, whiny kids, or drunken punters, probably the most annoying train passengers to me are the guys conducting business very loudly on their mobiles. I always wonder if there is really someone on the other end of the line, or if these assholes are just talking to a recorded message. I don’t give a shit about the property you’re about to close some deal on, or the stock you’re about to invest in, though you might claim you’re talking loud about it because the connection is bad. There was more than one of these self-important jerks having his own public wank, sharing their Big Business deals with the entire coach. This went on for most of the first two hours.

                     The train had left almost an hour late, but had made up about a half hour by the time it arrived in Edinburgh. Happily, Stu arrived at exactly the time he said he would, and we got to the venue just before 8:00 for a show that would start around 10. If, during that two hour frame, anyone on the staff had had any idea what they were doing, that two hours wouldn’t have felt like two days. The venue was at a caravan park where the bulk of our audience would be older than me, which presented a big enough challenge in itself. One staff member offered us tea, but otherwise, there would be nothing resembling social graces. We spent most of that two hours in a storage room being presented to us as a “dressing room.” And just to show how little they knew about what sort of show would be going on, the sound man didn’t bring a mike stand because he was told he wouldn’t need one. He was able to score one, but my problems with this venue were only beginning.

                        Stu’s place was not really close to either Edinburgh or Glasgow, and I was facing a bit of a journey the next morning if I stayed there. Access to Edinburgh-bound coaches or trains from this caravan park was actually pretty good, though no one on the staff seemed aware of where the transport was. One thing was certain: Even though it had initially been offered, the option of free lodging was clearly off their table. There were caravans available for £25, and I started seeing the cartoon drawing of my money growing wings and flying away. It still seemed so much more convenient than Stu’s house, but to arrange it for me, they’d now have to hunt up the caravan manager, who’d already left for the day. At about 9:30, I was told the manager had come back in, so I checked it out. Yes, it would be £25, but now there would be an additional £10 charge for linen!! So I very nicely said piss off, difficult to be nice after the manager made a big deal about “coming back here on my own time just to do this for you.” Mighty big of you, cow! Wish I could have aggravated you more.

                          The good news is the gig itself went well in spite of all that nonsense (and for a capper, HORRIBLE sound), we were done just after 11:00, and got back to Stu’s by midnight.  I managed about four hours sleep before enduring a nearly 9-hour journey, which began with a cab ride to a little train station in the village of Croy, about 30 miles north-east of Glasgow. From Croy, I would go to Edinburgh Waverley, where my anxiety levels would be tested again. My train was to leave at 10:30, and I would have to change trains at Newcastle for a 12:22 train to Birmingham, where I would then change to a Bristol train, and from there the last leg would get me into Cardiff at 17:45 (or 5:45 PM, as we Yanks know it). That was the game plan, but just for fun, the train from Edinburgh left 20 minutes late, meaning I could miss the connecting train in Newcastle and the whole rest of the day would be thrown into chaos. Ah, but somehow, somebody was smiling down. I arrived in Newcastle with about 4 minutes leeway, and the train I needed was on the next platform over. Big sigh of relief!

                            I made all my connecting trains, got into Cardiff on schedule, basically sleepwalked through the gig, but managed to enjoy myself. Sunday still involved catching an 8:15 replacement bus from Cardiff to Bristol, then riding First Class to London (and being the only one in my entire coach), arriving at 11:30, and by managing to avoid any of the many tube closures, getting home at 1:00. Much as I love what I do, there are times when the love gets obscured. This weekend was one of them, but I’m in Norwich next weekend, less than 100 miles away, and I’m fucking driving, dammit!  



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