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Early Saturday evening touchdown Edinburgh from blue skies.The approach over the Forth was special that day and I stared out the window at the river and the glorious bridges watching the toy town of Crammond growing ever closer and the fields zip past as we came into land. I’d been sitting on my own on the flight over as overbooking meant that Simone and Liam were together at the rear of the plane. It wasn’t what we had wanted but we were glad to finally be here. I’d distracted myself with my Hans Fallada book for most of the way but my mind was constantly returning to thoughts of our arrival at our new home. I waited in the corridor before passport control for the two of them to exit the plane. It took a long time and a security guard eyed me up suspiciously as I waited by a locked doorway that exited landside. I was glad in more ways than one when they finally appeared and we breezed through immigration to pick up our luggage that had been absolutely on the limit for allowances.Simone and I had permanent smiles all the way to the Studio in the taxi while Liam struggled to stay awake. It had been an exhausting day so far on many levels.
The house wasn’t quite as I had expected it to be. Yatta had dropped off our personal belongings the previous Tuesday and the sight of ‘Borgies Rose’ and the climbing Hortensia standing outside the front door was a reminder that Durlach had moved to Haddington on a permanent basis.The first of the boxes had been offloaded along with dribs and drabs of stuff that had been hustled into the Clown Carrier at the last moment to save time on delivery and give us a bit of leeway on the roadtrain pack. Garden related stuff was outside, house stuff mostly in the control room with all the merchandise now in a local container we had to hire as the garage was already jam packed.The big surprise was that Taz’s caravan of belongings had arrived from her flat in Glasgow which she had just vacated that day. The Studio looked like a flea market and Taz’s bedroom was unnegotiable.Most of it should have gone to her Mum’s house in Edinburgh but time constraints with the guy who was helping her out meant it had all been deposited here. Luckily we still had a couple of weeks till the main act arrived but there was a lot to shift, a lot to organise and a lot to sort out officially. I didn’t expect the registration with the local health centre to be our first log on.
On Sunday after a long lie we’d found ourselves gravitating to the garden and as I dealt with all things vegetable and greenhouse Simone launched her talents at the rose roundels that had been neglected and invaded by every weed imaginable. Rab and I knew that this was Simone’s line of expertise and had done nothing but watch the overcrowded bluebells hide most of it for the last month. With them now well past their best the kitchen garden was looking a bit tatty and the roses really needed some TLC. It was while I was feeding the tomato forest in the greenhouse that I heard a yelp and saw Simone holding her right hand. While grubbing and snipping away at the base of an established and gnarled rose bush she had inadvertently caught her ungloved hand on an ancient woody thorn. It had raked her deep and she was in a great deal of pain. Within a few hours the hand had swollen badly and Simone couldn’t move her fingers. This wasn’t good. I was now in charge of all things domestic. Thankfully the wonderful Elspeth had made us spaghetti Bolognese for our first night to save us cooking on arrival and there was enough in the fridge for me to put together something that night for the 4 of us. Taz was staying at the Studio another night as she started her new job in Edinburgh next day and was moving back to her Mum’s till she started her next job in France at the beginning of September. Monday was going to be a hectic morning as first thing was to get Simone to the doctors as the hand continued to get worse and she refused to go to A and E at the Royal.
And so it was that less than 48 hours after arriving Simone was at the medical centre and left with a tetanus booster and a course of antibiotics as the infection had spread. It would be nearly a week till she could use her right hand and as such there was nothing she could really do anywhere in the house and most definitely not in the garden. At least we’d instigated registration at the doctors but as we had no proof as yet of her official residence she couldn’t complete the procedure. It would take a while.
No sooner had we moved over when I had to fulfill a gig with the SAS band at the Wickham festival near Southampton. I would have preferred if it had been another weekend especially as Simone was not fully fit but this gig paid the removal bill from Germany and I’d signed on months ago. Here’s the post I wrote up on Facebook about it when I got back
“A grand gig at the Wickham festival this weekend and wonderful to catch up with my SAS buddies again.
I flew down on the Friday night and had a long Saturday in an early 20th Century red bricked hotel with expansive gardens that was like a railway station for weddings and functions over the next few days.7 hours on my own waiting on the gig drinking expensive pints of soda and lime and reading Hans Fallada’s “Prison diaries 1944” between the bar and the sunshine on the patio I finally headed to the festival site just down the road with Spike and his lovely wife Kyle early evening.
