Blimey! Five months since Christmas already! Where’s all that time gone? In another blink it will be Christmas all over again. Perhaps we could slow down the perception of the passage of time by permanently keeping the festive season on and therefore making things pass as one kind of giant amorphous Yuletide blur. The Picallili industry would do well out of this for starters-thinking that through though, leads me to realise that the rate of heartburn induced mortality would shoot through the roof. Better leave things as they are and keep the season of Domestic tension to its current August-January timespan. Harking back to the original question about the ever increasing rapidity of the passage of time, this week has seen a lot of hours frittered away on the grinding medium-level misery which is modern air travel.
It’s been an extraordinary week for the miles of travel per tune played, as my three engagements this week have been-in order- in Rome, Cockfosters and Monte Carlo which represents an aggregate distance from the front door of The Gables to, I’d say, Omsk, and having had a quick count up, has resulted in the playing of a grand total of twenty eight pieces of music. Google maps inform me that this represents 2906 miles, give or take, which works out at 103.7 miles per ditty. Tunes 1-8 we’re sounded off in Rome. This was originally presented to Her Indoors and me as a standard Commando-style raid sort of gig, where the deal is to fly in in the early morning of the gig on the cheapest, and therefore, most obscenely early flight available, hang around in a large room which for some reason will be devoid of chairs for hours while bearded chaps in three quarter length black trousers with big bunches of keys build a stage rig large enough for stadium rock and encroach on the allotted rehearsal time to the extent that the allotted rehearsal time then encroaches on the alloyed dinner time with the result that the dinner ceases to exist, play the music through the previously mentioned stadium rock PA system to around twenty four conference delegates attending this years’s mastitis research awards and inspiration dinner, get bundled into a minibus for a forty minute drive to another, cheaper hotel for three hours sleep before getting on the cheapest, and therefore most obscenely early flight home and find yourself in the Gatwick South Terminal car park feeling dazed and slightly mugged.
Boxing clever, Her indoors and I asked if we could have our flights out a couple of days early, and so last Monday, we found ourselves walking out on the balmy boulevards of Rome, in search of Balmy Roman Lager. I don’t want to sound too hippy dippy here, but there is a very different energy to Rome, and I reckon that it is due to the fact that so many human beings have lived and died there in a recognisably modern civilisation for the last two thousand seven hundred years. Being right in at the hatching of the entire rubric of western civilisation, the place just feels emote experienced and wiser than, for example, Milton Keynes. The Grub’s good too- just off the Via Nacionale is a little restaurant called Santa Cristina. In there some of the greatest dinners of all time are created- regular readers of this column will quake with awe when I guarantee that the nosh in there is on a par with such classics of modern cuisine as the Lobster In Squid Ink served at Galvin at Windows, the set dinner at Mr. Kong’s, or even, and I don’t say this lightly, the liver and back dinner at Sunny Side Up Cafe in South Oxhey. There’s also an Indian quarter out there, which led to a spot of Roman curry tasting. I now have enough data to start compiling a European curry ladder, which runs more or less as follows- in first place, by quite a long chalk, oddly, is Malta, then Us, then France, Monaco, Italy, Greece and Spain. It was a tough thing between the Italians and the Monagasques- things could have been very different for Italy if they’d eased off the cumin in the vindaloo.
Here’s a picture of me at the Vatican last Tuesday. Perhaps even more startling a feature of this place that the Michaelangelo stuff inside is the incredible scope and quantity of Vatican Tat available in the surrounding gift shops. Given that we are led to believe that His Holiness the pope not only has the ear of The Almighy, but also his private mobile number, twitter handle and access to His Facebook page, and that quite a lot of those visiting are the most ardent supporters of this whole system, it came as quite a shock to find the bulk of the iconography then applied to tea towels, clock radios, and my own personal favourite, fag lighters. We got my mate Paul, who is partial to a drop of Catholicism, but being from Glasgow, a drop of lager too, the perfect gift. A bottle opener with a picture of the Pope on.
The Rome gig itself was pretty much what we’d expect- in a huge off-airport hotel, an awards ceremony was taking place, and the event organisers had decided to entertain the forlorn looking group of international delegates with the medium of Opera. Sensibly, they’d booked five cracking singers from London, but presumably because the budget was running a bit tight, the production team had to make the difficult decision on where to save the dough. Being a musical show, they made the obvious decision to reduce the band size to something way below the bare minimum. Heaven forfend they should want to cut back on the stadium sized PA, in case any of the conference delegates from Brisbane, Dar-Es-Salaam, Kalamazoo or Worksop who couldn’t attend could probably just hear it from home anyway. Armed with the line-up of Trumpet, Sax, Keyboard, Bass and Drums, we were able to bring that all-important atmosphere of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum so crucially omitted by Puccini in his original orchestration of Turandot. At least it was nice and loud.
Home on Friday, and over to Cockfosters for ten more tunes in the 100 Years Of Jazz gig at the Chicken Shed Theatre, which strangely seemed to have no lapped wood units construction and a complete absence of chickens. Smashing curry after, though. Exceptional, in fact. A fuller review will follow when I start on my Great Curries Of The Tube Map project.
Then, at 3am today, the whole commando raid thing got going again when Nathan Bray and Miles Ashton turned up at The Gables to join me and The Volvo for a journey down to Gatwick, and as a result of this I am sitting here tapping this into the iPhone in the conductor’s room at the Sporting Club Of Monaco to deliver this week’s final instalment of tunes via the means of jumping up and down and shouting at a big band, while Iain Mackenzie and some other chums bang through the ten allotted Rat Pack Classics at 11.40 pm to the great and the good of the Grand Prix dinner. You remember that I’ve plogged from here before- it was last summer and we had had the benefit of a few days off to enjoy the riviera by rail. Not so this time- as soon as we’re done here it’s back on the coach for a long blink at the Nice Airport Ibis and back home in time for egg and bacon on a flight so obscenely cheap that had they known, the Wright Brothers’ investors would have deemed the whole aeroplane project commercially untenable and withdrawn their support.
Bad Sight Of The Week was yours truly on BBC4 talking about Duke Ellington in a programme about Jazz History. I’d heard that the TV puts three stone on you, but as I seem to have been Espescially Blessed by the gods of beauty, my televisual extra three stone had been entirely applied to my face. I looked like a cross between a bread and butter pudding and a collection of other people’s buttocks. Still, they do say that all publicity is good publicity.