Monday 5 May 2014

Twats on flights, solid-state amplifiers, nouveau middle-age, and a hotel

I hate this. The airport. Dumb fuck star-for-a day guest-listed fuck-wits, pink stetsons, earbuds, wires trailing from the head, dull-eyes staring at handheld devices, pudgy fingers prodding screens, oversized luggage (it's a hammock...) Why the fuck would you bring a hammock on a flight as hand luggage?

It's a guitar... that's right it's a guitar, it's my job and no, I can't check it because your beefy baggage handlers will drop an over-large suitcase full of bricks on top of it, break it and render it unplayable thereby negating the very reason for my undertaking this hellish trip.

I wish I could make a guitar that folds down into convenience-sized piece of hand luggage. Right now I wish I played the flute. Actually no, I don't – I know a guy who plays the flute and he can't get a girlfriend.

Why do all these people feel the need to travel? I'm sure they'd be happier if they stayed at home. I was thinking that myself at one o'clock this morning, as I unbolted a guitar neck so as to fit it into a suitcase with my ragged scraps of clothing which I'm really only taking with me to pad the effect pedals, microphones and dismantled Telecaster that make up the bulk of my luggage. Sod this, I'd be happier staying at home.

There has to be a way to simplify this.

I bought an amplifier the other day, a pariah among amplifiers: a Vox Cambridge 30 watt combo with two ten inch speakers. A transistor amplifier, very light, no tubes, no big transformers. I think it sounds really good, hard and defined. Solid state guitar amplifiers have always been frowned upon but Wilko Johnson used one for years - an HH IC100 – I had one myself at one time but I had to stop using it when the circuit boards cracked after it fell down a flight of stairs, a fall which apparently rendered it deadly as well as defunct. I don't know whatever happened to that amp.

Joe Strummer used a Roland Chorus JC120, an extremely unfashionable amplifier with not a valve or tube in sight, but he got a great sound out of it, and so does Amy with her seventy watt version of the same amp. Lightweight, compact, loud and hard-hitting, I'm all for it.

I just have to develop the folding guitar that I can put in the back of the amplifier alongside the fuzz boxes. Modular, compact, easy travel...

It's time to board the plane.


That was like a bad dream. Seven hours in a narrow seat surrounded by demanding passengers. The ever-so-slightly camp steward told the woman next to me: 
'I'll attend to you when I've finish serving tea and coffee, I've only got one pair, if you know what I mean.' 

I knew what he meant.

I like British Airways, as much as it's possible to like an airline. I prefer them to Virgin. British Airways stewardesses always find room for my guitar in the first class wardrobe where it gets to fly with the coats and hats of the rich and famous, and once even with a wedding dress. I sometimes wish I was my guitar - much loved, strummed and cossetted, admired by girls, boys, men and women alike... Travelling in a luxury wardrobe while I suffer the indignities of an economy class seat – a New York City bus offers a higher standard of comfort than the economy class cabin on a transatlantic flight.

I'm in the hotel.

It's one of those modern post-sofa-pub hotel pubs, an aspiring gastro-pub where the white painted saloon bar doubles as the breakfast room. Hand-painted lettering above the fireplace reads: life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain.

A modern day take on middle-age. I look back wistfully to the days when men had comb-overs and women wore stretchy beige slacks. I think I was looking forward to wearing the outfits. But today you've got to let your freak flag fly, get in touch with the real you... middle-aged women of today dye their hair bright purple while the menfolk hang a dream catcher off one ear and fashion any remaining head hair into a ponytail, or worse – a pigtail. And everybody dances like nobody's looking.

Please, don't. I don't want to see that. And yes, I know, that's a sweeping generalisation. But not in Shoreham-by-Sea it isn't.

When I arrived they couldn't find my reservation. The punky older lady manning the desk told me I couldn't have booked on line that afternoon because they were already fully booked. Then they found my reservation just as I was about to show it to them on my laptop. The girl in charge took me to my room which hadn't been made up because the cleaner had left at one o'clock because they weren't expecting anyone to be staying in the room that night (fully booked?). They bought me back downstairs and offered me a drink of my choice on the house while they sorted things out.

I was upgraded at no extra charge to An Even Nicer Room. I didn't even have to tell them I was on my honeymoon, which is a good trick if you're traveling alone. If it's a restaurant of course it helps if you can let it slip that your dying of a very rare contagious disease, but the honeymoon works in hotels, they'll shut the fuck up and leave you alone.

I was quite touched by their repeated apologies for the inconvenience - I really didn't mind - it was nothing compared with the inconvenience of spending the night on a Jumbo 747 or whatever it was. And I was amused by being referred to constantly as this gentleman, and happy to sit back and enjoy my complimentary glass of orange juice.

The manager even carried my suitcase up the stairs which was good because I don't think I could have done it. Surprisingly there were no chocolates on the pillows. I spent the rest of the afternoon moving the largest number of scatter cushions off the sumptuous queen sized bed – it was labour intensive and I was running out of places to put them. And I still didn't find the chocolates.

I pulled back the king sized poly-cotton duvet and found the sumptuous queen-sized bed was really two mattresses zipped together. So I was glad I wasn't actually on my honeymoon. If I'd have told them it was my honeymoon I would have had to have gone downstairs and complained, and I really couldn't be bothered, I just wanted to lie down on my side of the queen-sized single mattress collective and sleep off the jet lag.

And just in case anyone doesn't know why I'm doing all this here's a link to my dates where you'll find links to buy tickets and make some sense of this idiocy: dates