...Saturday morning, late May...
Summer is coming. You can feel it your bones. Any sense of warmth from the sky and air brings a shiver of anticipation. Winter's endless grip is failing. And yet the newfound mid-morning sun is only just enough to wake to.
The train is crossing a river somewhere in the west of the country, rolling green fields, with a nice little collection of white buildings down by the bank...
Hang on, didn't we just pass that same building?
Or was that a couple of days ago?
What a week it's been, one of those ones where you literally don't have half an hour to scratch your head.
Monday, 30th Birthday! Much frivolity with girlfriend, breakfast in Angel, afternoon on Primrose Hill with a bottle of champers, looking over London underneath a stormy sky, then night-long dinner/bender with friends, mostly people from both town and touring productions.
Tuesday, afternoon rehearsal with originals band for upcoming gig, then playing on the town production in the evening.
Wednesday, back to MD the tour in Torquay.
Friday, four hour train back to London to play with the town show.
Saturday, back to MD the tour in Cardiff, two shows.
How did I end up in this mess again!?
And what an intense year...after the best part of two years and four tours, Flying Music, the production company that kicked the whole thing off, at the start of January finally put the show in the West End at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, a stone's throw from Piccadilly, right in the heart of London theatre land.
For the first time, a second production was created for the fifth Thriller tour, this time mostly UK, but a little of the continent, and after much deliberation, given the option of taking the cushy, stationary town gig, or stepping up to run the tour as musical director, I somehow came to the decision of taking the latter. From mid February until the end of May, I was in probably the first leadership role of my life ever, of anything! At times I had to scratch myself to believe it was all happening.
But lo and behold, it certainly was, in every way imaginable...our tour took us all over England but this time with a difference...no more the relentless grilling of two months of one-nighters like previous tours...this one had us staying in most provincial cities for a week, sometimes less, but it made all the difference.
I'm not long at the theatre in Cardiff and the drummer calls...he's driven up from Torquay today on an infamously difficult route and is somehow stuck in traffic, may not make the soundcheck...right, so we're straight back into it then! He's not getting it...we had a day off yesterday, he's had more than 24 hours to get here, and besides, there aren't any excuses, this is show business!
The two shows in Cardiff are a resounding success. In an open concert-style venue, we play to two packed houses full of people from a country that knows all about great voices. We trudge through Saturday night carnage back to the hotel, one of those new shiny business one-nighter ones, so in the generic weirdness of the hotel foyer, most of the cast and band gather for drinks, partly to celebrate my last night with the tour before I join the town production.
It's in a daze that I sit at a second breakfast at a sushi place in Paddington station when a text comes through asking me to take vocal warm-up before a two show day! Crazy! But I'm happy to take it, partly because the guy sending me the the text is always more busy than I am, even this week. And I've arranged for someone else to play my chair for the second show...why? Because I'm moving house! After the matinee!
Curtain comes down about 5pm and I'm out of there like a shot on the nearest bus or train...walking down my street in Hackney for the last time, she pulls up in her little silver car, gets out in a dress, and says, "I'm here to take you away", and that's when it really hit me, in the Sunday dusk...I'm doing it again, moving in with a girlfriend, for the second time.
I don't have much stuff and my awesome soon to be ex-housemates have done most of it in my absence. It's a tight fit but it fills most of Eri's car, of course leaving no room for a passenger. She speeds off with all my possessions, I hello the new guy and farewell my two wonderful housemates, Ruth and Tammy, from one of the best sharehouses I've had the privilege to live in...sorry to see 'em go...
The trains are down, so it's looking like one big long bus to Victoria station, and it's the first slab of time in about a week where I haven't been on the train to a show or conducting or drinking a skinful, and so I seem to have no choice but to partake in a little public transport nap. It's Sunday night and there aren't too many crazies around on the 38, the big long bendy bus, the free bus, the robbery bus...of course forgetting the route of the 38, I'm stirred into waking somewhere in town, and it's Shaftesbury Ave, and I look out the window and THERE HE IS! The big spangly silver jacket on the big red square sign...aaarrrgh! Whether it be out on tour or here in town, I just can't bloody get away from the show!...
It takes me an hour but I finally get to our new place, and my gorgeous girlfriend has lugged just about all my stuff up two flights of stairs. I help her with the rest, and then it REALLY hits me...creeping carefully through the hall of our new flat, the smell of the bare white paint, the boxes everywhere...and all the thoughts, the daily noise, suddenly quiets in my head...the start of another chapter, a new beginning...