September 14th 2013
And we’re off to Harrogate with two hangovers in the van. Long Island Iced Teas are to blame. Once the Del Amitri day-off drink of choice in the US, now to be avoided at all costs. Five kinds of white spirits in one glass. I used to serve them in my nightclub barman days. If they came back for a second they were not seen again. Not in this world.
It’s sunny but with a sky busy with tortured clouds reaching down from every altitude. I have spent the morning listening to AM by Arctic Monkeys. Hm.
Harrogate is hoaching with slowcoaches. Swarms of daytrippers trudge about looking disconsolate. I have noodles in a place packed with families. I grimace at their moaning kids with no sympathy, no patience and no clue. Poor bastards. I can’t say I’m a fan of these sorts of places. Affluent, popular and nominally pretty, the record shop has no records, the book shop no books. I look in vain for something interesting. There is an enormous queue of middle-class gawpers snaking from somewhere called Betty’s Tea Rooms. They look like they’d tan a car if they didn’t get their scone fix. A juggernaut of a cloud eases itself overhead like the mother ship in Close Encounters and begins spitting tiny raindrops on all the trudging shoppers. I spot a very odd busker: a sixty-year-old man with a Bob Dylan cap and an Epiphone 12-string, sitting on a bucket playing weird covers through an amp soaked in more reverb than the first Glasvegas album. It’s genuinely original. He’s an acid casualty care-in-the-community freakoid and he’s the best thing here. His legs are so skinny he makes John Cooper Clarke look like Geoff Capes.
The venue is a glorious “kursaal” theatre, beautifully restored and ideal for a spot of magic and ventriloquism. The soundcheck is mercifully quick and we all take to the freezing dressing room to languish on its white leather sofas. I smell the odour of lottery grant. Someone brings us a radiator type object which proves to be an air-con unit that only cools. We can’t chill until we’re heated. Eventually the heating comes on as soon as doors open in spite of having a whole team of staff freezing for hours upstairs.
It’s quite a high stage with a rake so I spend the concert looking down my nose at the audience. It feels a mite surreal, playing such earnest codswallop in a place so obviously built for raising a titter or delivering melodic sedation for those taking the waters. “Waters, Rick? But we’re in the desert”
“I was misinformed”.
We lodge in a Days Inn out at a motorway service zone and when I open my curtains in the AM I appear to be in Kansas, Yorkshire. A tropical wind is chopping about, seasonal motion is in train. I watch the end of the Great North Run on TV. It’s so damp that all the camera lenses are steamed-up but the crowd faithfully waits in their waterproofs for the mass of runners to finish. British pluck, Nigel, bulldog spirit. Hopelessness and extreme boredom, I’d say.
Before departing I mistakenly enter the Moto where a bewilderingly enormous scramble of travellers are circulating. The line for coffee is gargantuan. It’s Sunday. Can’t these morons stay at home for one fucking day? What happened to all the things we set aside for a rainy day? Gluing cuttings into a scrapbook, getting wired in to that 10,000 piece jigsaw of the Rialto in Venice, slaughtering your entire extended family with a cricket bat. So many traditions spoilt. I need Manchester’s carping wit. I desire it. I need civilisation in the shape of a city.