Since COVID 19 and the lockdown have grounded artists and performers, I've decided to start giving ukulele lessons. If you'd like lessons from the tallest player on the planet, either remotely or locally (East Kent, United Kingdom) - please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get started
Dear Blog readers
A very Happy New Year and decade to you all. I am ashamed to say that my sword has slept in my hand in these first few weeks, as I have blogged absolutely nada, nothing etc. This is not entirely my own fault as my regular web hosting platform is shutting up shop at the end of January 2020, and I have been forced to migrate to a new web hosting platform. This means that I will probably pick the reins in a few weeks time, as the Ukes have a busy start to the year, with gigs in France…Read more
Well my friends, thank you for all your Christmas wishes, particularly those who came along with for the ride in 2019. It is the end of another touring year - I've played in Sheffield and Shanghai, Kansas and Koblenz, Helsinki and High Wycombe and I haven't seen any of it (apart from out of a taxi/hotel room window). Talking to Jonty (UOGB bass player) recently, he told me that we've been away for 117 days this year.
Looking back over this blog, I see that I first posted on 26th November 2014, a film of…Read more
After a day off, when I went home to attend my daughters school carol service, it was up at 6.30am to jump in the car to drive across the south of England to our last gig of the year in Poole (which we've played many times before). Like many others, I felt pretty glum upon hearing the news of Johnson's victory and the probability that Britain will almost certainly leave the EU. I'm just glad my dad wasn't alive to see it, and sadly, the European dream of free movement of people and ideas will not include…Read more
Well Campers, its back to the interminable tour diet of hotel breakfasts and sandwiches. Having enjoyed unwinding at the comfortable Barnett Hill Hotel, after our gig at G Live, I woke up late and strolled around the grounds.Read more
Well Campers, yesterday was a bit of a frenetic day for me - after our show in Birmingham, I did wake up with a bit of a headache (see yesterday) and caught the early train from Birmingham New Street (above) to get to a hospital appointment in London.
Back at Euston station, I retraced my steps past the statue of George Stephenson (still with the Austrian Eagle on his forehead) and met up with my wife and daughter, whereupon appointment completed, I took my daughter back to school in Canterbury, and then…Read more
Robert Stephenson with the Austrian Eagle on his forehead
Of all the days in the week to play a show, Monday is probably the weirdest, its great that people come out to see us, but as a general rule, Monday night audiences are more muted. Anyway, I came up to London St Pancras, and walked to Euston Station past the statue of Robert Stephenson (with a sticker on his head - Go Österreich!) and entered the station to the sound of Christmas Carols being sung by these adorable children......
A sight to melt…Read more
Eastern leg of this Christmas tour, so we are off to Ipswich; for most of us, it's a quick run up the motorway into Suffolk, however EVERY time we've done this gig there is some traffic snarl up which means we always arrive late.
My own journey took four hours in the car, where it should have taken 2.5 hours - I arrived pretty much on the dot of four o'clock, to find only Richie and Ben ready for soundcheck. We were playing as a seven piece, as Hester was not doing the show - she lives in Devon and its…Read more
Day two of the northern leg of our Christmas tour, and after a good gig in Sheffield, it was time to move on to Lancaster - so it was not 'Hello Sheffield' but adieu, as I hitched a ride with Dave and Jonty.
More glamorous scenes from life on the road as we move on from hotel to the multi storey car park next door - feel that frisson of excitement as Jonty stops by the vending machine to collect his ticket.
Traveling with Dave and Jonty is not unlike unlike travelling with two aged aunts, with plenty of…Read more
Greeting my friends - the UOGB Christmas tour continues apace with two more gigs in Sheffield and Lancaster in the North of England. I decided to go by rail, and here is the train that took me up to Yorkshire. I spent most of the journey reading the blogs of American organist Jonathan Dimmock, a recent online discovery and whose thoughtful musings on life and music are well worth reading.
Bumped into Rich at Sheffield station and we shared a taxi to the hotel.
This is the City Hall where we have played…Read more
Yes, it is true that I had an episode of bacterial meningitis a few years ago while on tour in Germany. But unlike the many unhappy incidents that strike young people in the prime of their life (children, babies etc) I was one of the very lucky ones who were found shortly after the attack and taken straight to hospital.
And while it was a momentous event in my life, it didn't seem to change it - I didn't become a keep fit fanatic or a born again Christian - I just continued doing what I was doing…Read more
Several people have asked me if I've started painting a single fingernail in the modern style, and I've had to point out that it is, in fact, a bruise under my nail, from when I banged my hand in the hotel door in Helsinki a week ago. Fortunately it dosen't hurt or anything and apologies for grossing you out.
Since returning. the week has passed fairly quietly - I discovered that I been photographed speeding on the way to the High Wycombe gig, so I'll have to go and do a 'speeding course' to keep points…Read more
The last foreign show of the year Campers was in Finland - a one off gig in the capital, Helsinki. We've played here four or five times before, the last time in 2017 We left on an evening flight from Gatwick (the earlier flight was impracticable) and thus would spend two nights in Finland. We were without Hester, so are playing as a seven piece.
