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The dust is settling on the Summer season and I’m gradually re balancing myself and finding my domestic feet. Although there is still the Hellfest show in Trondheim in October I’m staring at a 5 week stint dealing with a mosaic of a “to-do” list that’s had me out in the garden the last few days since the Dalkeith gig taking advantage of some decent weather to get some autumn prep done. Today the chainsaw was out to take down stems of a hornbeam tree that has been overshadowing the greenhouse. It took quite a while to get back to grips with dismantling and reassembling the saw and sharpening up.I’m always very respectful of the chainsaw and methodical when operating it and after a long lay off it was a slow deliberate process taking down the wood.
I’d been reminded of my past career on Saturday at Dalkeith estate where I worked for a short time in the woodland nursery as an assistant forester back in 1980 during my middle year from Newtonrigg college in Penrith where I was studying an OND in forestry. . This was just as I started singing with my first band “Blewitt” in Galashiels and about to make the big jump that summer into the music business.
The stage was directly in front of Dalkeith Palace in what I knew as the “Dukes” estate.I used to run around in the woods and down by the Esk river that flows through it and had wonderful adventures there as a young boy. Coming back to Dalkeith to perform ‘Misplaced Childhood’ there on it’s final UK open air outing was therefore always going to be an emotional experience.
I hardly recognised the place these days and arrived late afternoon to be met by the estate manager and the woodland manager of the Buccleuch estates who’d invited me to plant a tree to mark the occasion.Thankfully they’d saved me the back ache and dug the hole in which I planted a young Sequoia tree and was complimented on my technique! It seemed apt to be sticking a Giant Redwood in the ground on the day and I was quite proud to be asked in all honesty.
The planting helped break up the wait till showtime as did the short walk up to the high street where I saw my Dad’s old garage, Dick Bros on the New Edinburgh Road ( also known as “Dickie’s Brae”) from which I’d named my first independent record label. It was all very different but I still felt the memories creep in as I sauntered past old haunts.
I was slightly nervous not really knowing how I would react on stage. The sound up there was not what I’d hoped for and we started with “Pipeline”, the keyboards drowning out everything in my monitors.There was no point in getting finicky and I just had to get the engineer to adjust as much as he could by using hand signs. The sound wasn’t helped by the fact that the staging was a plastic shell that had mushed a lot of frequencies up.
The crowd were into it from the start and the 5000 that were there were more than the organisers had hoped for. When we started “Misplaced” it was obvious a large proportion had come to see this performance which as it unwound took me through some high emotions that had me choking a couple of times as memories intruded.
“Heart of Lothian” was awesome and passionate the crowd ignited.It was made even more special than normal because of the location and there was a huge roar as it closed.
By the time we hit “Childhoods End” the field was ours with “Market Square” riotous and a sea of hands before us signaling we had done the job and fulfilled a lot of people’s expectations.
It was a strange feeling coming off stage and sitting in the dressing room. I find it difficult to explain even now.There was a definite sense of ending and also of a new beginning.
I didn’t want to hang around and left shortly after the “Fratellis” started their set. A lot of handshakes on the way to the transport and we drove out of the “Dukes” gates leaving something behind me that I had known I had to achieve on the night. I felt I was saying goodbye to something but there was no sadness in me.
The studio emptied around midnight and Steve Vantsis and I sat alone in the control room with another bottle of wine dealing with the come down, the others retired to their hotel in Haddington or on the Clown Carrier to Wales. Sunday would be a hangover in many ways within the circus.
Steve drove home late afternoon and I was alone again staring at the fire with a barrowload of issues to deal with in the coming week. There were some long overdue changes due and on Sunday night I was preparing to face up to new challenges and demands.
I am still trying to get my head round writing up the sleeve notes for ‘Fellini Days’ and ‘Field of Crows’. To be honest I have been procrastinating as to delve into those years is quite painful and I have to write up a period that takes in my first divorce, the financial meltdown, losing the house and a lot of other dark moments that are inextricably linked with the albums and the lyrics.
‘Sunsets’ and ‘Raingods’ are pretty much ready to go into production and they will be available on the tour but whether I can get the next 2 up and running is another question and I have some finger bleeding typing sessions coming at me.
As I said the garden needed nurturing and as I pretty much got on top of it with Rab the last few days I’m facing up to starting the writing this weekend.
I’m preparing for what is supposed to be the worst winter since 1963 and it looks like my touring schedules will just miss the beginning of it all.There’s road patching to be done here, fences to be erected and a wood pile to be built. I need to get everything in order and set up in the weeks I have left before the circus hits the road.
For now I’m gorging on a mass of home grown vegetables, looking forward to making my first horseradish sauce tomorrow from tubers in the plot, all the outside containers have been dosed with nematodes to wipe out the vine weevil larvae, the globe artichokes cut down, the winter brassicas in their beds, the garlic and onion sets arriving next week, the lavender and reams of hedges to be cut back, the orchard to be pruned and the ground rotavated to allow the sowing of a new wildflower meadow to feed the bees that will inhabit the new hives I hope to get next summer.
And all this while listening to the new remasters and scribbling away on an ever expanding to do list that will take me into the ‘Weltschmerz’ writing sessions that will begin early next year.
And in all that there is the tour that looks like it is potentially the most exciting and successful that I have been on in years.
It’s hectic, stressful, demanding and sometimes overwhelming but I like it that way.