I suggest that you all calm down, and take a deep, deep breath.
The world’s still standing; sun is shining (at least in London), birds are chirping (except for in the Gulf of Mexico, thank you BP), the FIFA World Cup is still due to commence in a few days and the Korea’s are still on the brink of war.
Seems like the world’s still turning regardless of whether I post something or not… bummer. I was hoping to have reached world domination by now.
Well, the reason I didn’t post anything on June 3 was that I decided to concentrate on completing the train & lodging schedule of my Europe trip. Starting tomorrow (June 6), I will be in a somewhat constant move most of the time; I will have to be on alert for any unforeseen changes as the language barrier means much less fault tolerance.
I am happy, though, to say that except for a hotel / hostel room in Oslo (too expensive; still trying to find some reasonable place) and a few places in Germany, I have all lodging sorted out till mid‐July or so. Turns out that, for a few train connections of high‐speed trains, I still have to make reservations however those can only be made at the train stations (despite the fact that I have an unlimited 1st‐class train pass for two months). Hopefully, everything goes according to plan.
I am writing this post while sitting at the Eurostar train, which takes me from the UK to Europe’s mainland. The first stop is going to be Jeroen’s place in The Netherlands (it’s a day off for the band today); starting tomorrow morning, it’s independent travel for me again, roaming train stations and streets in countries most of which I had never been to before.
So… lets see… what was going on during the last two days.
Thursday (June 3) was dedicated mostly to planning and catching up with the world.
One of the hardest things to do while travelling in such rush is to accept the fact that you cannot possibly please everybody all the time. Prioritization must takes place and sacrifices have to be made—sometimes it’s annoying, but hey what can you do. Not everything is pleasant in taking on such an engagement, when being goal‐driven is the very thin line separating success over failure.
Anyway, after having a few lunches in Caffe Concerto nearby the hotel—well, how can you blame me, their food is delicious—we decided to try someplace else. As I was busy planning, Jeroen was taking a stroll around Hyde Park, in a seemingly failed attempt to lose any significant portion of the weight he had put on over the last couple of months. On his way, he came across a place called “Seventeen”, serving Dim Sum and other Asian delicacies, not far from the Notting Hill Gate Tube station. As he told me about this amazing discovery upon returning to the hotel, remote, distant memories of having Dim Sum lunches with now‐ex colleagues made their way from the brain right into my stomach so I was more than willing to try it out.
The path from the hotel to Notting Hill goes through Kensington Church Street, which is a neat, narrow street running south to north, slowly leading you from the bustle of the busy area of High Street Kensington to the more quiet, friendly‐looking area of Notting Hill.
Arriving at Seventeen, I witnessed a nicely‐decorated, albeit somewhat pretentious, small restaurant. I elegantly skipped the pricey ordinary menu and went for their lunch specials—“set lunches” (which are fixed menus; you pay a certain amount of money for a certain combination of items, no changes / substitutions) numbered 1 to 3. After some deep thought, Jeroen asked the waiter for “set lunch #3”. I followed by “I’ll have that too”—a phrase that I later regretted.
No, it’s not that the food was bad. It was actually delicious. However, very shortly into the meal, I realized that the number of items that we were served didn’t quite divide by two. Some items were served twice (as they should), then some items were served once (WTF?!), then some items served twice again (good), and only one dessert.
As Newman called in that great episode of Seinfeld when he functioned as a judge between Kramer and Elaine over that bicycle: Quite the conundrum!
During that time, we both had theories about what the hell happened—all theories leading to this restaurant’s employees having a somewhat strange understanding of grade 1 arithmetic. At the end, looking at the bill, I realized that the waiter misheard my “I’ll have that too” as “I’ll have number two”, referring to “set lunch #2” which was actually smaller in size.
These things can only happen to me, I guess. First, the Tate fiasco, now this… and there are two months to go! I wonder what’s next in store for me.
Walking back to the hotel, we decided to stop for some desserts in an interestingly‐looking patisserie in Kensington Church Street, very close to High Street Kensington. I
believe it was called Vincent Valerie’s Patisserie. Delicious cakes, good coffee—and I was all ready and set to enthusiastically charge at the laptop once again for another tiring planning session.
No time for much social activity pre‐show, unfortunately, so I went to the Royal Albert Hall very shortly before the concert, unfortunately missing Kate Walsh’s opening act again.
Thursday’s show—similarly to Wednesday’s show—was also, apparently, preceded by some sort of an event for special guests. Another concert dedicated for charity, and it seems like people associated with that charity received the honour of attending a pre‐ and/or post‐show reception as well as populating the first handful of rows. I was seated in a row so high numbered that I didn’t know ever existed—13, all the way to the side (still in the arena, though).
Here is a picture of Jeroen, pretending to be happy with his seat.
The show started shortly after 8:30pm. Again no setlist surprises—perhaps we’re not far enough from the Clyde yet (here’s one hope I have that is slowly fading away… well, you can’t have everything I guess)?…
Altogether a good show—not unlike many others—except for a few mishaps. The sound—which, from the centre of the 7th row the night before was fantastic—was slightly unbalanced, and it seems like one (or some) of Danny’s drums had some echo thing going on, making some of the songs sound interesting (that issue was fixed for Friday’s concert, though). A few dissonances and off‐notes here and there during some solos, nothing however too unpleasant to the average concertgoer’s ear.
I mentioned it once before and I think I should mention it again… I have been watching so many concerts so far so I tend to be very picky… naturally. It may annoy a few of you but hey, I can only tell you about what my brain actually interprets from the millions of signals it gets. So whatever’s written here is just my opinion.
