(To avoid the dreaded "end of tour recap" or my way-too-often-used "sorry I've been too busy to post" post, I decided to write something short and artless every couple of days on this trip. We'll see how that works)
We made it to the airport easily on Sunday with the help of our friends Emily & Will, who were kind enough to keep our van in their garage and help us lug four guitars and three heavily-loaded suitcases to Newark (not heavy on the clothes, but vinyl and CDs we are hoping to spread across the UK).
The flight to Heathrow was short and not so bad, except for the woman seated behind me who rolfed and Shiatsu-ed me constantly throughout the flight by lodging either her knees or a collection of sharp objects in the seat pocket in front of her. Every time I whirled around to confront her, she appeared to be passed out or in a coma.
I made it through immigration okay - it's a lot easier going into England with a legit work permit than pretending to be merely "visiting friends and family", but I still sweat while they scrutinize everything. The agent asked very drily "What kind of music do you play?" and the question held a challenge. I wanted to answer him in the most successful way possible, the way that would not create any questions or doubts in his mind. "Folk and country" seemed the most benign, and I guess it worked because I was soon joining Eric at the mound of luggage.
At the car rental place, we were the only people in the queue, and so approached the counter. A man with an orange combover and green Europcar vest asked "Have you taken a number?" and indicated the machine back by the front door.
"But there's nobody else wait-" I started to say but he shook his head and waved us over to the number machine. We pressed the button and number 42 popped out. We stood back in line.
"Number 42!" he shouted, without irony. After many hopeful years of visiting England, I was finally in a Monty Python skit.
Once in the rental car, we turned on our old GPS and the deep, familiar voice of old trusted friend "Tim" made me feel right at home. Eric drove - I have yet to attempt left-hand drive in a manual car...someday! For now it's luxurious to be driven around, my job is reading articles from the Guardian out loud. "We were all Justin Bieber fans and now we hate him" was today's winning headline. That one article stretched out for a good hour or so, as I tried to explain Justin Bieber to Eric. "And this chap's named Beaver?" "No, Bieber." "Never heard of him. How many 'its 'as 'e 'ad?" he said, paying tribute to Reg Presley who once referred to Eric in the same fashion.
We tripped around Margate with our pal Andy, and I got a nice boost out of my jet lag seeing the painting I'd done of "Tropical Fish" on his mantelpiece.
Now we're in Manchester in the fancy new BBC studios, getting ready to play on the air. We got all our equipmment here intact but left our UK mobile phone back in Margate. All we have to do is stay awake another half an hour and we'll be live on nationwide radio with Marc Riley. We're on the road and at home - what can go wrong?