The triumphant chords of the final song had long since died away but we didn't want to leave. We stood in a cluster in a small room with a few sofas, basking in the glow of a stellar show. The last of the tour. What a note to end on - it had been one hell of a ride and this last performance we'd managed to fit in at the very end, in a tiny country town in East Sussex, had exceeded all expectations. And what an audience! They'd clapped and cheered; whooped, shouted - even shed tears.
If I were brutally honest I'd say the show lagged a tiny bit three quarters of the way through, but the final two numbers had been so heartfelt, so raw and honest, the whole audience had been on its feet by the end.
"Could you all please leave now." The cold voice cut through our shared reverie.
The head teacher of Eric's granddaughter's primary school glared over her eyeglasses at Eric, me, Eric's daughter Luci, partner Simon, four year old Tiger in shimmering angel costume and halo; new baby Sunny and Eric's mother leaning on her cane. "I need to hold children waiting for taxis in here, and I can't do that while you lot hang around. So I must ask you to go - now."
The ages three to six Nativity Play and Christmas Pageant was over, but we were waiting around for the after-party.
After weeks on tour, the world is your dressing room.
* * *
The UK shows made me happy. Having Crispin Taylor play drums was great, we got together as a band and it really did start to take off.
I was happy to see a full house in Hull. I've played at the Adelphi probably eight times now, a few on my own, three or four with Eric. He wrote Whole Wide World in Hull, we met years later in the pub where he'd first played the song which I was covering and, well it's a special place anyway being almost like the Pittsburgh of England - if you're that special brand of misfit it feels like home. It seemed like the whole town turned out.
Next day we drove through snow to get to Glasgow. Not the best venue choice maybe but I love playing in Scotland and it was fun to see some favorite familiar faces. The hotel was one of those hideous guest houses you hope had died away forever, I guess there should be some comfort knowing some things remain the same but in the case of cheap lumpy mattresses, permanently grubby sheets and sad light fixtures up treacherous flights of stairs, give me bland modernity!
It was a long drive next day back to London, and we lucked out with a great deal on a Hotwire hotel at Shepherd's Bush Green, the Dorsett. Fancy and right near the Westfield Mall. I felt sheepish enjoying mall life for a few hours, thinking "shouldn't we be in an authentic place in London?" but is there anywhere authentic left? (Well, there's McLay Guest House in Glasgow...)
Eric went on the Liz Kershaw show on Saturday, she's one of those great BBC radio presenters, so witty and effortless, it was like a dream listening to the two of them chat. Then we loaded into the 100 Club, saved from demolition thankfully because it has so much history (authenticity, anyone?) the color scheme and photos on the wall from back in the mists of jazz and punk and rock history, photos taken on this very spot through the years which seems rarer and rarer, it's more common for a brand-new club to slap up a load of generic "classic" music photos like Cracker Barrel did with rusty farm implements and feed sacks.
There's nothing like a London show, and I really enjoyed this one. We attempted playing Eric's Christmas single (he recorded it with me and my daughter Hazel and Ben backing him) in blinking lights and Eric in a Santa suit. Sold a load of records and said hello to old pals, and then we got trapped in Westfield Mall after parking the van, calling "Hello! Hello!" in the deserted alley of luxury shops, passing another lost group like characters in the Poseidon Adventure as we tried to find a door out to Shepherd's Bush.
Next day we found a good coffee place (Hummingbird) and picked everyone up to go down to Brighton. Eric and I stopped at Gatwick to rent a car so that the van could go back to Wembley without us in it (no more Holiday Inn) thanks to Barry and Crispin. We all met up at the Prince Albert and played a show that felt great from start to finish. It made me so proud to see a room full of people all standing up cheering Eric and his band, it was the kind of show where the exhaustion falls away and you start thinking "oh can't we keep going, let's book more shows!"
Even in the middle of an eight-hour layover at Dublin Airport, I'd do it all (er, well most or some of it) again.