Chas and Dave were closing a typically boisterous set and Trevor Horn was about to hit stage with a glittering assemble of musos to perform his ‘greatest hits’ including Frankies ‘Relax’, ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ and Seal’s ‘Rose’ among others. The band and vocalists were top notch but like Chinese food I had enough of Fairlight keyboard sounds after a while. As to be expected it was a show with high sound production values and the renditions were perfect.
We hit the stage after 9.30 with Toyah following Jamie Moses introduction of ‘Born to Run’. I’d last seen Toyah on the set of ‘Pointless’ and had caught her show at Cropredy last summer. She was on sparkling form and rounded of her contribution with an energetic version of ‘Suffragette City’.
I was up next with ‘Feast of Consequences’, ‘Kayleigh’, Lavender’ and ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and with time tight I curbed the talking to a minimum and sang out good and proper. I was pretty pleased how it went down and I got the field up with ‘Lavender’ probably the pick of the crop thanks to a fine piece of guitar work from JamieMoses.
The beautiful MadelineBell followed me and her version of ‘Natural Woman’ is one of the best you will ever hear. Magnificent enigmatic and powerful as always she left stage after her set with that eternal smile as we waited on the wild card to be played.
I thought someone was having a laugh when I was told that Bill Oddie was in the line up and as he hadn’t turned up till well late in the set we all thought it was a wind up. But lo and behold the wee man suddenly appeared and ‘Mama told me not to come’ ( a song I used to sing with my first ever band ‘Blewitt’ in the ‘Golden Lion’ in Galashiels in 1980) opened his account well. His other song in the set, ‘Wild Thing’ turned into an epic and time started to get swallowed up. I think a few beers in the VIP tent and a rush of confidence and adrenalin from a a good start to his contribution took his eye off the clock.
Finally our star turn RogerTaylor hit the stage to expected rapturous applause and he dished out a couple of #Queen numbers including the effervescent ‘Radio Ga Ga’ before launching into my favourite track of the night, Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’. Despite his nervousness at attempting the song with barely any rehearsals apart from a backstage flutter on the dressing room keyboard he pulled it off brilliantly and the band were sparkling. One of the best versions of this I’d heard outside Bowie’s own live performances.
The time had drained and our finale ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ had to be dropped due to curfews on site.In all honesty we didn’t need it as ‘Mars’ had been so uplifting. Altogether a brilliant set with everyone concerned on the ball and in the zone. The night closed in fast and as the SAS band and entourage faded into the night I wangled a lift back to the hotel, forsaking the VIP bar for a clutch of zeds before a relatively early flight home next day.
I got home mid afternoon to a welcome Sunday roast gammon with resplendent crackling and dished up with veg from the garden. It was the first weekend I’d been away leaving Simone and Liam in the house and it was a lovely feeling returning to a family home rather than a bear’s den. We both sat up and watched a flurry of episodes of ‘Man in the High Castle’ ( a Philip K Dick book I’d read in my 20’s and completely forgotten about) until our eyelids grew too heavy and we headed to bed to snuggle up under the duvet as the wind lashed the garden making it sound like we were afloat on very high seas.”
What I didn’t mention was that my back and knees were extremely painful and I struggled on and off the stage, only the adrenalin of the performance buoying me through it all. This was a problem I was going to have to address much sooner rather than later. The sciatica was making gardening work heavy going and I was grateful Rab was on hand to take care of most of the chores.Simone was back out there as her hand had vastly improved with the antibiotics. I did what I could around the house and office and there was a lot to do.
My Dad had left Simone his car before he passed away recognising she needed transport of her own to take Liam to school, go shopping and visit my Mum with whom she is very close. I had to sort out insurances for both vehicles and knew this was going to be a mind sapping, frustrating and lengthy process. I was online for over 4 hours on Monday tracking down car insurance and had to step away from the PC a few times when I was thrown off application forms just as I was closing in on something that made sense. After much gnashing off teeth I settled in on an offer from a company called “Go Girl” who quoted for my Dad’s old Corsa and my Volvo on 2 separate policies under my name. I filled out everything correctly notifying that I owned both cars and that Simone was main driver on the Corsa and second on the Volvo which had me as main driver.Go Girl phoned me up soon after I went for it and we ran through the proposal making sure they had Simone down as a German EU driving licence holder/ living here for less than a month etc etc.I paid up front and sent the copy of my new offer from my present insurers which showed 13 years no claim bonus. ( in fact it’s a lot more but I couldn’t prove it) Copies of our licenses were uploaded to their site and another phone call was dealt with and everything seemed ok. It wasn’t cheap but it was worth it to get Simone on the road and with Elspeth volunteering to give her initial lessons on UK driving we were both happy that she would soon have her own much needed transport to get about. Another big tick on the “to do” list.