Norwegian is not a bad airline and thankfully it was not full.
Props must go to Will, Ben and Richie, my bandmates who kindly helped out 'playing' inflatable…Read more
Second gig of this run of Christmas shows in High Wycombe. A fairly routine drive up to High Wycombe from Kent, apart from the fact that I opened the car window and a bit of grit flew into my eye and with nowhere to stop, I had to drive 10 miles, squinting into the autumn sunshine with one hand clasped over the side of my face until I could pull over.
High Wycombe is quite an old town, with lots of historic buildings
But like a lot of London satellite towns, there are a loads of kids (or…Read more
Well Campers, we are back on the road again after returning from China pretty much a week ago, with the jet lag pretty much dissipated. And what better intro into this run of gigs up to Christmas than the refreshingly mundane suburb of Croydon (the Venice of South London). On my way up to the gig I popped by to see my parents grave, not out of morbidity, but its something I do from time to time as the seasons change - they are buried in a beautiful churchyard in Surrey, with a lovely view over the North…Read more
I found out today that absolutely no one drinks the tap water here in the hotel - even the Chinese, you’re supposed to drink the bottled water they put in the rooms - but I’ve been glugging away from the tap profusely with no ill effects (so far). Will advised boiling the kettle and using the sterilised water, should you run out; the kettle’s been pretty busy lately, since I jammed up the toilet and despite flushing, had to ferry kettle loads of water from the sink to create enough pressure to get it to…Read more
Traffic here in Shanghai is completely mad, with plenty of accidents. Our taxi into town last night, dropped us off adjacent to the cycle lane so that when we exited the vehicle, we had to quickly open the door, jump out and dodge the oncoming bikes and motorcycles to the drivers general indifference. Leisa said that in the other band members cab back to the hotel, the driver actually fell asleep at a red light - it changed to green and they had to prod the guy awake to move off. It's a lot cooler here…Read more
The view from the 17th floor of the Huafa Exhibition Executive Apartments, before we left this AM. At the bottom right, the construction site that has been the bane of our lives for the last 48 hours - there's been one crane in particlular which makes an incredibly squeaky noise that has driven those of us on the front of the hotel completely mad. Further up the wall, a sign offering some sensible advice.
So today was a day of travel for the band, moving to Shanghai by plane (a two hour flight) we would…Read more
The photograph above is of Doug (our sound guys) phone, he googled our location in the hotel last night and found that we were in the water, Google don't always keep their maps up to date, and it turned out the hotel we are staying in (and the venue) have been built on reclaimed land.
'Thank You' in Mandarin is pronounced 'Shia Shia' - which I've memorised as two shits without the 'T" - I had a good sleep last night and feel OK jet lag wise. Leaving my room and walking to the lift to go down to breakfast…Read more
Well Campers, today was a day of travel, so there is not much to say - we were supposed to have had a workshop this evening but somehow that didn't happen. Luckily, I've been taking photos of my breakfasts for the last two days (sometime this blog needs 'padding' when not much happens). Here is the breakfast I had this morning, I did take a better breakfast photo the day before, with the chopsticks laid artfully across the plate, but then decided that this screamed sophisticated international…Read more
The expensive VPN software that I (and others) had bought to circumnavigate Chinese internet restrictions has turned out to be completely useless, but we can all still access most social media sites through 4G on our phones - Google search is limited. I can still also read western newspapers on my phone news apps. Surprisingly, I still managed to gain access to my website on the hotel wifi, with the assumption that its monitored (or maybe I'm not that important). Whatever - Ill be able to update it and its…Read more
Well Campers, here we are back at Heathrow airport for the long flight to Shenzen in China - it's a short tour, just 3 gigs and a workshop - there was a further gig in Langfang, which got cancelled due to some technical difficulty at the venue, meaning we will be here just over a week. I've never been to China, so it will be an interesting experience.
Queueing to get on the plane - the flight was twelve hours.
After some confusion over seats (the Shenzen Airlines website is pretty weird for booking seats)…Read more
Well Campers, it was back in the ukulele saddle again for our last gig before we leave for our tour of China (the fact that I'm calling it a tour is a bit ridiculous as it's only three gigs - one has been cancelled). We've played Leamington Spa about three times over the last ten years and each time its been good. So I jumped on the train up from Kent to St Pancras and walked to Euston - I always like going past the Francis Crick Institute (he's the Brit who discovered the double helix).It was not too bad…Read more
Paddington Station on the way to Gloucester
This year is the 30th year I've been playing the ukulele. It's pretty hard to remember what it was like back in those days in the late eighties to even buy a half decent instrument. Most music shops didn't sell them and the few that did, mostly sold "Larks" - cheap Chinese imports that usually had bad intonation.
Hallmark Hotel, Gloucester
Nowadays its practically impossible to go anywhere in the world without stumbling over a ukulele group or bunch of players…Read more