Suitcases packed in the back of the Grey Toupee, we build up to escape velocity. England is beckoning. We pick up the guitarist at pre-arranged stop somewhere in the North, finding him standing in a bus shelter like an ageing rent boy. We are a team. I look out of the window from my leather covered perch. Misty autumn drizzle lies over the country, vehicles zip by on the opposite carriageway with a lazy sizzle, throwing up small arcs of spray. The low rumble from the tarmac beneath us is punctured by cackles of conversation. The nuclear power station at Torness glides by on our left looking like a cubist rendering of a pale blue elephant. The sea beyond is chopped-up, almost purple in its sullenness. We climb inland, passing through pretty wooded hills, the trees emitting wisps of steam as if harbouring secret fires. Most of the foliage is still deep green. Odd flares of yellow hint of autumn, but autumn is taking its time. Hedgerows, headlights, farmhouses; the world slips by in a dream. We regain the coast, cliffs falling away below us to a steel-blue sea. I put on some violently exuberant saxophone by Gato Barbieri. The contrast with the environment is bewildering. Outside it’s getting grimmer, in my ears it’s pouring hot liquid summer nights.
The mist tightens, becomes fog and we slow down. Hurricane Ophelia has the vapours and holds the ocean in her long hair. The light is apocalyptic now like a partial eclipse. Then, as we pull into Newcastle the gloom cracks and hands of light spread down onto the Tyne, its crowd of bridges gleaming.
The Sage is an impressive complex. Having heard nothing but good things about it I make sure to investigate. Sitting above the river like a big bee, its glazing reveals wonderful views of the waterfront opposite. It has scale without feeling too airport concourse. I walk across the Millennium pedestrian bridge, the river still as a mirror. It’s still exceedingly balmy. A woman walks by in a waft of perfume, going home from work. I overhear another say to her friend, “An eighteen stone cop went down on him. Not like THAT…”
After the show I busy myself making up some rolls from the random victuals languishing in the dressing room fridge. My careful layering results in disappointment. Too dry, despite my hacking up tomatoes with a penknife. Must have stinted on the mayo. I’m losing my touch, I’m petering out. I lie on top of my hotel bed reading Renegade, Mark E Smith’s memoir. I still can’t decide if he’s a genius or charlatan. I know which one I am. He’s a vaudeville act from the other side of the mirror. I’m a kids’ magician gone to seed.