In the week after I got back from the Wickham festival there was a lot on that list and Romain Thorel was flying in on Tuesday from Paris with the intention of starting the initial writing sessions for ‘Weltschmerz’. Liam had pretty much locked himself away in his room and Simone and I were letting him ‘acclimatise’ to his new home. His room was pretty fab and he was happy at what we had done with it during the renovations earlier in the year.He’d chosen the paint, the carpet and the Ikea units that Rab had built up while I was in Germany and Liam was in control of all decisions on decor. We wanted him as comfortable as possible as everyone realised that this was a massive move and change of Life for him. We maybe made it too comfortable as we hardly saw him for the first week and a half apart from at the kitchen table for food and on the way to the bathroom for showering. I’d forgotten about teenage habits but was relearning fast.
On the Tuesday we decided to winkle him out into the daylight and went on a day trip to the Falkirk wheel where I could pick up the acrylic dust cover for my Thorens turntable on the way. I’d bought a new one from the US on E Bay but when it turned up it didn’t have the tabs cut out to take the nylon hinges I’d also bought on E Bay, both items for no mean price I have to add. I’d found a company called Acrafab in Whitburn who said they could do the job for me and left the dustcover there before I went to Germany. It was now ready and I was delighted to have a replacement for my record deck that was going to be put through a lot more revolutions as my vinyl collection was now to hand in a storage unit built in right next to the hi fi during the renovations.The hinged cover was going to make my life a lot easier and my vinyl a lot safer as after a few vinos it was so easy to knock the arm while replacing the dustcover. Another one of those little things on the “to do” list that took a tick mark. The Acrafab guys had done a great job and told me that if I ever needed another dustcover they could build a better one for me at half the price I’d paid on E bay with all the associated taxes and postage costs. ( anyone out there needing a dustcover made for an old record deck get in touch with Kathryn at www.acrafab.com and mention my name).
Whitburn wasn’t too far away from The Wheel but first I had to pass through the “Falkirk Triangle” where many’s a time I’d found myself lost down weird country roads going round in circles. Maybe it’s just me but I lose complete sense of direction around there and time goes into a wormhole. I switched on the Tom Tom on the i phone and followed it’s instructions implicitly. We still arrived late and missed the boat we had booked our trip on the night before. The staff at the Falkirk Wheel ticket office were really helpful and we got a booking on a later boat. With an hour to kill it was pizza time and as we were picking up Romain at the airport on the way back I wasn’t that concerned. That was until Taz’s Mum phoned me to say that her partner Andy was now picking him up. With the late boat trip we would now be heading back east in rush hour traffic and would probably be home at the studio just before Andy, Tammi and Taz arrived from the airport with Romain. We thought positively and offered them all to stay and have chilli with us forgetting for a moment the alignment of wine drinkers in the company.
The pizza was great and the boat trip slightly underwhelming. The mechanics of the wheel , the construction, the scale and the presence are altogether breath away stuff especially for former meccano set owners but in the end we got on a canal boat, did a small maneuver, sailed onto the gondola that then took us up 35 metres and let us off onto the Union canal where we sailed through a tunnel for 10 mins, did another manouver and went all the way back again to be deposited back in the Forth and Clyde canal. It wasn’t exactly Alton Towers and at 12 quid or so a pop not cheap. Outside the wheel there wasn’t much to see from the boat and in all honesty it didn’t add that much to the experience of watching the wheel turn as an onlooker. The engineering is awesome and the statistics mind bogglingly clever but I would have preferred if we had taken a longer boat journey with the wheel ascent in the middle as a cherry rather than as the entire cake. I was glad we went there and both Liam and Simone had a great day out that we all needed. I would have liked to have gone to see ‘The Kelpies’ structures further along the canal but we were running out of time and had a rush hour to negotiate as well as cook chilli con carne for our soon to be arriving dinner guests.
As expected it got slightly messy but it was especially fine to see Taz and Romain together after such a long time apart. Company was fun and the dinner a success. Having Tammi and Andy here with our daughter Taz and Romain as our first dinner guests since Simone and Liam moved over had a certain symmetry to it all. We’d all become friends and in recent years had met up and gone out together quite a few times but as an inaugural dinner here in the Studio it made perfect sense in the grand circle of things as a wider family came together.