The pinnacle of this concert was, again, the Marbletown jam session which has been developing and being re‐invented on a daily basis since the band got to the Royal Albert Hall. This time it was about John McCusker actually working out a new violin solo for his part of the jam—blending very well with Mike’s flute work and Mark’s Martin guitar work. If what the band is trying to do is create a song within a song, then they’re definitely on the right path. Whatever it is they’re trying to do, it sounds very good.
The customary Running of the Bulls took place towards the end of Telegraph Road; I made it a habit to look around me when that time comes, to see how the stage‐charging phenomena starts as well as what tricks and schticks are being performed in order to squeeze another millimetre of stage‐dust. As we were seated at the very end of the row, we simply stood up and walked towards the stage, attempting (with much success) to clear as much was as possible for the angry mob. Somehow, we made it to the second “row”.
An off‐night for the bulls, I reckoned.
A nice encore during which I was persuaded to find out who the hell that blonde chick was. There was this blonde gal wearing a white blouse that seemed to have attracted quite a few eyeballs around… my built‐in aversion to blonde hair meant that it was much less of an important topic for me than for others, so I didn’t bother to delve too deep into the issue. Another element that made me refrain from conducting any investigation of the matter was a couple of unfriendly‐looking Y‐chromosomed humans around her.
The show ended at around 10:30pm. A quick snack at a nearby Mediterranean restaurant nearby, offering good hummus and really unfriendly service, and back to the hotel for a good night sleep.
Friday June 4 started in much the same way as the day before with breakfast at the hotel and some planning—some of which being done while waiting for my laundry to be done at some laundromat up Kensington Church Street. £5 for one load including detergent and drying. Everything’s expensive here in England; laundry, too.
As I returned to the hotel, I figured that most of the planning has been done already so I decided to celebrate by actually getting my ass away from the Kensington area. Took the Tube to the touristic area of the London Eye. Weather was perfect, which prompted billions of tourists to flock this highly‐touristic area. For a minute I thought I was in Disneyland.
Lots of street shows around. As soon as I got to the heavily‐touristic areas, I realized how much I dislike being a tourist and decided to get the hell out of there.
… Not before some great curry lunch in Wagamama.
Back on foot towards the Tube’s Embankment station… nice views from a nice bridge.
Back at the Kensington area, we decided that a day in London cannot go by without some desserts. Went back to our favourite, Caffe Concerto (turns out they spell it with two f’s) for this:
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I’m going to miss this place. Take note if it, and go there when you’re in London.
Weather was still perfect so it was time to hit Hyde Park again for a physically‐challenging session of sitting on a bench in the shade watching people come and go.
I totally fell in love with Hyde Park, despite the fact I had very little time to enjoy it this time around.
An hour or so passed oh very quickly as I was doing some more planning while seated on that lovely bench, then back to the hotel to rest after this long, excruciating day of doing almost nothing.
Arrived at the Stanhope Arms pub just as some of the Knopfler fans—who had arrived to London for a few shows, from all over Europe—were leaving. Not looking forward to the possibility of growing hungry during the show, I spotted a place called Cafe Forum, a few metres south of the Stanhope Arms pub.
That cafe proudly featured a particularly tasteless sandwich and the most water‐like version of latte that I ever had. Surprisingly, Jeroen’s tea was disgusting as well. I, therefore, have no choice but granting this place Isaac’s Seal of Disapproval. Avoid it; there’s a Burger King nearby—better value despite the guaranteed stomach‐ache after.
Time to walk to the venue…
Upon arriving at Door 1 in order to pick up the tickets, I was approached by a nice lady who was talking on her phone.
– “Hi, Are you Isaac?”
I did a quick check.
Yes, still am.
– “Yes I am”
– “Hi, I’m Laurie, Guy Fletcher’s wife”
Very nice lady. We had a little chat; turns out that she, too, is following the nonsense I have to say. Thanks for the chat, Laurie—and for your readership as well, of course!
Twenty or more minutes outside, breathing some fresh air, and entered the venue. Row 10 centre, this time around.
The concert started at 8:30pm.
After a bit of an off‐day the day before, the concert on Friday evening was much better. The drums’ echo issue has been resolved; the entire band played beautifully, top‐notch show just as the better ones in the RAH earlier this week. Beautiful solo’s, including yet another interesting variation in Sultans of Swing’s outro.
I guess the big (and happy) news for all is that Mike McGoldrick is staying with the band until the end of the tour. This fact was published Friday morning on Guy Fletcher’s tour diary (see link to the right); to the Europeans of you who haven’t seen the show yet, trust me on this one—this is very good news.
Maintaining the momentum of the last few concerts, Marbletown’s jam session was again the pinnacle of the concert. A slightly different violin solo by John McCusker—somewhat Scottish‐like this time, reminding his own work (I suggest you give Under One Sky a listen), followed by insane flute work by Mike as well as an entire Disneyland of instruments working in concert later in the jam.
Very receptive audience last night. The bulls went charging the stage, as usual; was interesting to see people, once being seated at the very centre of the back rows, suddenly making it to the front of the stage using all sorts of guerrilla techniques—seek and hide, then seek again… hilarious. I decided to stay behind and enjoy the encore from within the comfort of my narrow seat.
Another great concert ended, and with it—the UK leg of the tour. Back at the hotel, I was too tired to do anything but sleep.
I am signing‐off this posting while on the train from Brussels to Delft (through Rotterdam), where I will be spending the night at Jeroen’s place before proceeding to Antwerp tomorrow.
Good lunch in Brussels’ train station; Belgian Waffles indeed taste better here than in North America.
Let the insane part of this journey begin; hats off to the band for a great UK tour, as well as to the great audiences everywhere in this wonderful land I vow to visit again some time soon. Goodbye, Ireland & UK! And as I always, always say before saying goodbye—I hope that it was as good for you as it was for me.