Friday, 1 June 2012

Hands Across The Ocean

I'm leaving America for the second time since I started living here last September. It's a bit of a shame because the weather's really good at the moment, hot, sunny and not unbearably humid. England might be having good weather but it's never as warm.

I'm worried that I might have gone native – I found myself completely unselfconsciously referring to trousers as pants the other day, something I never would have thought possible just a few months ago.. It's ridiculous, I was in a green grocers trying to buy tomatoes and almost stooped to some of these guys as a way round the absolutely terrifying termaydoe. Tomato... it's become a word I can hardly get my mouth around in any pronounciation.
You don't consider these details in the gung-ho moment (a moment that lasted about a year for us) of moving continents.

As I was saying - I'm slightly uneasy coming back to England in case I've mutated, into an American without noticing – speaking with a slight transatlantic twang, eating with just a fork and ignoring the knife, demanding service and air-conditioning, tipping everyone that moves, wearing a loud checked jacket which I'll refer to as a coat...
But take heart, I began this piece by talking about the weather – there's nothing more British than that. It's what we do best. Apart from negativity, cynicism and sarcasm. Americans don't talk about the weather the way we do, any more than American men signal fancying a girl by standing on one leg, flapping there arms and talking drivel in a panicky voice (a singularly British male trait).

We arrived at the airport three hours early because it was Memorial Day, the nearest thing in America to August Bank Holiday. The traffic on the New York State Thruway was approaching dreadful – on a par with a typical Sunday afternoon on the M1. For a while we were worried but we'd taken the precaution of leaving early and suddenly we were in New Jersey and New Jersey was deserted because all of New Jersey, apart from those unlucky enough to live in the city of Newark are, according to the car rental return guy, sitting on beaches between Asbury Park and Atlantic City until Tuesday afternoon.
Newark Liberty International Airport is in the middle of a makeover, or a facelift. Bits of the terminal appear to be boxed off with large sheets of white melamine plastered with notices that say Pardon Our Appearance While We Work To Give You A Better Flying Experience. They should have signs that say Pardon The Unbearable Stench Of Rotting Garbage. (Garbage??? I'm sorry but refuse, rubbish or ordure wouldn't make sense in the context. It's as well to be vigilant though.) The landfill stench that pervade parts of northern New Jersey seems to have permeated the hermetically sealed airport environment. It's the smell of chemical deoderisers hastilly applied to stale vomit. A strange smell for an airport.
We had thoughts of gatecrashing the first class lounge. I thought they might feel sorry for us or even be charmed by our shabby guitar cases and so on. I imagined claiming to be with Rod Stewart: Isn't he here yet?!!? That's so typically Rod. Mind if we come in and wait? Followed by unpleasantness and: ...when Rod gets here you'll be looking for a new job young lady. And an undignified exit.
But we didn't. We climbed a marble staircase and peered in at an imperious British Airways stewardess clutching a clipboard-load of elligible names. Our wouldn't have been on it and there was no sign of Rod so we went back down the stairs and bought some overpriced food at a coffee stand between Hudson Stationers and the duty-free perfume outlet which was doing nothing to mask the smell of landfill.

At least the plane was new. Though that was a mixed blessing. New means some designer who has never suffered the indignity of flying steerage class finds a way of ramming a few more rows of seats in. There was a great choice and films and so on but once the guy in front had reclined his seat as far as it would go the screen was so close I had to put on reading glasses to decipher the pixels. And when the dinner came – forget it – the height of the seat in relation to the table coupled with the in-the-face seat back made it almost impossible to eat without my head touching the touch-sensitive screen and changing the channels.
They say travelling broadens the mind but it doesn't - travelling turns people into monsters and socio-paths. People might seem jolly, friendly and likeable even, but give them seven hours stacked up diagonally on a crowded flight and they'll all but trample each other in their desperation to get off the thing. When I die I'd like to come back the person sitting in front of every inconsiderate seat recliner I've ever sat behind.

The Sheffield gig was a fine start to the tour. We were still jet-lagged so it came as no surprise to me to discover half an hour from Sheffield that I'd left my amplifier in a cupboard in Norfolk. The promoter borrowed an amp from the folk guitar player Martin Simpson. Just what a folk guitar player is doing with a Vox AC15 I don't know but it was very kind of him to lend it to me. Apparently he's really good – one of the organisers left me in no doubt of this. Now he really is a great player, with a tacit not like you in brackets. I found it slightly offensive. I'm a good guitar player too.

We're supposed to be launching a Kickstarter thing to raise money to put out our fabulous new album. To do this we have to edit a little introductory film so I suppose I should just post this dwindling jet-lagged ramble and get on with it.

Watch out for the Kickstarter thing.