To Southampton

We park up outside the front of the Guildhall and head to catering to discover our chef Sarah has broken her wrist, slipping on a leaf. Not a salad leaf I presume. She’ll be flown home to Glasgow tonight. We say goodbye to her before the show. I meander along to a vintage clothes place I remember and buy a velvet jacket and two cravats, though I think my cravat days may be behind me. Neckwear is very ageing on old men and unless you’re some stylish Italian silver fox, scarves and such can make you look like a grandpa. I spot two of the crew having a sneaky pint while they wait for the venue sound curfew to lift, the students in the area easily disturbed by the thump of a drum and the chime of a guitar. I join them for a few moments but we’re all…—More Tales

Day Off Birmingham

On arrival I chuck my stuff in the room and get out for a wander. I take the canal path towards Broad Street, thinking vaguely about eating something. It’s mild and dry and coming back I encounter a nice couple from Liverpool who are in town for the show and are just going out for drinks and dinner. We do an awkward semi-distanced phone snap. Someone should do a collection of these — people standing at an embarrassed distance from public faces they know. I hide in the hotel for the rest of the night, snoozing on the bed with the TV muttering quietly. The morning is heavily overcast with a stubborn haze of weak rain. I decide to loll. This is not a day to engage with the world. I plug in my audio box and browse some current pop from the stream. The Christmas meat market is…—More Tales

To Dunoon and Oban

A few powder puff clouds hang in a limpid sky and a raptor sails over the first of the fields as we leave Perth. We voted to take the scenic detour today, twenty minutes slower but avoiding motorways and Glasgow. The first part is a road I’ve rarely driven and there are some weird village names; Madderty, Innerpeffray, Fowlis Wester. Three young deer nose at the yellow stubble at the edge of a wood and the road winds and ululates through deciduous copses, motley foliage radiant in the October sun. We snake through the picturesque old cattle (later spa) town of Crieff, all mature trees and rustic Victorian sandstone. We come to the very pretty village of Comrie and weave out into more rugged hill country, the rocky tops fringed with brown heather, to reach the eastern end of Loch Earn marking the edge of the leafy Trossachs. The…—More Tales

In Inverness to Perth

In Inverness to Perth

After scran I take an amble through the twilight along the river Ness. I cross a pedestrian suspension bridge, passing beautiful Georgian terraces. The riverside is admittedly pretty. I reach a playing field where battery powered floodlights are stationed around on tripods allowing kids’ football practice to continue into the night.  It looks like a scene from Field of Dreams. The tree covered hill beyond is silhouetted against the purpling sky. I can smell the fallen leaves and the verdant grass around me, there’s that distinctive autumnal tang to the air that’s been so late to arrive. A ball breaks loose from the pool of light and I boot it gently back from the darkness. It’s the first time I’ve kicked a ball since the onset of the pandemic and I experience a frisson of delight. On the way back a stranger…—More Tales

To Inverness

We angle northwest through Aberdeenshire’s rich pasture, autumn a little more advanced up here, patches of foliage coloured as if touched by a brush. Sheep and cows dot the emerald fields, dark gorse clinging in the ditches. It’s not typically Scottish terrain but somehow it couldn’t be England either. Parch it all with the Italian sun and it could be Tuscany. We fuel up at Strathbogie and Iain gets out, seeking a copy of Classic Tractor from the shop’s array of farming and forestry magazines. He returns with a selection: Farm Machinery (featuring Forestry Machinery), Classic Tractor and Earthmovers. I leaf through the last title, discovering the world of telehandlers, vehicles whose purpose seems to be lifting heavy loads from very awkward positions. Our tour manager informs us they are often used to lift mixing desks out of tricky festival sites. We pass through Keith, getting stuck behind…—More Tales

To Aberdeen

We are debating when we might have played in the granite city last. I wager it was the Music Hall the night before the millennium Hogmanay, December 1999. A quick check of the complete list on the Dels info site confirms this. So just the 22 years, then.

The black road leads us north from Glasgow, the trees ranked along the verges just starting to turn yellow and copper. Iain puts on another Theme Time Radio Hour episode as we cruise through the mizzle under a thick bruise of low cloud. Robert Johnson and the Grateful Dead sing of the devil and we slip past the distinctive turreted mounds of Stirling, the historic redoubt of this central Scottish plain. The castle sits in a bath of mist like a stone galleon. We pass under pylons marching into the murk carrying their ropes like mountaineers. Bob Dylan’s voice purrs…—More Tales