The original intention was for Romain to work with me the following Wednesday but with Taz’s work schedule constantly changing and our Durlach furniture now announced to be finally arriving on Tuesday we agreed to postpone the writing session to the following Sunday giving Romain and Taz time together and Simone and I a chance to clear the decks and prepare Liam for his first day at school which also happened to be on the Wednesday . The next days were spent clearing cupboards of my t shirts and other clothes to make way for Simone’s incoming wardrobe. I found myself becoming increasingly ruthless. Anything that didn’t fit, that was damaged or hadn’t been worn for the last year or so went into bags for the charity shops. Suits that I’d had made in Vietnam that were now a squeeze, a Tux I’d bought in Berlin in 89 that had been tight even back then, tartan trews with waistlines I couldn’t even dream of achieving, tour shirts that were never worn and swag that I couldn’t say no to at the time, moth eaten woolens and jackets that had gathered over the last decade all ended up in bin bags for the Chest, Heart and Stroke shop in Haddington. It was truly a great cleansing but even then it was only a third of the total quantity that went back into the drawers and cupboards. It did however create the space that was needed which combined with Simone’s wardrobes and other furniture that was coming over provided the storage she needed. Some of the stuff could have gone on E Bay ( and you might still find it there in the coming weeks when some “entrepreneur finds it on the racks) but in all honesty I just wanted to let go of it and move on.
Monday I was in the city with Simone and Liam for a hairdressing appointment for the lady and a bit of diddly bopping round town for the boys. We were heading back to Waverley Station for the train home to Londgniddry when my mobile went off just as I crossed Princes Street. It was the car insurance company, Go Girl with whom I’d thought everything was sorted after filling in the forms, ticking the boxes and talking twice on the phone since they’d sent me the quotation which I’d accepted 13 days before on 2 cars on separate policies . So there I was walking across Princes street being told that my no claims discount was only available on 1 car and that it was going to cost me more than a hundred quid more just as I went over on my knee on a tram line and uttered a rather loud “fuck” on the phone. “There’s no need to be abusive sir” came the surly voice from some call centre down South. I was then coldly told about the small print I’d missed somehow and which no one in the last 13 days had mentioned despite talking on the phone to me about the 2 policies in question. It turns out my 13 year plus no claims discount is only valid on one car and they were bumping it up.I asked them to cancel my policies as their terms had changed from the original quote I’d accepted. I had to do it on e mail. I was then told later that I would be charged ninety quid for cancelling the policies despite them being within a 14 day “cooling off” period. I phoned ‘Which’ legal services and was told how I could challenge but if the unavailability of the No Claims bonus on 2 cars was mentioned on the site it was going to be tough. I went back to “Go Compare” from where I’d found “Go Girl” and lo and behold on a pop up box for explanations on the No Claims bonus question there was the 2 car ruling. I was screwed. The ‘Which’ legal guy was helpful and thought the charge for cancellation was “on the heavy side”. A complete wasted 4 hours of my life filling in the tedious forms that it appeared no one at Go Girl had really bothered to go through properly and join the dots otherwise it would have been brought to my attention before I bought both the insurances. They were totally unhelpful from then on and I’ve still not had the receipt for the cancellation fee despite e mailing them both for that and an explanation. They deserve the low start count on reviews they have.
I should have paid more attention to the small print and all the minefields in pop up boxes and I made damn sure I was more attentive the next day when I went hunting again on line. Long story short I found exactly what I was looking for at Direct Line. A 2 car insurance policy, my no claims working on the Volvo and Simone accumulating her own no claims bonus as of now from my Dad’s Corsa with us both driving either vehicle. No hassle about Simone’s German EU license which she’s had for 30 years with no claims in that period ( which isn’t recognised for a UK policy) and it all came in at about half the price of those hustlers at Go Girl. I also managed to talk through all the details with a real person and she sorted it all out making it a relatively simple process. This isn’t an ad by the way but thought I’d throw some appreciation where it was due. I didn’t get a stuffed toy or cinema tickets or anything else and if I ever see that irritating opera singer he better duck in the shadows and shut the fuck up pdq.
And to end this third part of the blog ,which is growing faster and bigger than my courgettes outside, I’d like to leave on a happy ending after the ” Go Girl” saga. I bought a Lotto Lucky dip that weekend and on the Sunday I discovered 4 numbers had come up and for the first time in my life I actually won something more than a tenner. A hundred and seven quid in fact. 90 to cover my screw up and enough for a couple of bottles of chilled Savvy for the sunset looking out at the Lammermuirs from the new Balcony with my lady. Yin and Yang indeed.