Possibly the only thing more annoying than being sick on tour is having to hear about it. Is there something in the unwritten laws of touring that says one member of the band must have a physical ailment at least 50% of the time, must soldier on in spite of it, stoicly performing without medication or a tissue or inhaler in sight but remembering to balance the martyrdom by mentioning it to other members of the touring party every waking moment offstage?
I am that person on this trip.
It started with a sore throat before Brighton and I thought I had it beat with echinacea and sage throat spray. No one was the wiser and the show went on just fine. As we drove back to Eric's mother's house not far away, I kept seeing foxes leaping into front gardens and under fences, and thought it might be fever, visions of some kind of omen, good luck or rare convergence of moon and snow from the day before - turned out to be the night everyone puts out the trash.
By the drive to Winchester I was blowing my nose with anything in sight: the Sunday supplement, crisp packets, eye makeup remover pads.
It didn't help that the club was freezing, waiting until the people were in to turn on the heat. I did soundcheck in a hat, body warmer and hooded coat. I felt a little delirious but the show went fine - it was almost like being on drugs.
Kept thinking I'd shake it off but the drive to London was agony, relieved only by a stop at Chandlers Guitars, where I asked Eric why that bearded man working on an ancient Telecaster looked familiar.
"That's Brinsley Schwarz." We'd seen him in New Jersey only a month or two ago playing with Graham Parker and the Rumour. Had a good laugh with Brinsley, ate some fish and chips and as we drove from West London through Kensington, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly up the Strand to Charing Cross and around to Fleet Street, I found if I kept my head tilted to one side I could almost breathe and enjoy the sights, and commentary from Eric along the lines of "&%@ing Christopher Wren!" (it was Friday afternoon traffic).
Again it was cold in the upstairs at Milfords until the people came in. I changed in the icy ladies room and found that if I kept positioning an elbow under the automatic hair dryer, I'd get blasts of warm air.
The pub landlady made me a hot toddy before the gig (which, this being London, she charged me for) and that helped -we had a great time playing and the packed room heated us all up. I was pretty out of it by the time we got to where we were staying, and convinced the worst would soon be over took a couple of sleeping pills, confident I would wake up 100% better.
Not the case, but "soldiering on" we plowed on to Southend and Eric didn't mind if I slept, it was probably better than the sound of me honking into a pile of tissues (I'd upgraded from the crisp packet).
The Railway in Southend was an ancient pub, full of character and characters, a high stage with the only lighting from vaudeville-era footlights and a red bulb, a thunderous old P.A. and one crackly monitor that had me convinced half my hearing was blocked. The dressing room was trashed as if no one had ever cleaned up since that Eddie & The Hot Rods gig a near half century ago so I changed my clothes in the bathroom of the Indian restaurant next door, so cold I could actually see my breath.
I still thought we played well, even though in the dim to non-existent light I often had to guess at guitar frets and needed a flashlight to change the keyboard settings. The atmosphere of the club hinted at a disappearing world (and it is indeed Wilko Johnson's local) - I wonder if that feeling ever stops of thinking "well, I'm truly in show business now", maybe the hardscrabble end but still part of a noble tradition.
After the load out we drove three hours to the Norfolk countryside, one of the loveliest parts of England. I've had three days of rest and reading James Fearnley's fantastic book about being in the Pogues "Here Comes Everybody". Reading a book about being in a band on tour while being in a band on tour is like looking in a mirror in a mirror in a mirror, at least we don't have Shane to contend with.
As we set off for the rest of the shows tomorrow, I fully intend to be over this thing. But if I'm not don't worry, I won't mention it again.
Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby In The UK
Thu Mar 21 Sheffield Greystones Fri Mar 22 Bristol Thunderbolt Sat Mar 23 Swindon Rolleston Sun Mar 24 Worcester Marrs Bar Mon Mar 25 Liverpool The Lomax Wed Mar 27 Holt Norfolk Railway Tavern