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Another breakdown in communications between the removal agent and the crew on the road train who were scratching their heads in front of a monstrous black 19 metre vehicle stranded on the main farm drive. I’d provided all the information required on both properties months before and had told the agent that the farm road wasn’t suitable for a road train. He’d told me that our belongings were coming up from Liverpool in a long wheel based truck. After 3 weeks of waiting on it to finally arrive here we were facing up to the possibility of having our stuff returned to Liverpool to be reloaded and delivered as the added shit cherry of this situation was that our consignment was on the trailer and not the detachable truck. The two operatives were entirely sympathetic to our dilemma and we placed all our hopes on maneuvering the Goliath between the storage sheds and containers and up the back road which involved a tight turn and a climb up a short steep slope with a broken uneven surface that ran all the way up to the studio. I’d had a double decker tour bus up there but that was with a confident driver used to squeezing around stage load in areas. I left the road train driver to recce the route and headed back to the studio to await their verdict. There was no point in hanging around and getting wound up as ultimately it was their decision.After about 20 mins I was still waiting and decided to go down to the storage sheds. I found them parked up and just starting to unload our boxes into the container we’d recently hired to store all the German merch that Yatta had brought over. I’d caught them just in time. They explained that our friend Arthur who worked on the farm had pointed them at the container thinking it was just more merch arriving. Rab had been working in the container that morning and had left the doors open. Cue bad comedy moment! The good news was that they’d got past the difficult section and 10 mins later after reloading were parked up outside the Studio. It was a different team from the Durlach pick up and they struggled a bit in the heat that was shimmering in the fields beyond. First things off were the rose and the hydrangea which were remarkably healthy considering 3 weeks of incarceration. The ground team at the Liverpool storage base had obviously let them out into the daylight over the period as our Durlach Britannia team had promised.
The guys shuffled and shuttled back and forward and the truck was emptied pretty quickly. Simone’s prep had paid off with all the boxes and items designated for various rooms and areas now in situ.We’d thought this all out well in advance on the Balcony and everything was slotting into place now. The only tricky question was how to deal with the couches. Two were already on the trailer having been out in Germany for a couple of years but we had a massive 3 seater taking up space in the studio. We needed all 3 of them in the container as they had been sold and were to be picked up that weekend by the buyers. A smile and a pass of folded notes to the guys as a contribution to their beer vouchers that night sorted out our problem. They puffed, cursed and heaved the gargantuan couch out to the trailer and I was so glad it wasn’t my back taking the strain. A scribble and a shake of hands and the road train disappeared in a cloud of dust into the sunset leaving us smiling in a landscape of cardboard boxes and disassembled furniture.
The only thing broken was a terracotta pot holder. Even the hastily packed Liberty lamp shade had arrived unscathed and it had been earmarked as a possible casualty of the move. It was an incredible feeling watching the flat in Durlach emerging from boxes and bubble wrap and taking it’s place here in Scotland. Although we had imagined it many a time over a glass on the Balcony here it all was seamlessly merging with the existing Studio to the point where it was difficult after a few hours to tell what had been here originally. In the space just short of a day it would become our home.
Tara’s old rickety bed had been dismantled and taken out that morning to await pick up from the recycling squad with the mattress added to the container and destined for her Mum’s house. Rab busied away rebuilding the Durlach bed and the 19th century wooden wardrobes which slotted together much to his amazement with no nails or screws involved. The old Biedermeier furniture had been designed with easy movement in mind and broke down into pieces that could be easily transported. Some of the joints were a bit loose and shrunken after years of central heating but a few well placed strips of monster tape held them together and made them moth proof.Simone had organised the pack so well that within only a couple of days there was a stack of disassembled boxes outside and nearly everything had found a place in our new home together. It was truly remarkable how similar our tastes were and we lay together on the couch that night with the fire on and marveled at just how in tune everything was.
In the middle of the unpacking we had another big moment to deal with. The day after the truck arrived Liam started school in Haddington. He’d visited the school a couple of times in the last year and had been really positive and excited about starting there. We’d managed to get his uniform together the previous weekend and everything was prepared for the big day. The last time I’d done a school run was about ten years ago when I used to drop Taz off and the prospect of early rises I probably found as much daunting as Liam starting his new school. I do not do mornings well and with a similarly gened daughter I only had memories of silent, moody journeys in perpetual darkness from my previous experiences. Luckily I’ve found Liam to be a cheery chappie of a morning and his good moods infectious. I offered to be designated driver as Simone wasn’t confident of UK roads yet but after a few days I was finding it easy. Rediscovering mornings was interesting. Greeting Elspeth and Rab in something other than a dressing gown was new as was realising mid afternoon that it wasn’t early evening and there were a lot more hours in the working day. Needless to say I was finding myself turning into bed a lot earlier. My i phone now had a sequence of alarms programmed.One to wake me up to rouse Liam at 7.30, one at 8 to rouse me again to shower and dress for an 8.30 leave and the other at 3.45 to remind me to pick him up at school ( 12 on a Friday). He had a great first day and a sigh of relief was to be audibly heard at the kitchen table when we returned. It was vitally important for us all that Liam managed to transpose himself into a Scottish school and fit into a completely new system and environment. After the first week he was doing brilliantly with no problems and Simone and I were so proud of him. No complaints, no issues, no severe language difficulties he was the wee man.
