Saturday, 10 October 2009

Travel and Trauma

It's a new dawn, it's a new blog, it's a new life for me..... OK, it's not really a new life, just a continuation of the ordinary one. Albeit with a dash of disbelief that life HAS actually carried on after the last couple of days. I'm pretty sure I've never experienced as many avoidable disasters in a single 24 hour period as the last day has delivered.

It all started so well...

Our last sojourn south saw us playing on Brighton beach, so near the pier that any closer to the shore and the waves would've been getting our toes wet. This time, we headed to London to play two gigs, one in Hoxton, one in Ladbroke Grove.

London was grand. We caught up with old friends and family whilst we were down, and partook of some very filling meals served in cool cafes, the boys ate what was generally agreed to be perfect fish and chips, we witnessed some of the finest haircuts Shoreditch has to offer, made some new friends, and tried to ignore the junkies who turned up to one of the gigs to offer their loud, incomprehensible support. The gigs themselves were really fun, we played to plenty of enthusiastic folk, which is always good. Watched a wicked band on the same bill as us, Faun. The taxi drives afterwards, as we (by now expertly) packed the cab with people and instruments, tetris-style, allowed us to sail through the streets of London, with a friendly cabbie at the helm - a better tour of the city can't be found for love nor money.


us + mates + London = good times

As I said, it started well. We stayed each night at my family's house in Brighton (ok ok, it's in Hove actually) and that too was fine - long neon train rides and the wrought iron of English train stations, and a cosy home and bacon sarnies at the end of it.


Alex and Mikey and the joys of Hove

Things began to go wrong on the last day.

Rob and Alex headed off along the south coast to visit some of their family in another seaside town, and Mikey and I had an afternoon to kill in Brighton. I thought it would be great if we went for a nice sunlit drive and I could show him where I grew up - after all, I've seen a lot of Scotland, but we never stay long when we go down to my home town.

So we climbed into my little, old, blue car. I've had it for 2 years and pretty much every time I take it out, something goes wrong with it - but this time, I didn't stop to think such dismal thoughts, so after 5 attempts to get her started, she growled into life and off we went.

Zoomed down leafy lanes and along the chalk downs, under autumn clouds which began to look increasingly ominous. We stopped in Lewes for a cup of tea (how quaint) and tried to storm the castle (but we got caught and were told to pay for tickets, so we surrended and retreated). But oh dear - the clouds gave in and it began to rain. We'd soaked up the gnarly ancient streets of Lewes for long enough, so we went back to the car and drove away, with a couple of hours to go before Mikey had to leave for the airport. We had plenty of time - so we took the scenic route home.


nice town, shite weather

The rain, by now, had increased in fervour to the point where I could hardly see in front of me (and we later found out the area had been given a severe weather warning by the met office). It was like driving under water. We pulled over to give it time to subside, but it just kept coming. That was when one of the windscreen wipers stopped working. We had no choice but to continue. I crawled along trying to ignore the cars building up behind us. And I realised time was ticking on and headed for the motorway to get us back to Brighton. We were listening to the Beatles Help! album - which just adds a touch of poignancy to the whole scenario.

Driving along a motorway can be quite scary. Driving along the motorway in torrential rain in an unreliable antique car with one functioning windscreen wiper is definitely not to be trifled with. But I wasn't prepared for what happened next - after a short while we found ourselves sat at the back of a traffic jam which stretched out far ahead of us. Great - and with a plane to catch. We edged forward when I noticed that the car ahead of us was giving out quite a lot of smoke - tut tut, carbon footprints and all that - hold on, it's not the car in front, the smoke is coming from under the bonnet of THIS CAR. A lot of smoke. In fact, smoke is POURING OUT FROM MY CAR. oh god.

In 2 seconds we'd pulled over to the hard shoulder and put on the hazard lights. One small piece of fortune was that it was directly underneath one of those 60s motorway bridges, so Mikey found us shelter by leading the way up to a dry nest right under the concrete arch. Cars crawled past, all having a good look at my poor, defeated little car, warning lights flashing bravely. The smoke continued to billow out. And the rain continued to pour. It was not what i'd had in mind when we set out for a drive. We called the RAC and sat and waited.

The hour for Mikey to leave for the airport came and went; The RAC man came, had a look, fiddled with this, poured water in that. After he'd given the all clear, we nervously drove home (though the RAC man stayed behind us like a guardian angel in an orange jumpsuit). My traumatised dad bombed it to the airport with Mikey, but he still missed his flight (by two minutes). Back he came to our house, and got up at dawn to get another flight, never uttering so much as a sharp word.

This had all been bad, and moreover, avoidable. But now it was the day i flew back to Scotland, and we left in plenty of time for me to catch my flight.

But when we got there, to my disbelief, the gate had closed, I had got there too late. I never thought i'd hear the phrased 'missed your flight' so soon after what had happened to Mikey. My reaction at the airport was somewhat less than ladylike and I apologise to the passersby whose first impression of the english when landing in Gatwick might have been corrupted by me and my loud use of a certain four letter word.

It turned out to be a simple misunderstanding over the internet by me, my mother and then my father, and nobody checking the facts. It was such a simple chain of obvious mistakes, but we plodded right through them right into a brand new disaster.

I won't go into details of how I got back to Scotland but it was all down the help of a quick thinking auntie and some good luck, and after a fortifying cup of coffee and a night time flight, I was back in Leith just after midnight.

I suppose all's well that ends well... I'm just scared about my own ability to monumentally wreck the most well laid plan. And I also left half of my belongings in Brighton. But the important thing is, Come On Gang! are all safe and sound and ready to play the next gig!