June. Sadie’s back from LA and we’re leaving London, on the road again. Off to Gloucester Rugby Club where we’re opening for Ronan Keating. Taking the M4, heading west: The ‘M4 corridor’, opened in 1971, was originally known as the London-South Wales Motorway. It’s part of our landscape now, hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t there. Puts me in mind of Gordon Lightfoot’s wonderful ‘Canadian Railroad Trilogy’, different country, same message:

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

No mountains in the M4 corridor but this was once a wild and mysterious place…. probably still is if you dig deep enough… asleep behind the shades…. we bypass Swindon and a sign which reads ‘Turnpike Junction’: Swindon lies near a junction of two Roman roads and the four main access roads into the Town were turned into turnpikes between 1751-1775… further on up the road there’s a sign for the Highwayman Inn: the pub was once a highly respected coaching inn which, for four hundred years, served the passing trade going north out of Cirencester on the old Ermin Way towards Gloucester. Ironically, the pub now finds itself removed from the main road, a victim of the bypass… must call in some day. I read somewhere recently that the old English pub names are rapidly disappearing and that, fueled by the morbid obsession with health and hygiene that sanitises everything it touches, it won’t be long before every shop or pub that is small, individual and unique is eradicated…. Olde England…. wildflowers in the meadows and hedgerows… (they need preserving too!) Gloucester Rugby Club, rain, snatches of blue sky. In the dressing room Terl  regales us with stories of Japanese massage and we discuss plans for Edinburgh. Played our set to Ronan’s appreciative fans, then back on the road to Portsmouth, next stop Isle Of Wight. Chasing tail lights south, we pass signs for Highclere Castle (wonder if Sadie is tempted to stop off for the night?).

Portsmouth. Wind. Scudding clouds. Stormy weather. Catching the 9am ferry to the festival….

Blustery winds, intermittent blue skies. Backstage we get ten minutes to chill out before being whisked off to the catering tent, where we are told we have the wrong colour tickets! That sorted we eat a hurried lunch while the ladies attend to hair and make-up. The back stage buzz, getting our gear on stage, a last minute line-check and we’re on … One Thing Leads To Another to Use It Up, a short, tight set, getting better every gig we do.

July. The Cornbury Festival, Great Tew, Oxfordshire, a tagline which reads: “A country fair with a rock 'n’ roll twist; a homespun melting pot where music-lovers share pies and a glass of champagne with superstars, toffs, rockers, crooners, Morris dancers”. Sounds good to me… and turns out to be the best fest and, so far, the best weather of the summer. There are yurts and squrts, tipis, podpads, bellepads, and beaupads, circus workshops, an art tent and theatre, yoga sessions, free face painting and a fairground. There is a local farmers market, cupcakes, cucumber sandwiches, strawberries and cream and gallons of Pimms and Champagne, a therapy and massage zone, and for those in need of a laugh, the Absolute Radio Comedy Tent… oh, and the music! We played a longer set than usual, introduced ‘All My Sins’ for the first time and had a fabulous time. Great to see Shelley in the front row and to meet fans afterwards… then a tired drive home in the fading sunlight of a perfect English summer’s day. Thanks to the brilliant crew at Cornbury, to Matt for great sound (as always) and for driving us to and fro, to Barry for getting us organized and making sure everything ran smoothly, and to Ian for his patience and care… a great team!

Back soon with news of Dublin and Montreux.

Steve

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