Brighton, September 9th 2013
We haul out of Cambridge through desultory drips of rain. I have taken in a croissant and good coffee in a local Italian caff seemingly run by super-efficient Latvians. Or Lithuanians, one can’t be sure. Whatever, they looked like handsome villains from a James Bond film. I was interrogated as to the quality of the fare and felt somehow that I didn’t pass muster. After I’d commented on the sound quality of the coffee, my waiter looked horribly insulted. “But the croissant was lovely and fresh also, no?”
“Oh, yes, very fresh, very good too”.
I had a feeling had I said no that the supplier would have had his little finger chopped off. You don’t get that in Starfucks. They probably chop entire countries off.
The rain starts lashing at the windscreen as we get out of town, spray spinning up around the trucks like little hurricanes in a hurry. We cross the wide rictus of the Thames at Dartford and come into the chalky gorges of East Sussex. The vehicle is muggy with we tired tourers. Droplets form outside the base of my window and cling on valiantly. Their compatriots on the windscreen crawl off stage-left like cowards. The river of traffic flows to the sea.
I notice that autumn has hardly begun down here. Already in Glasgow its advance is evident. But I wouldn’t swap our sparse population density for this milder climate. Scots get claustrophobia in the south, the wilderness is a world away. But it’s so civilised here. Village greens and pretty railway stations. Beer gardens and woodland walks. I might feel like a stranger but I’d never wish to be a foreigner here.
We pull over the South Downs and glimpse the wide blue sea. It’s still a thrill even now. France! The world yonder!
Our hotel is part of some faux-American marina development east of Brighton. They even have a walk of fame with the names of local notables engraved on the pavement like Hollywood Boulevard. It’s all rather nautical in a completely fake but strangely pleasant way. It reminds me of a resort you might find on the coast of South Carolina. My room has a marvellous view and one of those B&W Zeppelin stereos that wafts reggae out onto my balcony where I sun myself for a few minutes before getting distracted by the fucking pinging, bleeping and sighing of my phone.
Back in Brighton proper I have time to browse through some record racks and I buy some reissued vinyl. I dream of having a party somewhere hot, with twenty mates and a hundred LPs and a big fuck-off system with only a turntable and no bloody iPod dock. That fat enveloping sound. That glowing, mellifluous sound. The sound of everything I’ve ever loved.
I do the show and say hi to some friends in my dressing corridor before ensconcing myself back on my hotel balcony, The Eagles drifting over the marina from somewhere as the rich folk’s boats bob gently on the water. I hear a flock of birds chattering out to the west, getting ready to make their migration. The cold is coming, crawling out of the north, like a creeping catastrophe.