Saturday was the next big milestone when Simone and I went into HSBC in Princes Street in Edinburgh to open up a joint account to deal with our domestic and personal needs. A young Polish girl took us into a soulless cubicle, one of many in a clinical white room on the first floor of what was the flagship bank with stunning views across to the Gardens and the castle. She was very friendly and efficient and took us through the entire process, turning the screen and keyboard around so we could input some of our details ourselves. It was quite frankly depressing and annoying and I remembered fondly my old local bank manager in Dalkeith when I was a kid who knew everyone in the town and his customers inside out. Despite having 3 business accounts there for many years I still had to take in my passport, proof of residence and other ID and go through all the questions the most ridiculous of which was after I’d given my occupation as singer / songwriter – “And how many hours a week do you work?”. I had to give an answer as “computer says” I had to. I said 40 which was the answer I should have given to my doctor when he asked me about how many units of alcohol I drank a week. The coffee I’d had at the beginning of the process added to the couple I’d had earlier and I asked if I could use their men’s room. “I’m sorry but we only have a staff toilet but there’s one in Costa Coffee just round the corner”. And that is where I went as Simone went through her conversation with the computer before returning to go through all the online banking passwords/ security questions/ log in codes that I’m not supposed to write down and for the life of me I know I’ll never remember if I don’t. It was a thoroughly dehumanising process and followed up with the usual “sincere welcome to our bank” paperwork handed to us just as we left. I don’t blame the young lady in the slightest, she was just doing her job and she was thoroughly pleasant. It’s only a matter of time until they get rid of her in favour of a new more efficient computer interface. Then they can create more room by getting rid of the staff toilet as well.
That evening we had visitors as Tom and his wife Jima were driving up from Lichfield to pick up the couches they’d bought from us after I’d put them up for sale on the Facebook pages months before. The extended return from Germany and availabilities had meant that this was the only weekend of opportunity and as they were driving a long way we had offered for them to have dinner and stay over here at the Studio. They arrived late afternoon and with Rab and a mate at hand we loaded up his Luton before we opened our first of many bottles of wine that night. They were great company and Tom’s Thai wife Jima passed on a couple of great cooking tips for our chili harvest. A beef Madras was fare of the evening and we stayed up a lot later than planned chewing the fat into the edge of the small hours. Simone and I had another big day ahead as Taz was arriving with Romaine and I was picking up my Mum from North Berwick as she hadn’t been up for a while and this was the first chance she had to see our new home.It was a fine gathering and Simone and I teamed up in the kitchen to put together a Sunday roast for us all. My mum was overjoyed to see the house and so happy that we had finally managed to be together. Romaine and Taz were staying the night as he was working with me next day and Taz was tidying up her room and getting stuff together for her trip to France where it looked like she could be out there for the next 3 months. Her caravan of belongings were dispersing between Lyon, Edinburgh and here and as my daughter has the same collective tendencies as I have little was being jettisoned. I was glad I’d rented the container as we needed to clear her room out for the procession of visitors we are expecting over the coming months including Simone’s daughter Tara in November, her mother and partner over Christmas as well as Steve Vantsis and other writers on album duty.
On Sunday after dinner Romain had set up the new Yamaha piano I’d bought for the writing sessions. Nothing too special but it has great basic sounds and weighted keys and is enough for what we need for the approach I want for the new album. Romain and I would work over the next 2 days and our fledgling writing sessions proved very interesting. I’ll deal with all things ‘Weltschmerz” in another blog that will take in the new ideas and projects I’m starting working on.
It was great having Taz and Romain at the house with us for a couple of days and watching them get ever closer. Taz is still getting used to our new set up here and it’s probably as disorientating as it is for Liam just now. We are all growing up and older and both Simone and I are watching our children go out and find new experiences in the World. Taz is off to France for 3 months, Tara, Simone’s eldest daughter is just coming back from 2 months coaching windsurfing in Fuerteventura before continuing university in Karlsruhe and Mona her younger daughter is heading to Sri Lanka and Australia for 6 months traveling in November. We both miss our kids badly but thanks to technology we are never out of touch no matter where they are out there. One day we hope we will get all the children here together for at least a long weekend and bring all the family together in our new home.
For the first couple of weeks it was strange not having to think about checking in online for flights and realising that we’d finally made it. Waking up in the same bed every day without having to think about trains or planes was wonderful. The garden is our mutual love and it’s been so gratifying heading out to the garden to forage for vegetables and fruit to bring into the kitchen where we both share cooking duties. We are finding a beautiful balance in the house although I have to admit it’s weird having things done or me. I’ve been so used to doing my own laundry and cooking and cleaning for such a long time here that I feel a bit guilty taking a step back. We are making a great team and getting stronger every day. Simone is now driving and helping Elspeth in the office while I find myself back on a keyboard and putting cunning plans in motion in the control room in between our mutual gardening activities. Touring is the last thing in my head just now and we are just enjoying being here and together.
And that’s the story of our summer so far.
I’m off to Germany on Friday for rehearsals in Durlach with the pick up band for the festival in Pratteln in Switzerland on Sunday. It’s going to be weird as it will be the first time I’m there without Simone with no Balcony and thinking about getting home as quickly as possible. It’s taken nearly 6 years to get this far and although we always dreamed and hoped it would happen the reality is truly something special and we are looking forward to many happy years together here at the farm in our little slice of paradise with many more summers to come – although preferably a little less hectic.