We’ve parked the van at Bristol Temple Meads railway station and we’re hanging out, waiting for Thomas, who stayed with The Mission and Magic Numbers’ manager George last night. Jen is idly watching pigeons mooch around, when suddenly she starts, making a “euch!” noise. She’s just seen a pigeon get caught under the edge of a taxi wheel and squidged onto the road. The other pigeons ignore it, except for the dead pigeon’s girlfriend, who is stood frozen still, staring at the body. Then another taxi wheel rolls in front of the corpse, momentarily obscuring it from its transfixed partner, who immediately forgets it happened and wanders off, pecking at the tarmac. Out of sight, out of mind. Then, down flies a seagull and tries to carry off the pigeon’s body, but it’s too heavy, so the seagull drags it around the car park, trying to get as far from people and other seagulls as possible, eating big chunks of pigeon as it goes. I’ve got some super-gross footage of it.
Anyway, up by the taxi rank there’s a signpost that says: “Do not feed the pigeons or the seagulls. Let nature look after itself.”
After Bristol we’re at Matt Eaton‘s in Stroud, though he’s on holiday with Alice on some Scotch island. I finally score a copy of Finish Your Chips, which is a quiet masterpiece. Richard Harris should’ve heard this album. Also, wondrous and for too long inactive Brighton band The Tenderfoot are staying as well to use the studio downstairs. They seem to be distracted from music-making by Seinfeld DVDs though – and so are we, to the point where leaving is dragging out til just the end of the next episode.
After Birmingham Glee Club we’re put up by Tom’s friends/fans Roy and Debbie of Tinternetradio.com in Tamworth. It’s an impressive, slick Midlands online broadcasting operation run out of their garage, which has been done up to a pro standard. They do that cool thing of combining a sweet family domestic life (me and Jen stay in their daughters’ room which is Bratz To The Max), yet they ain’t forgotten how to party – half the gang are still up at 5am and we get through a serious amount of Roy’s brandy before flaking out. The morning brings a mint (as in lovely, not mint-flavoured) omelette, followed by a messy messy interview for the radio.
In Cardiff I can’t find anywhere to park. I drive around in a rage for 40 minutes and end up in the Civic Hall, miles from the venue. They need to sort out that alley! Black Kids are upstairs and it’s sold out, except that when Thomas pops up there, apparently the sound is awful and there’s people leaving. Tough on a band to be so hyped that you have an audience who predominantly don’t know yet if they actually like you. I thought Myspace got rid of that – but no, nothing defeats the desire to fit in. No dis to Black Kids though, I’ve not heard them live, they might be wicked. Also I get a warm feeling when I notice they’re in one of Tarrant’s vans. Looks well swish.
Afterwards we’re put up by David Mysterious and our old friend Welsh Tim. Except it doesn’t quite work, calling Welsh Tim “Welsh Tim” when you’re actually in Wales, since everyone else is Welsh too. Here, he’s just Tim. David is an ace bilingual psyche-folk artist from the same Aberwystwyth antifolktronica clique that produced Pagan Wanderer Lu and he only just moved down to Cardiff two days ago, which is problematic because he doesn’t know where he lives yet. He’s a sweetheart with William Hague’s laugh, though he won’t thank me for saying so. I like William Hague’s laugh… The next morning we have the finest breakfast of the tour (in fact the finest since that hotel on the A1 two months ago and possibly better) at a café opposite one of Cardiff’s tertiary colleges. Welsh Tim, if you read this, what was the café called?
I hate the bilingual road signs in Wales. I know the Welsh language is being culturally regenerated at great effort and expense (and fair play to that) but the problem is, when you read a road sign you need to interpret it very fast in your brain, while doing several other things at the same time (and remaining in control of a half-ton piece of metal hurtling along at high speed). Bilingual road signs trick your brain into briefly trying to interpret what the second bit means – while for a split second generating enormous adrenalin, because your subconscious thinks that there’s something you ‘need to know’ that you haven’t understood yet. Then – every single time – your consciousness catches up a split second later that it’s just the Welsh version of the same information. Thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you drum into yourself while driving that these are bilingual signs, the brain goes through the same, immensely irritating, process, over and over.
I’ll challenge any scientist to tell me that doesn’t happen. And unlike, say, California, where there’s a large Spanish-speaking population that doesn’t speak English and needs information in Spanish, in Wales there’s not a single non-English speaker left alive. So the roadside imposition of bilingualism is purely a cultural statement and in practical terms utterly unnecessary. Fuck you Wales, for your insistance on making the roads a tiny bit more dangerous for reasons of pride! I’d rather the signs were JUST in Welsh and us Englishers had to learn the familiarity of language to get about – at least we’d know in advance that was the score. But of course, Plaid Cymru couldn’t stay out of bed with New Labour when it came down to it, so you don’t even have a proper SNP-type thing going on. Look at Scotland, they’re not bothered so much about Gaelic and they’ll be independent in a few years, if the Tories get in in Westminster!
In Wolverhampton, the Little Civic smells of sick. It really does, I know venues are traditionally stinky places (and, if anything, got worse since the smoking ban) but the Civ really properly smells, til you almost gag. We were also nervous on arrival because there were 3 support acts listed and me and Thomas were each only allocated 25 minutes. Luckily the rep Juliet is well on the ball and sorts things out toot-sweet, squeezing the timings up without having to kick anyone off. Nice.
The smell is offset by seriously one of the best curries any of us have ever eaten, when we splash out and go to Bangladeshi heaven Bilash up the road, on Jon Clayton’s texted recommendation. As usual where food is concerned, and even when he’s not on tour with us, Jon is Prince of Rightness. I can’t praise their ochre (sp?) or their paneer dishes highly enough, Ben argues persuasively that the special pilau is the best rice ever and the fresh mango lassi is spectacular. The tour party contains several good chefs (both Thomas and Johny boff on about food preparation quite a lot and Johny does it for money) and we’re all blown away.