Day Off, London


We plough into the seedy thicket of north London. I scramble from the hotel after installing my family of chargers in my white box. I take a pleasant line downhill from Angel through Finsbury, Clarkenwell, Smithfield and the City to the river. My walk traces a line of affluence from the self-conscious cafés and vintage home decor boutiques at the top of the hill to the terrifying marble fortresses of the City at sea-level. I don’t know this part of the capital so I take pleasure exploring the grand residential squares and sampling the weird vibe around the fringes of the financial district at 5pm. City boys in bespoke deep navy suits with tieless sky-blue shirts loiter outside corner pubs in cabals of threes and fours. They’re mostly in their early thirties and beautifully coiffed and manicured. The women are whippet thin and dress in black and meander alone through the streets like sharks. I pass Dans Le Noir, London’s dine-in-the-dark restaurant and am touched to see two blind women granted access before the door is locked behind them.

The London venue is a church, still operational but very liberal. The elders have no problem with my profanity. Many a private club would take issue with my language. This lot are inclusive and besides, they need their roof maintained. I don’t do much of a job in the end, although the adrenaline persuades me otherwise for a time. I had been determined to crack this show but I hardly make a dent in the floor. Some drink is taken with friends backstage and back at the hotel. I’m late for the Merc in the morning. This is why I don’t drink on the road anymore. Discipline flies out of the window while remorse creeps in the door.

We fly up the M and A1s to Dundee where the Tay is to be found bathing in sparkling summer light. June will soon descend upon the west coast with its lid of low-hanging cloud so the east’s clear bright aspect is to be savoured. On the show day I bask at an art gallery café table in a town-centre square, watching various drunks and junkies congregate and disperse. The opener at the Gardyne Theatre is Kit Clark who impresses me enormously with his clever songs. Clever, in that their wit and nimbleness cloak a seething emotion that speaks of an authenticity rarely found in these shallow, soulless solo waters . The deep currents of the Firth of Tay churn up strange delights. The Clyde is a dank mudslide of a thing in comparison. A slew of filth spewing froth and fatuity into the mainstream. Dundee produced Billy MacKenzie and Don Paterson. Glasgow is still atoning for the festering cesspit left by Snow Patrol.

We slip back home in the midnight gloaming, nattering like sparrows with the cups of wine floating in our hands conducting the road’s gentle undulation. We throw the gear in a garage, split and slide into separate houses. Monday brings the disaster of life at home; the endless cycle of routines, the tyranny of the television, the haranguing blame of the telephone. The cat comes slinking from her corner, unsure whether to purr or put up a fight.